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Sir Peter Francis Bourgeoi

Artist (United Kingdom)
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About

Peter Francis Lewis Bourgeois RA (November 1753 – 8 January 1811) was a landscape and history painter, and court painter to king George III of the United Kingdom. He became an art dealer and collector in association with Margaret and Noel Desenfans, and with them founded Dulwich Picture Gallery in London. He was born in Britain of Swiss ancestry. Bourgeois was born in London in November 1753 (or, according to Royal Academy records, in 1756). He was the son of Isaac Emanuel Bourgeois, a prosperous emigre Swiss watchmaker, and Elizabeth Bourgeois (née Gordon or Garden). He had a sister. In 1768, when he was fifteen, his mother died and he and his sister were abandoned by their father. Some time afterwards he was taken into the protection of Noel Joseph Desenfans, a writer who had come from France to Britain in 1769. Bourgeois studied painting as a pupil of Philip James de Loutherbourg. In 1776, at the age of 23, Bourgeois made a tour of Europe. When in Warsaw he met bishop Michal Jerzy Poniatowski, primate of Poland and brother of the Polish king, Stanislaw II. In the same year his protector Noel Desenfans married Margaret Morris, an heiress and sister of the Swansea industrialist, John Morris. By the 1780s Margaret and Noel Desenfans were collecting pictures and discreetly dealing. Bourgeois lived with them at their house in Charlotte (now Hallam) Street, London. In December 1787 Bourgeois was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy and was elected a full member on 11 February 1793, when he donated a landscape painting as his diploma work. In 1791 Bourgeois's friend, Michal Poniatowski visited London to commission Bourgeois to paint a portrait of king Stanislaw (now in Dulwich Picture Gallery). For this Bourgeois was presented with the Polish order "Merentibus", for which George III allowed him to use the title of 'Sir' in Britain. While in London Poniatowski asked Noel and Margaret Desenfans and Bourgeois to assemble a royal collection for Poland. During the next five years Bourgeois joined Margaret and Noel Desenfans touring Europe and buying pictures and continued his own painting In 1794 he was appointed landscape-painter to George III. The collection assembled for King Stanislaw included works by Vernet, Rembrandt, Veronese and others. In 1795 Desenfans was appointed Polish consul general in London; but a few months later Stanislaw was forced to abdicate and the dealers were left with the collection. Their attempts to sell it to Alexander I of Russia or the British Government proved unsuccessful and in 1799 Desenfans published a Plan for establishing some national galleries in Britain, of which the collection might form a basis, and in 1802 he exhibited the collection in London with a sale Catalogue. The collection remained unsold. After Noel Desenfans's death in 1807 his wife inherited the collection, and when she died in 1809 Bourgeois became sole owner. He shared the Desenfans' wish that the collection should be exhibited publicly, and when he died in 1811 he left it to Dulwich College with £10,000 to build a public gallery. Dulwich Picture Gallery - one of the first public art galleries anywhere in Britain was founded. The gallery was designed by Sir John Soane, who also designed the adjacent mausoleum, in which Bourgeois, Margaret Desenfans and Nöel Desenfans are buried. A portrait of Bourgeois by William Beechey is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery and another by James Northcote is at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. George Dance the Younger made a pencil portrait of him, and he is included in H. Singleton's The Royal Academicians in general assembly 1795 (at the Royal Academy of Arts, London). Family members of Francis Bourgeois included Victor H. Bourgeois (1864–1935) and Louise Forget-Bourgeois (1830–1914). [source]