Philippe de Champaigne is a crucial figure in the rise of French painting to international prominence during the seventeenth century. Through his Flemish training, he brought the knowledge of Rubens style to the centre of the Parisian development. His religious scenes and his portraits in a quiet and geometric style are among the great masterworks of the European baroque.
Born on 26th May 1602 in Brussels where he studied from 1620 as a landscape painter under Jacques Fouquier whom he followed to Paris in 1621, at a time when there was a scarcity of capable history painters in Paris. From 1625, Champaigne worked on Royal commissions, first on the decoration of the Luxembourg palace under the direction of Nicolas Duchesne, whose daughter he married and whom he was to succeed as first painter to the Queen Mother, Marie de Médicis, in 1628. He became a naturalised Frenchman in 1629. He received commissions from the King in 1634-8, including the Vow of Louis XIII for Notre-Dame (now at Caen), and in 1635, amongst other portraits, Richelieu commissioned 'Louis XIII crowned by Victory' (Paris, Musée du Louvre). Around 1636 he produced two tapestry cartoons for the choir of Notre-Dame.
After the death of Louis XIII in 1643, Champaigne continued as a crucial artistic figure under the regency of Anne of Austria. In 1656 he painted a series of large canvases (now distributed between the Louvre, Mainz and Tours) of hermit Saints in the desert for the apartment of Anne of Austria in the Val-de-Grâce. Invcreasingly, his work became associated with jansenist circles, although his Royal commissions continued at the same pace. His career continued after the beginning of Louis XIV's personal rule. His most famous paintin g, the 'Ex-Voto' (Paris, Musée du Louvre) dates from this period when his son Jean-Baptiste played an increasingly important role in his substantial studio. He was a founding member of the Académie Royale in 1648 and one of the most successful painters of mid seventeenth-century Paris. He died in Paris on 12 August 1674.