Roger de Piles
* 1635 Clamecy, Nièvre
† 1709 Paris
Roger de Piles was a highly influential figure during the heyday of French baroque art as art theorist, portrait painter and etcher.
Roger de Piles was born son of a noble family at Clamecy in 1635. As a young boy Roger de Piles was able to attend the Collège de Nevers, followed by studies of philosophy and theology in Nevers and Auxerre. He eventually continued his studies in Paris. Additionally, Roger de Piles received lessons in painting, a talent that he showed in charming portraits and allegoric graphic works.
However, his meaning as a theorist was greater by far. Roger de Piles had soon gained a remarkable reputation in the Paris art scene: In 1668 he released a commented French translation of Charles Alphonse Du Fresnoy's "De arte graphica". Inspired by a journey through Italy, the Grand Tour of his boarding pupil Michel Amelot whom Roger de Piles accompanied, he made his first writing on art theory. In "Dialogue sur le coloris" (1673) Roger de Piles held a strong position in the French academic dispute between the Poussinists (primacy of the drawing) against the Rubenists (primacy of the color). With great passion Roger de Piles fought for the more sensuous Rubenists. Little surprisingly he wrote a biography of Rubens in 1677.
Roger de Piles gained great reputation as an art theorist. In 1699 Jules Hardouin-Mansart, superintendent of royal architecture, appointed him advisor ("Conseiller honoraire") at the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. The same year Roger de Piles published his main work, the "Abrégé de la vie des peintres, avec des Reflexionen sur leurs ouvrages, et un Traité du peintre Parfait [...]." Shortly before his death Roger de Piles published another important writing, the "Cours de peinture par principes" (1708). Neither artists nor art lovers of late baroque can get past Roger de Piles' writings.
Roger de Piles died at Paris in 1709.