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Duparc, Françoise (1726–1778)

Duparc, Françoise (1726–1778)

French portrait and genre painter Born in Murcie, Spain, on October 15, 1726; died in Marseilles, France, on October 11, 1778; daughter and one of several children of Antoine Duparc (a sculptor) and Gabrielle Negrela.

The life of painter Françoise Duparc is poorly documented. Of the 41 paintings that were in her studio at the time of her death, only four remain that are positively attributed to her hand. They were bequeathed in her will to the town hall of Marseilles and are now housed in the Musée des Beaux-Arts. Although they are considered to be of high quality and have appeared in several exhibitions, they have not yet generated enough interest to lift the artist from obscurity.

It is believed that Duparc, whose family returned to Marseilles from Spain in 1730, began her art studies in her father's studio. There is also evidence, however, that she studied with Jean Baptiste van Loo (1684–1745), who was in Marseilles from 1735 to 1736 and again from 1742 and 1745. According to one source, Duparc copied a van Loo portrait so well that he had trouble distinguishing it from his original. Duparc resided with her sister in Paris and also may have lived in London for a time, as there are records of paintings exhibited there in 1763 and 1766. She moved back to Marseilles by 1771, where she was made a member of the local artists' academy in 1776. She died in 1778, at age 52.

The four documented Duparc works are a blend of portraiture and genre, each a single half-length portrait of a working-class man or woman—an old man carrying a sack (Man with a Sack), a woman knitting (Knitter), a young woman selling herb tea (The Seller of Tisane), and an old woman seated with her arms crossed (Old Woman). The paintings, with their layered surfaces and naturalistic portrayals, are compared to the work of Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699–1799); inspired by the Dutch genre painters of the 17th century, Chardin was considered one of the finest genre painters of 18th-century France. Unlike Chardin, however, Duparc concentrated completely on the human figure, to the exclusion of implied narrative or elements of the setting. According to some critics, the failure of her works to entertain or instruct explains her lack of success in her lifetime. Other paintings by Duparc, as described in her will, were religious in nature (a Virgin and Child and a miniature of Magdaline) or were portraits. It is assumed that most of her paintings are now hanging unnoticed in private collections in the south of France.


Harris, Ann Sutherland, and Linda Nochlin. Women Artists: 1550–1950. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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