Jean Paul Laurens
Born in Fourquevaux in 1838, Jean-Paul Laurens trained at the Toulouse School of Fine Arts (l’école des Beaux-arts de Toulouse) then at the Paris School. A ‘pompier’ (‘fireman’) painter*, he was very famous in his day for his historical compositions. He was also a great decorator, in Paris but also for the Capitole (town hall) in Toulouse. Early on he became a close friend of Rodin who sculpted his portrait as he sculpted those of very many artists of his time (Hugo, Malher, Falguière, Puvis de Chavannes…). Rodin considered that his friend “was most probably a descendant of the ancient Visigoths of Spain”! It was thanks to Laurens that Rodin obtained the commission for the Bourgeois of Calais which he considered to be one of the most important works of his career. Laurens in turn painted a portrait of Rodin in 1891 (Musée Rodin).
Towards the end of his life, Laurens himself took to sculpture, to preserve in bronze the effigy of his deceased wife (Musée des Augustins, Fourquevaux church and the Musée d’Orsay).
*The term ‘pompier’– fireman was used as a derisive nickname for historical painters. It is thought to refer to the pomposity of typical compositions.