Guillaume Lethière

Born in the French colony of Guadeloupe, Guillaume Lethière (1760–1832) was a key figure in French painting during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The son of a white plantation owner and a formerly enslaved woman of mixed race, Lethière moved to France with his father at age fourteen. He trained as an artist and successfully navigated the tumult of the French Revolution and its aftermath to achieve the highest levels of recognition in his time. A favorite artist of Napoleon’s brother, Lucien Bonaparte, he served as director of the Académie de France in Rome, as a member of the Institut de France, and as a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts. A well-respected pedagogue, he operated a robust studio that rivaled those of his contemporaries Jacques-Louis David and Antoine-Jean Gros. Despite his remarkable accomplishments and considerable body of work, Lethière is not well known today. The exhibition, organized in partnership with the Musée du Louvre and featuring some eighty paintings, prints, and drawings, celebrates Lethière’s extraordinary career and sheds new light on the presence and reception of Caribbean artists in France during his time.

Guillaume Lethière is co-organized by the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, and the Musée du Louvre, Paris, and is curated by Esther Bell, deputy director and Robert and Martha Berman Lipp Chief Curator, and Olivier Meslay, Hardymon Director, with support from Sophie Kerwin, curatorial assistant at the Clark; and by Marie-Pierre Salé, chief curator in the Department of Drawings at the Louvre.

Guillaume Lethière is made possible by Denise Littlefield Sobel. Major funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy Demands Wisdom; with additional support from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the Robert Lehman Foundation