Jean-Baptiste Greuze was a French painter of portraits, genre scenes, and history painting. Greuze was born at Tournus, Burgundy. He is generally said to have formed his own talent; at an early age his inclinations, though thwarted by his father, were encouraged by Lyonnese artist Charles Grandon. Brandon took his pupil to Lyon, and later when he left Lyon for Paris, Grandon carried young Greuze with him.
Settled in Paris, Greuze is the student of artist Charles-Joseph Natoire and worked from the living model in the school of the Royal Academy. His first picture, Le Père de famille expliquant la Bible a ses enfants, gave him notice and support of the well-known connoisseur La Live de Jully, the brother-in-law of Madame d'Epinay. In 1755, Greuze exhibited his Aveugle trompé, upon which, presented by Pigalle the sculptor, he was immediately agréé by the Academy. Towards the close of the same year he left France for Italy, in company with the Abbé Louis Gougenot.
In 1759, 1761 and 1763 Greuze exhibited with ever-increasing success; in 1765 he reached the zenith of his powers and reputation. In that year he was represented with no less than thirteen works. The Academy took occasion to press Greuze for his diploma picture, the execution of which had been long delayed, and forbade him to exhibit on their walls until he had complied with their regulations. Greuze wished to be received as a historical painter, and produced a work which he intended to vindicate his right to despise his qualifications as a genre artist. But the academy didn't like his work and he was only received as genre painter which made Greuze to quarrel with his confreres. He ceased to exhibit until, in 1804, the Revolution had thrown open the doors of the Academy to all the world.
In the following year, he died in the Louvre in great poverty. He had been in receipt of considerable wealth, which he had dissipated by extravagance and bad management, so that during his closing years he was forced to solicit commissions which his enfeebled powers no longer enabled him to carry out with success. The brilliant reputation which Greuze acquired seems to have been due, not to his accomplishments as a painter – for his practice is evidently that current in his own day – but to the character of the subjects which he treated. That return to nature which inspired Rousseau's attacks upon an artificial civilization demanded expression in art.