Jean-Baptiste Le Prince

Jean-Baptiste Le Prince (French, 1734—1781) came from a family of ornamental sculptors in Metz, in northeastern France. He left in his teens to study in Paris with the great Rococo painter François Boucher.  His early training in this elegant, ornamental and fanciful style earned him enough recognition that by 1758 Le Prince was in St. Petersburg, Russia painting at the Imperial Palace for Catherine the Great. Over five years in Russia, supplemented by travels through Finland, Lithuania, and Siberia, he accumulated a collection of drawings depicting the Russian countryside and everyday life scenes. Upon his return to Paris, Le Prince became known for his detailed and realistic images in paintings as well as etchings. He is believed to have invented the shading, tonal technique of aquatint in metal plate etchings.

Later in his life, Le Prince’s health suffered, and he moved out of Paris into the French countryside. MAG’s painting The Visit dates from this late period, which he spent painting landscapes and country life.