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Jean-Baptiste Huet(Paris1745 - Paris1811)

Jean-Baptiste Huet was a painter and engraver, and nephew of Christophe Huet. He trained with his father, Nicolas Huet, and was then apprenticed to the animal painter Charles Dagomer (fl 1762–4; d before 1768), a member of the Académie de Saint-Luc. Huet’s interest in printmaking and his acquaintance with Gilles Demarteau, who later engraved many of his compositions, both date from this period. Around 1764 Huet entered the studio of Jean-Baptiste Le Prince, where he further developed his skill as an engraver; most of his engravings and etchings were reproductions of his own work. In 1768 he was approved (agréé) by the Académie Royale, and in 1769 he was received (reçu) as an animal painter with his painting of a Dog Attacking Geese (Paris, Louvre). He first exhibited pictures at the Paris Salon in 1769. The most important of these were his morceau de réception, the Fox in the Chicken-run (San Francisco, CA Palace of the Legion of Honor), and the Milkmaid (Paris, Musee Cognacq-Jay). The latter is a good example of his work in the petite manière of genre painting popularized by François Boucher, whom he knew and admired. Huet’s exhibits of 1769 were well received by the critics, especially by Louis Petit de Bachaumont and des Boulmiers in the Mercure de France. The quality of his animal pictures was widely praised, although Diderot made some criticisms of his draughtsmanship. Huet wanted the Académie to recognize him as a history painter, so he submitted an Adoration of the Shepherds to the 1775 Salon and followed this in 1779 with a painting of Hercules and Omphale (both untraced). Critical and academic opinion was unfavourable; however, evidence of his aspirations can be seen in his later works, an example being the Classical bas-relief in the background of the Spaniel Attacking a Turkey (1789; St Petersburg, Hermitage). Huet exhibited regularly at the Salon until 1789.

Wilhelm has established that between 1765 and 1770 Huet collaborated with Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard on a decorative scheme for Demarteau’s house in Paris. This scheme (Paris, Carnavalet), from which some elements have been lost, consists of large paintings representing landscapes and animals, against a trellis-like backdrop. From 1770 Huet published many engraved suites of his animal and compositional studies as teaching aids, himself engraving the first suite (1770). Demarteau was responsible for the second and third suites in 1772 and 1773, and thereafter various other artists undertook the rest. In 1789, at the outbreak of the French Revolution, Huet captained the town militia at Sèvres, where he had a country house. In 1800 and 1801 he again exhibited at the Salon, showing several pictures on pastoral and mythological subjects in the ‘galant’ mode.

Huet is represented in the following collections: Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Amarillo Museum of Art, Texas; Courtauld Institute of Art, London; Harvard University Art Museums, Massachusetts, amongst others.