(b Paris, 16 Mar. 1771; d Meudon, nr. Paris, 25 June 1835). French painter. He trained with his parents, both of whom were miniaturists, and then with J.-L. David. Although he revered David and became one of his favourite pupils, Gros had a passionate nature and he was drawn more to the colour and vibrancy of Rubens and the great Venetian painters than to the Neoclassical severity of his master. From 1793 to 1800 he worked in Italy, where he met Napoleon and was commissioned to paint portraits documenting his campaigns.
After his return to Paris he continued this vein in huge paintings such as the Battle of Eylau (1808, Louvre, Paris) that are among the most stirring images of the Napoleonic era. Compared with the contemporary war scenes of Goya, they are glamorous lies, but they are painted with such skill and panache that they cannot but be admired on their own terms. When David went into exile in 1816 after the fall of Napoleon, he entrusted his studio to Gros, who subsequently tried to work in a more consciously Neoclassical style. He never again approached the quality of his Napoleonic pictures, however (although he continued to paint excellent portraits), and haunted by a sense of failure, unhappily married, and in poor health, he drowned himself in the Seine. In spite of the sad end to his career, Gros is regarded as the most gifted of David's immediate followers and an important figure in the development of Romanticism: the colour and drama of his work influenced Géricault, Delacroix, and his pupil Bonington amongst others.
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)