The painter François Bonvin was born on 22nd November 1817 in Vaugirard (Seine). He was one of the leading exponents of French Realist painting and is known for his genre paintings and still life works.
Bonvin’s preferred motifs were scenes from the lives of the petty bourgeois, housewives, and tradesmen. The artist took his inspiration from his urban surroundings. He is thought to have found his models among the regular customers at his father’s bar in Vaugirard.
Bonvin was a self-taught painter, who learnt by copying the Dutch and Flemish 17th century masters. François Bonvin was also inspired by a meeting with Francois- Marius Granet, who became mentor of sorts to him. In 1848 Bonvin participated in the annual Salon exhibition for the first time, and was very successful. He was thus able to secure a good reputation amongst his subjects.François Bonvin’s work was regularly accepted and given a positive reception from the Salon jury.
1863 represented a turning point for he artist. His wife left him and Bonvin underwent a crisis and had difficulties concentrating on his work.
Nonetheless, there are a number of drawings dated from this time. During the last years of his life, Bonvin went blind and developed Parkinson’s’ disease. In 1886 his work was honoured with a retrospective exhibition. Some months later, a benefit auction was held in order to raise money for the ageing and sick artist.
Francois Bonvin died in poverty a year later, on 19th December 1887.