In 1884, Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (February 1, 1815 - January 31, 1891) was a French classical painter and sculptor best known for his portrayal of Napoleon, his armies, and his military themes. He documented the sieges and maneuvers and was the teacher of Édouard Detaille.
He enjoyed great success throughout his life and was acclaimed for his mastery of precise detail and hard construction. John Ruskin, an English art critic, examined his work at length under a magnifying glass, and was "amazed at Meissonier's craftsmanship and the artist's attention to detail."
Meissonier's work was highly prized, and in 1846 he bought a large mansion in Poissy, sometimes known as the Grande Maison. The Grande Maison consisted of two large studios, the atelier d'hiver or winter workshop, located on the top floor of the house, and on the ground floor, a glass-roofed annex (atelier d'été) or summer workshop. Meissonier himself said that his house and temperament belong to another era, and some, such as critic Paul Mounts, criticized the artist's seemingly limited career as an example. Like Alexandre Dumas, he specialized in depicting scenes of chivalry and masculine adventure in the background of pre-revolutionary and pre-industrial France, as well as scenes from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century life.
But Meissonier's masterpiece is considered the great painting of the Battle of Friedland (June 14, 1807). This was the great battle of the Napoleonic Wars between the French Imperial Army under Napoleon I and the Russian Imperial Army led by Count von Benigsen. Napoleon and the French achieved a decisive victory, defeating much of the Russian army, which had retreated chaotically on the Al River at the end of the battle. The battlefield is located in present-day Kaliningrad Oblast near the Russian city of Pravodinsk.
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