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Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes
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Born in Toulouse, Valenciennes received his early training under Jean-Baptiste Despax, a history painter, and Guillaume-Gabriel Bouton, a miniaturist. He went to Italy in 1769 with his patron, Mathias du Bourg, was in Paris by 1771, and two years later entered the studio of the history painter Gabriel-FranOcois Doyen. During this period he began to sketch in the French countryside. Valenciennes returned to Italy in 1777, remaining there until 1784-85, with the exception of travels in Sicily and Switzerland and a visit to Paris in 1781. There Claude-Joseph Vernet gave him instruction in perspective and encouraged his plein-air studies. Essentially, however, the artist appears to be self-taught as a landscape painter. Valenciennes became a member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1787 and continued to exhibit at the Salons until 1819. From 1796 to 1800 he taught courses in perspective, and in 1799-1800 published his famous treatise, Ele'mens de perspective pratique a /'usage des artistes, as well as an essay on landscape painting. In 1812 he was appointed Professor of Perspective at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and was awarded the Legion of Honor in 1815. The Ecole established a Prix de Rome for historical landscape in 1816. Strongly influenced by the classical landscape tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, Valenciennes was largely responsible for elevating the status of landscape painting in the late eighteenth century. As a respected teacher and theoretician, he helped form a generation of landscape painters, including Jean-Victor Bertin and Achille-Etna Michallon, who became Corot's masters.