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Louis Le Nain
Birth Date: 
Death Date: 
In spite of intensive study, the ccuvre of the three Le Nain brothers -Louis, Antoine, and Mathieu-remains difficult to attribute with complete assurance. Born in Laon in northern France to a family of property but of peasant origins, the brothers all elected an artistic career, moving to Paris by 1629. There they worked together in the same studio, collaborated on some works, and signed their paintings simply Le Nain. They were not only genre painters but produced portraits, mythologies, and religious pictures as well. They were patronized by the aristocracy and their paintings were prized by connoisseurs. The brothers participated in the first session of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1648. Both Antoine and Louis died that same year, presumably victims of a contagious disease. Mathieu is the youngest and best documented of the brothers, but information on Antoine and Louis is oflen too vague for firm distinctions. However, Louis has been traditionally assigned the peasant scenes which depict people with round, heavy faces and a melancholy air (The Cart, 1641, and Peasant Meal, 1642, both Paris, Musee du Louvre). His technique is more fluent, his work has more breadth, and his somber color schemes reflect a serious, thoughtful temperament. The Le Nains refused to embrace the prevailing tenets of French classicism, adhering rather to the realist tradition by portraying ordinary people from their provincial boyhood. As painters of reality, their work remains fundamental to the artistic heritage of France.