PIERRE-JOSEPH REDOUTE'S YOUTH
Pierre-Joseph Redouté was born in the year 1759. As a young man he worked as an itinerant artist, and in 1782 he went to seek his fortune as a flower painter in Paris. Redoute soon acquired a botanically oriented patron, L’Heritier de Brutelle, for whom he began the series of pictures that became the plates for de Candolle’s "Histoire Naturelle des Plantes Grasses", which began to appear in 1798. Just before the Revolution, Redouté was offered a court appointment which involved giving drawing and painting lessons to the ill-fated queen, Marie Antoinette. Although she had neither interest nor talent, she loved flowers, and while she was in prison Redouté was summoned to paint for her a cactus that was said to bloom only at midnight.
JOSEPH-PIERRE REDOUTE AS AN ARTIST
Redouté’s great chance came when, in 1798, Josephine Bonaparte acquired Malmaison and resolved to establish there a garden of rare plants. Josephine’s passion was for filling the garden of the palace with rare and exotic plants to remind her of her Creole background in the West Indies. As was the fashion, she searched for an artist to make records of them, and her choice was Redouté. Redouté was responsible for, or contributing to, over fifty books. Les Liliacees was Redouté’s largest and most ambitious work and is generally regarded as his masterpiece. Only two hundred copies were issued, with an additional eighteen copies printed on large paper, between 1802 and 1816. It was issued in the form of a cahier containing six plates, and costing thirty six francs. The title is misleading as the work is of a much broader scope including representatives of the lily, amaryllis, iris, orchid, and other families.
Les Roses, was Redouté’s next major project and has become the most celebrated and reproduced of all flower books. The work contained one hundred and sixty plates of roses that were issued between 1817 and 1824. The plates of Les Liliacees and Les Roses were executed by means of stipple engraving (using etched dots), a method ideally suited to render the subtle gradations of tone found in Redouté’s original watercolors. The printing in colors was usually done from a single plate, the various colors being applied by a rag-stump and re-inked before every impression. Redouté claimed to be the inventor of this particular method of color printing, for which he was awarded the medal of Louis XVIII.
JOSEPH-PIERRE REDOUTE'S DEATH
Redouté’s later years were dogged by a lack of money; his own fault, for he had always been a lavish spender. He died in 1840 of a stroke.