Born in the French colony of Guadeloupe, Guillaume Lethière (1760–1832) was a key figure in the history of art during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The son of a formerly enslaved woman of color and a white government official and plantation owner, 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 in order to achieve the highest levels of recognition in his time. A favorite artist of Napoleon’s brother, Lucien Bonaparte, Lethière also held important positions at the Académie de France in Rome, Institut de France , and École des Beaux-Arts. A well-respected teacher, he operated a robust studio that rivaled those of his contemporaries Jacques-Louis David and Antoine-Jean Gros.
Despite his remarkable accomplishments and considerable corpus of paintings and drawings, Lethière is relatively unknown today. Lavishly illustrated and authoritative, this groundbreaking study serves to introduce Lethière to new and broader audiences and restore him to his rightful place as one of the most eminent artist of his generation. An international group of scholars offer the first comprehensive view of Lethière’s extraordinary career in its political, social, and art historical context, addressing issues of colonialism, slavery, and diaspora, as well as shedding new light on the presence and reception of Caribbean artists in France during this time.
Distributed for the Clark Art Institute
Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA
(June 15–October 14, 2024)
(November 14, 2024–February 17, 2025)