Pierce Brendan Brosnan OBE (born 16 May 1953) is an Irish actor and film producer. He is best known as the fifth actor to play secret agent James Bond in the Bond film series, starring in four films from 1995 to 2002 (GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day) and in multiple video games.
After leaving school at age 16, Brosnan began training in commercial illustration and went on to attend the Drama Centre in London for three years. Following a stage acting career, he rose to popularity in the television series Remington Steele (1982–1987). After the conclusion of the series, Brosnan appeared in films such as the Cold War spy film The Fourth Protocol (1987) and the comedy Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). After achieving worldwide fame for his role as James Bond, Brosnan took the lead in other major films including the epic disaster adventure film Dante's Peak (1997), the remake of the heist film The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), and the musical comedy Mamma Mia! (2008), and its sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018).
Brosnan has received two Golden Globe Award nominations, first for the miniseries Nancy Astor (1982) and next for the dark comedy film The Matador (2005). In 1996, along with American film producer Beau St. Clair, he formed a Los Angeles-based production company called Irish DreamTime. He is also known for his charitable work and environmental activism. In 1997, Brosnan received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the film industry. In 2020, he was listed at No. 15 on The Irish Times' list of greatest Irish film actors.
Pierce Brosnan was born on 16 May 1953 at St. Mary's Hospital in Drogheda, County Louth, the only child of May (née Smith) and carpenter Thomas Brosnan.
For 12 years, he lived in Navan, County Meath, and said in 1999 that he considers it to be his hometown. His father abandoned the family when Brosnan was an infant. When he was four years old, his mother moved to London to work as a nurse. From that point on, he was largely brought up by his maternal grandparents, Philip and Kathleen Smith. After their deaths, he lived with an aunt and then an uncle, but was subsequently sent to live in a boarding house run by a woman named Eileen. He later said, "Childhood was fairly solitary. I never knew my father. He left when I was an infant. [...] My mother was very courageous. She took the bold steps to go away and be a nurse in England. Basically wanting a better life for her and myself. My mother came home once a year, twice a year."
Brosnan was brought up in a Catholic family, and left Ireland on 12 August 1964 and went to Scotland to be reunited with his mother and her new husband, William Carmichael, at their home in Longniddry. when he was 11 years old, his step father Carmichael took Brosnan to see a James Bond film for the first time: Goldfinger. They later moved back to London. When discussing his transition from Ireland to England, he said, "When you go to a very large city, a metropolis like London, as an Irish boy of 10, life suddenly moves pretty fast. [...] And you're Irish. And they make you feel it." His nickname at school was simply "Irish".
After leaving school at 16, Brosnan decided to be a painter and began training in commercial illustration at Saint Martin's School of Art in London. While attending a rehearsal for a workshop at the Oval House, he saw a fire eater teaching people how to eat fire and decided to join in. He later trained for three years as an actor at the Drama Centre London. Describing the feeling of becoming an actor and the influence it had on his life, he said, "When I found acting, or when acting found me, it was a liberation. It was a stepping stone into another life, away from a life that I had, and acting was something I was good at, something which was appreciated. That was a great satisfaction in my life."
Graduating from the Drama Centre in 1975, Brosnan began working as an acting assistant stage manager at the York Theatre Royal, making his acting debut in Wait Until Dark. Within six months, he was selected by playwright Tennessee Williams to play the role of McCabe in the British première of The Red Devil Battery Sign (billed as "Pierce Brosman"). His performance caused a stir in London and Brosnan still has the telegram sent by Williams, stating only "Thank God for you, my dear boy"
Brosnan continued his career making brief appearances in films as well as early television performances. He became a television star in the United States with his leading role in the popular miniseries Manions of America. He followed this in 1982 with the BBC's nine-part miniseries Nancy Astor (which aired in America on Masterpiece Theatre) that dramatised the life of Lady Astor, the first woman to sit in the British Parliament. His portrayal of Robert Gould Shaw II garnered him a 1985 Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
In 1982, Brosnan moved to Southern California and rose in popularity in the United States playing the title role in the NBC romantic, often-comedic detective series Remington Steele. The Washington Post noted that same year that Brosnan "could make it as a young James Bond."
Pierce Brosnan met Australian actress Cassandra Harris through her stepson David Harris, the nephew of Richard Harris, shortly after leaving drama school.
They began dating and bought a house in Wimbledon.
The couple married in December 1980 and had one son together, Sean, who was born on 13 September 1983 and later became an actor. They also lived with Harris' children, Charlotte (1971–2013) and Chris, and Brosnan adopted them after their father Dermot Harris died in 1986; they subsequently took on his surname.
Early in their relationship, Brosnan worked in West End plays and television films.
Brosnan first met James Bond film producer Albert R. Broccoli in 1981 on the sets of For Your Eyes Only, where his wife Cassandra Harris appeared was cast as Countess Lisl von Schlaf, mistress to Milos Columbo. Broccoli said, "if he can act ... he's my guy" to inherit the role of Bond from Roger Moore.
Afterwards, the couple secured a bank loan and moved to Southern California, where Brosnan was cast in the title role of the TV series Remington Steele, easing their financial worries.
In 1986, NBC cancelled Remington Steele. As Brosnan was offered the role of James Bond, the publicity improved Remington Steele's ratings and it was renewed, contractually requiring Brosnan to return to the show. This caused Eon Productions to have to look elsewhere for the new 007. The producers instead hired Timothy Dalton for The Living Daylights (1987), and Licence to Kill (1989).
While filming The Deceivers in Rajasthan in 1987, Brosnan's wife Harris became seriously ill. She was later diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
After Brosnan left school, he pursued a career in art and began working as an illustrator, but eventually he abandoned his artwork to pursue a career in acting. Brosnan took up painting again during his Harris's illness as he found it therapeutic. "Sometimes dramatic moments affect the way you see yourself in the world…from a very hard time in my life, I started painting again and out came every colour I could imagine." Citing his influences as Picasso, Matisse, Bonnard and Kandinsky, Brosnan spends much of his free time between film shoots in front of his easel. "I am self taught, an enthusiastic painter as a friend of mine likes to say." He has continued painting since then, using spare time on set and at home.
Cassandra Harris died on 28 December 1991 at age 43. Brosnan struggled to cope with her death:
"When your partner gets cancer, then life changes. Your timetable and reference for your normal routines and the way you view life, all this changes. Because you're dealing with death. You're dealing with the possibility of death and dying. And it was that way through the chemotherapy, through the first-look operation, the second look, the third look, the fourth look, the fifth look. Cassie was very positive about life. I mean, she had the most amazing energy and outlook on life. It was and is a terrible loss, and I see it reflected, from time to time, in my children."
On meeting her, he said, "What a beautiful looking woman. I never for an instant thought she was someone I'd spend 17 years of my life with. I didn't think of wooing her, or attempting to woo her; I just wanted to enjoy her beauty and who she was."
Since Harris' death, Brosnan has been an advocate for cancer awareness and, in 2006, he served as spokesperson for Lee National Denim Day, a breast cancer fundraiser which raises millions of dollars and raises more money in a single day than any other breast cancer fundraiser.
Legal disputes between the Bond producers and the studio over distribution rights resulted in the cancellation of a proposed third Dalton film in 1991 and put the Bond series on a hiatus for several years. After the legal issues had been resolved, Dalton decided not to return for a third film.
On 7 June 1994, Brosnan was announced as the fifth actor to play Bond.
Brosnan's wife Cassandra Harris had always wanted Brosnan to play James Bond. Four years after her death, Brosnan secured the role.
Brosnan was signed for a three-film Bond deal with the option of a fourth. The first, 1995's GoldenEye, grossed US$350 million worldwide, the fourth highest worldwide gross of any film in 1995, making it the most successful Bond film since Moonraker, adjusted for inflation.
In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of 4, saying that Brosnan's Bond was "somehow more sensitive, more vulnerable, more psychologically complete" than the previous ones, also commenting on Bond's "loss of innocence" since previous films. James Berardinelli described Brosnan as "a decided improvement over his immediate predecessor" with a "flair for wit to go along with his natural charm", but added that "fully one-quarter of Goldeneye is momentum-killing padding."
In 1996, Brosnan formed a film production company called Irish DreamTime along with producing partner and longtime friend Beau St. Clair. Brosnan and St. Clair released Irish DreamTime's first production, The Nephew, in 1998. One year later, the company's second studio project, The Thomas Crown Affair, was released and met both critical and box office success.
Brosnan returned to James Bond movies in 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies and 1999's The World Is Not Enough, which were also successful.
In 2001 Pierce Brosnan married American journalist Keely Shaye Smith at Ballintubber Abbey in Ireland. They had met in Mexico in 1994.
The couple have two sons together named Dylan and Paris. They reside primarily in Malibu, California, with a second American home in Hawaii and Irish residences in Dublin and County Meath.
In 2002, Brosnan appeared for the fourth time as Bond in Die Another Day, receiving mixed reviews similarly to the former two, but was a success at the box office. Brosnan himself subsequently criticised many aspects of his fourth Bond movie. During the promotion, he mentioned that he would like to continue his role as James Bond: "I'd like to do another, sure. Connery did six. Six would be a number, then never come back." Brosnan asked Eon Productions, when accepting the role, to be allowed to work on other projects between Bond films. The request was granted, and for every Bond film, Brosnan appeared in at least two other mainstream films, including several he produced, playing a wide range of roles.
Shortly after the release of Die Another Day, the media began questioning whether or not Brosnan would reprise the role for a fifth time. At that time, Brosnan was approaching his 50th birthday.
In October 2004, Brosnan said he considered himself dismissed from the role. In February 2005 he posted on his website that he was finished with the role.
On 14 October 2005, Daniel Craig took over the role.
In 2009, Brosnan finished the well-received The Ghost Writer, playing a disgraced British Prime Minister, directed and produced by Roman Polanski. The film won a Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Brosnan has been an Ambassador for UNICEF Ireland since 2001 and recorded a special announcement to mark the launch of UNICEF's "Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS" Campaign with Liam Neeson. He also would give to a trust to benefit "environmental, children's and women's health charities." through the sales of his artworks.
In 2002, Pierce Brosnan was awarded an honorary degree from the Dublin Institute of Technology and, a year later, the University College Cork.
In 2003, Brosnan was rewarded the Irish Film and Television Academy Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Irish Film.
In July 2003, Queen Elizabeth II made Brosnan an honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his "outstanding contribution to the British film industry". As an Irish citizen, he is ineligible to receive the full OBE honour, which is awarded only to a citizen of the Commonwealth realms, but he is still allowed the letters "OBE" after his name.
On 23 September 2004, he became an American citizen while retaining his Irish citizenship. He said, "My Irishness is in everything I do. It's the spirit of who I am, as a man, an actor, a father. It's where I come from."
In May 2007, Brosnan and his wife Smith donated $100,000 to help replace a playground on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, where they own a house.
In February 2013, Brosnan was awarded honorary patronage of the Dublin University Players society at Trinity College, Dublin.
On 11 February 2015, Brosnan's $18 million Malibu home caught fire and sustained $1 million in damages. During the 30 minutes it took firefighters to extinguish the fire, flames destroyed the contents of the garage, including Brosnan's 2002 Aston Martin V12 Vanquish, and spread to a bedroom above it; no injuries were sustained.
In 2021, Brosnan launched his first-ever NFT collection of digital artworks "Big Noise" - on a digital platform focusing on artist empowerment, sustainability and technical innovation - inspired by his painting "Earplugs" which he painted while filming the James Bond film GoldenEye, incorporating abstract movement, self-recorded sound elements, including his voice, and bespoke visuals.
Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti (12 May 1828 – 9 April 1882), generally known as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was an English poet, illustrator, painter, and translator, and member of the Rossetti family. He founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. Rossetti was later to be the main inspiration for a second generation of artists and writers influenced by the movement, most notably William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. His work also influenced the European Symbolists and was a major precursor of the Aesthetic movement.
Rossetti's art was characterised by its sensuality and its medieval revivalism. His early poetry was influenced by John Keats and William Blake. His later poetry was characterised by the complex interlinking of thought and feeling, especially in his sonnet sequence, The House of Life. Poetry and image are closely entwined in Rossetti's work. He frequently wrote sonnets to accompany his pictures, spanning from The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849) and Astarte Syriaca (1877), while also creating art to illustrate poems such as Goblin Market by the celebrated poet Christina Rossetti, his sister.
Rossetti's personal life was closely linked to his work, especially his relationships with his models and muses Elizabeth Siddal (whom he married), Fanny Cornforth and Jane Morris.
The son of émigré Italian scholar Gabriele Pasquale Giuseppe Rossetti and his wife Frances Mary Lavinia Polidori, Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti was born in London, on 12 May 1828. His family and friends called him Gabriel, but in publications he put the name Dante first in honour of Dante Alighieri. He was the brother of poet Christina Rossetti, critic William Michael Rossetti, and author Maria Francesca Rossetti. His father was a Roman Catholic, at least prior to his marriage, and his mother was an Anglican; ostensibly Gabriel was baptised as and was a practising Anglican. During his childhood, Rossetti was home educated and later attended King's College School, and often read the Bible, along with the works of Shakespeare, Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, and Lord Byron.
The youthful Rossetti is described as "self-possessed, articulate, passionate and charismatic" but also "ardent, poetic and feckless". Like all his siblings, he aspired to be a poet and attended King's College School, in its original location near the Strand in London. He also wished to be a painter, having shown a great interest in Medieval Italian art. He studied at Henry Sass' Drawing Academy from 1841 to 1845, when he enrolled in the Antique School of the Royal Academy, which he left in 1848. After leaving the Royal Academy, Rossetti studied under Ford Madox Brown, with whom he retained a close relationship throughout his life.
Following the exhibition of William Holman Hunt's painting The Eve of St. Agnes, which illustrated a poem by John Keats, Rossetti sought out Hunt's friendship. Rossetti's own poem, "The Blessed Damozel", was an imitation of Keats, and he believed Hunt might share his artistic and literary ideals. Together they developed the philosophy of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood which they founded along with John Everett Millais.
From the beginning of the Brotherhood's formation in 1848, the group's intention was to reform English art by rejecting what they considered to be the mechanistic approach first adopted by the Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo and the formal training regime introduced by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Their approach was to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art, and their pieces of art included subjects of noble or religious disposition.
The eminent critic John Ruskin wrote:
Every Pre-Raphaelite landscape background is painted to the last touch, in the open air, from the thing itself. Every Pre-Raphaelite figure, however studied in expression, is a true portrait of some living person.
For the first issue of the brotherhood's magazine, The Germ, published early in 1850, Rossetti contributed a poem, "The Blessed Damozel", and a story about a fictional early Italian artist inspired by a vision of a woman who bids him combine the human and the divine in his art. Rossetti was always more interested in the medieval than in the modern side of the movement, working on translations of Dante and other medieval Italian poets, and adopting the stylistic characteristics of the early Italians.
Rossetti's first major paintings in oil display the realist qualities of the early Pre-Raphaelite movement. His Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849) and Ecce Ancilla Domini (1850) portray Mary as a teenage girl.
In The Girlhood of Mary Virgin, finished in 1849, the subject of the painting, the Blessed Virgin, is sewing a red cloth, emphasizing the embroidering of altar cloths by women.
After his second major painting Ecce Ancilla Domini, exhibited in 1850, was criticized unfavorably, Rossetti turned to watercolours, which could be sold privately. Although his work subsequently won support from John Ruskin, Rossetti only rarely exhibited thereafter.
In 1850, Rossetti met Elizabeth Siddal, an important model for the Pre-Raphaelite painters. Over the next decade, she became his muse, his pupil, and his passion. They were married in 1860.
For many years, Rossetti worked on English translations of Italian poetry including Dante Alighieri's La Vita Nuova (published as The Early Italian Poets in 1861). These and Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur inspired his art of the 1850s. He created a method of painting in watercolours, using thick pigments mixed with gum to give rich effects similar to medieval illuminations. He also developed a novel drawing technique in pen-and-ink. His first published illustration was "The Maids of Elfen-Mere" (1855), for a poem by his friend William Allingham,
His visions of Arthurian romance and medieval design also inspired William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. Neither Burne-Jones nor Morris knew Rossetti, but were much influenced by his works, and met him by recruiting him as a contributor to their Oxford and Cambridge Magazine which Morris founded in 1856 to promote his ideas about art and poetry.
That summer Morris and Rossetti visited Oxford and finding the Oxford Union debating-hall under construction, pursued a commission to paint the upper walls with scenes from Le Morte d'Arthur and to decorate the roof between the open timbers. Rossetti recruited two sisters, Bessie and Jane Burden, as models for the Oxford Union murals, and Jane became Morris's wife in 1859.
The frescoes, done too soon and too fast, began to fade at once and now are barely decipherable.
Literature was integrated into the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood's artistic practice from the beginning (including that of Rossetti), with many paintings making direct literary references. For example, John Everett Millais' early work, Isabella (1849), depicts an episode from John Keats' Isabella, or, the Pot of Basil (1818).
Rossetti was particularly critical of the gaudy ornamentation of Victorian gift books and sought to refine bindings and illustrations to align with the principles of the Aesthetic Movement. Rossetti's key bindings were designed between 1861 and 1871. One of Rossetti's most prominent contributions to illustration was the collaborative book, Edward Moxon's 1857 edition of Poems by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
The Pre-Raphaelites’ visualization of Tennyson's poems indicated the range of possibilities in interpreting written works, as did their unique approach to visualizing narrative on the canvas.
Pre-Raphaelite illustrations do not simply refer to the text in which they appear; rather, they are part of a bigger program of art: the book as a whole. Illustration is not subservient to text and vice versa. Careful and conscientious craftsmanship is practiced in every aspect of production, and each element, though qualifiedly artistic in its own right, contributes to a unified art object (the book).
Around 1860, Rossetti returned to oil painting, abandoning the dense medieval compositions of the 1850s in favour of powerful close-up images of women in flat pictorial spaces characterised by dense colour. These paintings became a major influence on the development of the European Symbolist movement.
In them, Rossetti's depiction of women became almost obsessively stylised. He portrayed his new lover Fanny Cornforth as the epitome of physical eroticism, whilst Jane Burden, the wife of his business partner William Morris, was glamorised as an ethereal goddess. "These new works were based not on medievalism, but on the Italian High Renaissance artists of Venice, Titian and Veronese.
In 1861, Rossetti became a founding partner in the decorative arts firm, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. with Morris, Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown, Philip Webb, Charles Faulkner and Peter Paul Marshall. Rossetti contributed designs for stained glass and other decorative objects.
Rossetti's wife, Elizabeth, died of an overdose of laudanum in 1862, possibly a suicide, shortly after giving birth to a stillborn child. Rossetti became increasingly depressed, and on the death of his beloved Lizzie, buried the bulk of his unpublished poems with her at Highgate Cemetery, though he later had them dug up. He idealised her image as Dante's Beatrice in a number of paintings, such as Beata Beatrix.
The savage reaction of critics to Rossetti's first collection of poetry contributed to a mental breakdown in June 1872. The next summer he was much improved, and both Alexa Wilding and Jane Morris sat for him at Kelmscott, where he created a soulful series of dream-like portraits.
In 1874, Morris reorganised his decorative arts firm, cutting Rossetti out of the business, and the polite fiction that both men were in residence with Jane Morris at Kelmscott could not be maintained. Rossetti abruptly left Kelmscott in July 1874 and never returned.
Toward the end of his life, he sank into a morbid state, darkened by his drug addiction to chloral hydrate and increasing mental instability. He spent his last years as a recluse at Cheyne Walk.
Rossetti's incomplete picture Found, begun in 1853 and unfinished at his death, was his only major modern-life subject. It depicted a prostitute, lifted from the street by a country drover who recognises his old sweetheart.
On Easter Sunday, 1882, he died at the country house of a friend, where he had gone in a vain attempt to recover his health, which had been destroyed by chloral as his wife's had been destroyed by laudanum. He died of Bright's Disease, a disease of the kidneys from which he had been suffering for some time. He had been housebound for some years on account of paralysis of the legs, though his chloral addiction is believed to have been a means of alleviating pain from a botched hydrocele removal. He had been suffering from alcohol psychosis for some time brought on by the excessive amounts of whisky he used to drown out the bitter taste of the chloral hydrate. He is buried in the churchyard of All Saints at Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, England.
Alfred Émile Léopold Stevens (11 May 1823 – 24 August 1906) was a Belgian painter, known for his paintings of elegant modern women. After gaining attention early in his career with a social realist painting depicting the plight of poor vagrants, he achieved great critical and popular success with his scenes of upper-middle class Parisian life. In their realistic style and careful finish, his works reveal the influence of 17th-century Dutch genre painting.
Alfred Stevens, né le 11 mai 1823 à Bruxelles et mort le 24 août 1906 à Paris, est un peintre belge. Sa carrière a connu une ascension fulgurante tant en Belgique qu'en France où il a passé la plus grande partie de sa vie. Très introduit dans les milieux artistiques et mondains de la capitale, il était l'ami d'Édouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, Alexandre Dumas (fils) tandis que son frère, Arthur Stevens, marchand d'art installé à Paris et à Bruxelles, œuvrait pour faire connaître les peintres français. Stevens a en commun avec Manet un modèle féminin : Victorine Meurent qui pose pour Olympia.
D'abord en retrait du courant impressionniste, aimé pour ses scènes de genre dont le sujet est en majorité de jeunes élégantes, ses tableaux se vendent à des prix très élevés. Mais à partir de 1883, saisi d'un doute devant la montée de l'impressionnisme, Stevens a reconsidéré sa peinture et a réalisé des paysages impressionnistes. Pour l'Exposition universelle de Paris de 1889, il reçoit la commande d'une fresque, aujourd'hui propriété des musées des beaux arts de Bruxelles : Le Panorama du siècle.
Alfred Émile Léopold Stevens was born in Brussels. He came from a family involved with the visual arts: his older brother Joseph (1816–1892) was painter, while another brother Arthur (1825–1899) was an art dealer and critic. His father, who had fought in the Napoleonic wars in the army of William I of the Netherlands, was an art collector who owned several watercolors by Eugène Delacroix, among other artists. His mother's parents ran Café de l'Amitié in Brussels, a meeting place for politicians, writers, and artists. All the Stevens children benefited from the people they met there, and the social skills they acquired in growing up around important people.
After the death of his father in 1837, Stevens left middle school to begin study at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, where he knew François Navez, the Neo-Classical painter and former student of Jacques-Louis David who was its director and an old friend of Stevens's grandfather. Following a traditional curriculum, he drew from casts of classical sculpture for the first two years, and then drew from live models. In 1843, Stevens went to Paris, joining his brother Joseph who already was there. He was admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts, the most important art school in Paris. Although it is said that he became a student of its director Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, this is likely not true. An early picture by Stevens, The Pardon or Absolution (Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg), signed and dated 1849, shows his mastery of a conventional naturalistic style which owes much to 17th-century Dutch genre painting. Like the Belgian painter and friend with whom he stayed in Paris, Florent Willems (1823–1905), Stevens carefully studied works by painters such as Gerard ter Borch and Gabriel Metsu.
Stevens's work was shown publicly for the first time in 1851, when three of his paintings were admitted to the Brussels Salon. He was awarded a third-class medal at the Paris Salon in 1853, and a second-class medal at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1855. His Ce qu'on appelle le vagabondage (What is called vagrancy) (Musée d'Orsay, Paris) attracted the attention of Napoleon III who, as a result of the scene in the picture, ordered that soldiers no longer be used to pick up the poor from the streets.
Two other paintings he exhibited at the Salon in Antwerp that year, Chez soi or At Home and The Painter and his Model (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore), introduced subjects from "la vie moderne" for which he became known: an elegant young woman in contemporary dress and the artist in his studio.
In 1857, Stevens made his first important sale to a private collector, when Consolation was bought for a rumored 6,000 francs by the Berlin collector and dealer Ravéné. At the same time, he and his brother were becoming part of the art world of Paris, meeting people such as the Goncourt brothers, Théophile Gautier, and Alexandre Dumas at the salons of Princess Mathilde as well as popular cafés. In 1858, Stevens married Marie Blanc, who came from a rich Belgian family and old friends of the Stevens's. Eugène Delacroix was a witness at the ceremony.
During the 1860s, Stevens became an immensely successful painter, known for his paintings of elegant modern women. In 1863, he received the Legion of Honor (Chevalier) from the French government.
His exhibits at the Salons in Paris and Brussels attracted favorable critical attention and buyers. An excellent example of his work during this time is La Dame en Rose or Woman in Pink (Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels), painted in 1866, which combines a view of a fashionably dressed woman in an interior with a detailed examination of Japanese objects, a fashionable taste called Japonisme of which Stevens was an early enthusiast.
In 1867, Stevens won a first-class medal at the Universal Exposition in Paris, where he and Jan August Hendrik Leys were the stars of the Belgian section, and was promoted to Officer of the Legion of Honor. His friends included Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Charles Baudelaire, Berthe Morisot, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Frédéric Bazille, and Puvis de Chavannes.
Stevens fought for the French during the siege of Paris in the Franco-Prussian War, but returned to Belgium with his wife and family before the Paris Commune. They returned after the war, and Stevens continued to achieve critical acclaim as well as great success with collectors.
In 1875, he bought a grand house and garden in Paris on rue des Martyrs, which appeared in his paintings as well as those of other artists, including Édouard Manet's The Croquet Party (Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main) from 1873. (He had to leave the house in 1880, however, to make way for the construction of a new street, which was named after him.) In 1878, he was made a Commander of the Legion of Honor and received another first-class medal at the Salon.
In the early 1880s, Stevens' doctor prescribed summers by the sea according to the health condition of the latter. Despite earning a considerable income through the sale of his paintings, Stevens found that a combination of bad investments and excessive spending caused him great financial difficulties by now.
A Paris dealer Georges Petit offered him 50,000 francs to finance his vacations in exchange for the paintings Stevens produced during that time. This deal, which lasted for three years, resulted in the sea becoming an important subject for him, and over the rest of his career, he painted hundreds of views of popular resorts along the Normandy coast and the Midi in the south. Many of them are painted in a sketchy style that shows the influence of the Impressionists.
Stevens also began to take private students, including Sarah Bernhardt, who became a close personal friend, and William Merritt Chase. Other students were Berthe Art, Charles Bell Birch, Jules Cayron, Marie Collart-Henrotin, Louise De Hem, Harriet Campbell Foss, Georgette Meunier, Lilla Cabot Perry, Jean-Paul Sinibaldi, and Fernand Toussaint.
The single most important work from the second half of Stevens's career is the monumental Panorama du Siècle, 1789–1889, which he painted with Henri Gervex. Stevens painted the women and details and Gervex the men, with the help of fifteen assistants. It was shown to great acclaim at the International Exhibition held in Paris in 1889. He also received several great professional tributes. In 1895, a large exhibition of his work was held in Brussels. In 1900, Stevens was honored by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris with the first retrospective exhibition ever given to a living artist. Supported by patrons led by the Comtesse de Greffulhe, it achieved social cachet as well as popular success. In 1905, he was the only living artist allowed to exhibit in a retrospective show of Belgian art in Brussels. Despite these exhibitions, he was not able to sell enough of his work to manage well financially.
Alfred Stevens died in Paris in 1906, having outlived his brothers and most of his friends.
Fils du Bruxellois Léopold Stevens (mort en 1837) ancien officier passionné de peinture et collectionneur en particulier des œuvres de Théodore Géricault et Eugène Delacroix, Alfred Stevens est le frère du peintre Joseph Stevens et du marchand de tableaux Arthur Stevens (1825-1890)1. Il est aussi le père du peintre Léopold Stevens.
Très vite lancé à Paris où il s’est installé en 1844 sur les conseils de Camille Roqueplan, il devient l'ami d'Édouard Manet, Charles Baudelaire, Aurélien Scholl. Il a été admis à l'École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts. À cette époque, Stevens paraît dans le registre des copistes du Louvre en tant qu'élève du peintre d'histoire Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury. Cinq ans plus tard, il retourne à Bruxelles où il expose en 1851 des tableaux parmi lesquels Le Soldat blessé, première esquisse d'un genre qu'il approfondit avec des œuvres témoignant de la misère urbaine.
De retour à Paris, il présente à l'Exposition universelle de 1855 quatre tableaux : La Sieste, Le Premier jour du dévouement, La Mendiante, et aussi Les Chasseurs de Vincennes dit aussi Ce qu'on appelle le vagabondage, que Émilien de Nieuwerkerke voulait faire retirer car le sujet déconsidérait l'armée impériale, l'œuvre présentant des soldats arrêtant des vagabonds.
Le peintre abandonne bientôt les miséreux comme veine d'inspiration pour se consacrer aux représentations de la femme contemporaine, alternant encore avec des scènes militaires. Au Salon d'Anvers, la même année, l'artiste est décoré par le roi des Belges pour son tableau Chez soi, représentant une jeune femme se chauffant.
En 1858, il épouse Marie Blanc. Il a pour témoins Alexandre Dumas (fils), Eugène Delacroix et un grand nombre de personnalités des arts.
À partir de 1860, il connaît un énorme succès grâce à ses tableaux de jeunes femmes habillées à la dernière mode posant dans des intérieurs élégants, à la fois intimistes et mondains. Ceux exposés au Salon de peinture et de sculpture de 1861 lui valent un grand nombre d'admirateurs. Il présente entre autres : Tous les bonheurs ayant pour sujet une femme allaitant, huile sur toile, 116,5 × 89,5 cm, Musées royaux des beaux-arts de Belgique, à Bruxelles, Une Veuve et ses enfants, huile sur toile, 114,5 × 160,5 cm, Musées royaux, Mauvaise nouvelle, encore intitulée La Lettre de rupture, huile sur toile 745 × 54 cm conservée au musée d'Orsay, Le Bouquet surprise, Une mère, Le convalescent...
Dans les années qui vont suivre, Alfred Stevens est non seulement un peintre reconnu, mais c'est aussi le plus parisien des Belges, qui va tenter avec son frère Arthur d'introduire les artistes français en Belgique. Arthur propose d'ailleurs un contrat à Edgar Degas pour 12 000 francs par an, Alfred pousse Manet à envoyer un tableau au Salon des beaux arts de Bruxelles de 1869, Clair de lune sur le port de Boulogne.
Il rencontre Baudelaire et Eugène Delacroix, qui le cite dans son Journal du 13 mars 1855 pour le prêt d'une tunique turque. Il influence James Whistler avec qui il partage un enthousiasme pour les estampes japonaises
Dès 1867, Alfred Stevens a triomphé à l'Exposition universelle où il a présenté 18 toiles, qui lui valent l'obtention de la médaille d'or et la promotion au grade d'officier de la Légion d'honneur, parmi lesquelles : Le Bain et L'Inde à Paris (dit aussi Le Bibelot exotique), que le critique d'art Robert de Montesquiou salue ainsi dans la Gazette des beaux-arts : « Le portrait est celui de Cachemire. Il l'a peint comme son maître Vermeer aurait fait d'une de ces cartes de géographie qu'il donnait pour fond à des femmes pensives.
Stevens devient un ami de Bazille et un habitué du café Guerbois et du café Tortoni. Avec la vogue du japonisme, il est aussi l'un des tout premiers peintres de l'époque, avec James Tissot, James Whistler ou Édouard Manet, à s'intéresser aux objets d'Extrême-Orient qu'il trouve notamment dans le magasin de La Porte chinoise, rue Vivienne à Paris, fréquenté aussi par ses amis Charles Baudelaire et Félix Bracquemond.
Parmi ses premiers tableaux japonisants on trouve La Dame en rose de 1866, suivi par Le Bibelot exotique de 1867, La collectionneuse de porcelaines en 1868, puis une série de plusieurs toiles de jeunes femmes en kimono réalisées vers 1872. Confirmé par Claude Pichois, Adolphe Tabarant révèle aussi que sous le pseudonyme de J. Graham il a donné au journal Le Figaro plusieurs chroniques vantant le talent de Manet, dont Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe qui figure au Salon des refusés.
Sa carrière encouragée par Mathilde Bonaparte et la princesse de Metternich a connu une ascension fulgurante. Mais en dépit du confort que procure la célébrité, Stevens demande à Étienne Arago, maire de Paris, l'autorisation de s'engager dans la Garde nationale pour combattre aux côtés de ses amis lors du Siège de Paris (1870). « Je suis à Paris depuis vingt ans, j'ai épousé une Parisienne, mes enfants sont nés à Paris, mon talent, si j'en ai, je le dois en grande partie à la France ».
C'est encore par l'intermédiaire d'Alfred Stevens que Manet va faire la connaissance du marchand de tableaux Paul Durand-Ruel, et de son cercle de relations : Degas, Morisot. Tout-Paris fréquente désormais l'atelier de Stevens situé d'abord au 12, rue Laval qui deviendra, le 10 juin 1885, le second cabaret du Chat Noir de Rodolphe Salis dans les locaux du peintre, puis rue des Martyrs et, à partir de 1880, rue de Calais. Goncourt qui lui rend souvent visite décrit le luxe dans lequel il vit.
À cette même époque, Stevens a créé un atelier de peinture pour femmes avenue Frochot, fréquenté par Sarah Bernhardt dont le peintre fera le portrait. Parmi les élèves les plus assidues de cette école, qui selon l'auteur belge Camille Lemonnier « avait été en son temps la plus belle école de Paris... » certaines se consacreront entièrement à la peinture et seront des artistes reconnues de leur temps comme Louise Desbordes, Alix d'Anethan, Georgette Meunier, Clémence Roth ou Berthe Art. Il faut noter que cette école de peinture pour femmes fut le seul lieu ou s'exerça à proprement dit le professorat de Stevens qui n'avait pas de collaborateurs et ne forma pas de continuateurs. Outre Sarah Bernhardt qui fut une de ses premières élèves et dont le peintre a réalisé plusieurs portraits, il est probable que certaines de ses élèves lui ont servi de modèle en même temps qu'il leur rendait hommage en les immortalisant sur la toile, telle Louise Desbordes pour le portrait en pied de la jeune artiste lyrique dans le tableau Un chant passionné ou Clémence Roth représentant la parisienne amatrice d'art vêtue de noir en allusion à son veuvage dans le tableau Dans l'atelier.
La mort de Manet, en 1883 va beaucoup l'affecter. Stevens traverse une période de doute devant l'arrivée de l'impressionnisme. Commence alors une période de recherche dans laquelle Berthe Morisot joue un rôle prépondérant.
Dans les années 1880 Stevens traverse une crise morale qui l'amène à remettre en question tout ce qu'il fait. Élève d'Ingres, souvent proche de Gustave Courbet, ou de Manet avec Ophelia. C'est le cas de La Jeune mère qui rappelle le style de Berthe Morisot.
Ses peintures s'arrachent, le roi des Belges lui commande Les Quatre saisons, les Vanderbilt lui achètent des toiles au prix fort, et pourtant, vers 1883, saisi à la fois d'une grande fatigue physique et d'un doute sur son travail, Stevens part à Menton sur les conseils de son médecin. Et là, il se livre à des expérimentations : des paysages impressionnistes.
Il peint aussi des marines et des scènes côtières dans un style plus libre, presque impressionniste, proche d'Eugène Boudin ou de Johan Barthold Jongkind.
Vers la fin de sa vie, son style n’est pas sans similitude avec celui de son contemporain John Singer Sargent.
Il publie en 1886 Impressions sur la peinture, qui connaît un grand succès.
Il arrête de peindre à partir des années 1890 à la suite de problèmes de santé. C'est, en 1900, le premier artiste vivant à obtenir une exposition individuelle à l’École des beaux-arts de Paris.
Il meurt au no 17 avenue Trudaine à Paris en 1906. Il est inhumé au cimetière du Père-Lachaise.
Ses tableaux ont été très populaires jusqu'en Amérique, où les tout-puissants Vanderbilt aux États-Unis en achetèrent plusieurs. La plupart restèrent cependant en France ou en Belgique.