The Sladmore Gallery Ltd
Meisonnier was born in Lyon and was originally apprenticed to a pharmacist before persuading his parents, under the recommendation of Jules Potier, to study art. He was admitted to the studio of Leon Cogniet.
Meisonnier’s art was chiefly genre painting. He worked mainly on a small scale but with intense detail. He was famous for his scenes documenting the Napoleonic campaigns and military life such as ‘The Emperor at Solferino’(1863). His sculpture was only discovered after his death during two retrospectives in 1893 in Paris. He was a meticulous painter and took immense care in his depictions of nature. It is understood that whilst he did indeed sculpt from as early as 1840, such work as was made and preserved was considered by the artist himself as a part of the painting process and therefore not exhibited at the Salon, but are likely to have been the first art created on a subject from which the painting would later derive. The artist married the sister of a fellow painter, Steinheil, in 1838 and began to achieve significant Salon recognition around the same time. It was, however, it was Meissonier’s attachment to the Imperial staff of Napoleon III, during the 1870s and his role as colonel of an improvised infantry regiment accompanying the Emperor on his Italian campaign, which led to a number of his most remarkable works of art. Between theses two landmarks Meisonnier worked intensely (some painting remained works in progress for as long as ten years) and made regular, but not prolific, Salon contributions. He was awarded 1st Class Medals in 1843 and 1844 and Medals of Honour at the Great Exhibitions. In 1846 he was made Knight of the Legion d’Honneur and thence progressed up the ranks to receive the Grand Croix in 1889. In 1883 Meisonnier became president of the Great National Exhibition and in the following year the Petit Gallery in Paris exhibited around 150 of his works in the largest exhibition of his lifetime. He took on presidency of the ‘new’ salon: The Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1885.