BIOGRAPHY - Jean Baptiste Madou (1796 - 1877)
He unquestionably stands at the head of the genre painters in Belgium; his works, whether in lithography, in water-colors, or in oils, show a power of composition, a truthfulness, and a delicacy of touch, combined with solidity, that will bear comparison with the best that have come down to us from the old painters of the Dutch and Flemish schools.
Art Journal, February, 1866
Considered one of the finest genre painters of the period, Jean B. Madou received his artistic training at the Brussels Academy under Antoine Brice and later, through his friendship with Countess d’Allegambe, he entered the atelier of Pierre Joseph Célestin François (1759-1851). In 1813, at the age of 17, Madou made his debut at the Salon and became the assistant to Ignace Brice - the son and manager of Antoine’s atelier.
In 1814, due to his father’s death a few years earlier, Madou entered the business world to help support his family, but by 1818 he had resumed his artistic career. He applied for, and received, a government job as a drawer-calligrapher in charge of mapping the Netherlands. At this time he was living in Kortrijk and participated in exhibitions there from 1818. In 1820 he moved to Brussels to work in the lithography workshop of Jobard & Weissenbruch; mastering the technique within three years. During the next 20 years he was to become one of the most important lithographers and received international recognition.
By the early 1840’s, the art of lithography was reduced to reproducing painted works - the loss of its creative stature was unacceptable to Madou and forced the artist to turn to oil painting. These early works lacked color, due to his conversion from a black & white medium to a color one, but they were highly regarded by the critics and popular with the public.
By the early 1850’s he was receiving critical acclaim at the various Salons; his painting entitled Feast at the Castle, was an immense success at the Salon of Brussels in 1851 and again at the Paris Salon in 1855. In 1850 he was appointed drawing teacher to the Royal children and Professor of Drawing at the Military School of Brussels.
Madou became popular for his intimate rural genre scenes in high color and precise detail. He was made a Knight of the Order of Leopold in 1839; received the Cross of the Légion d’Honneur in 1855; was a member of the Acadèmie de Belgique since its beginning in 1845, as well as a member of the Academies of Amsterdam and Antwerp, honorary member of the two London watercolor associations, Knight of the Lion of the Netherlands and Commander of the Order of Leopold and of the Order of Frans-Joseph.
In the early 1870’s he was commissioned by the King to create a group of murals for his Ciergnon Castle. At the Salon of 1877, while giving a tour to the King, he was stricken with a heart attack and died.
Examples of his work can be seen in Brussels; Antwerp; Bruges; Verviers; Liège; Amsterdam; Bremen & Szczecin.