Garneray Family (unknown–unknown)

By: Betje Black Klier

Type: Biography

Published: September 1, 1995

Updated: November 6, 2019

French painter Jean François Garneray (1755–1837) had four children, three sons and one daughter, who also became artists. At least one of his sons became involved with the opposition coalition that formed in France during the restored Bourbon monarchy (1814–30) in reaction to the "white terror" of 1815, when the government of Louis XVIII executed or exiled Napoleon's family and officers after the battle of Waterloo. Various members of this opposition promoted the Texas colony at Champ d'Asile in 1818–19 in an attempt to force the government of Louis XVIII to lift its ban on imperial officers. Invading Mexico and rescuing Bonaparte from Ste. Helena may have also figured in the colony's agenda. The ephemeral Texas colony was a short-lived disaster that vanished entirely in less than a year, but the art and literature of the Parisian subscription campaign long outlived the colony and contributed to the development of a Texas myth in nineteenth-century France.

Jean François Garneray, a student of Jacques Louis David, is remembered for his portrait of Charlotte Corday at her trial for the murder of Marat. He was a versatile artist who prepared governmental portraits, designed uniforms, and recorded interiors as well as displaying creative works at the annual salons. Garneray taught all of his children: Ambroise Louis (1783–1857), Auguste Siméon (1785–1824), Hippolyte Jean Baptiste (1787–1858), and Pauline Garneray Cabanne (?-?). Although Madame Cabanne painted flowers, as was expected of women at that time, she also contributed to the production of her father and brother Auguste by finishing their paintings and making copies for them. Sometimes it is difficult to attribute works to a single member of the Garneray family.

Louis Garneray wrote three popular autobiographies recounting his adventurous double career as a sailor, sometimes corsair, and artist. After leaving home at thirteen to sail, he quickly discovered that the captains wanted him to depict their brave deeds, which he did until he was captured by the English in 1806. He spent from 1806 until 1814 in the harbor at Portsmouth imprisoned on various pontons (prisons made from the hulks of disabled French ships moored in the mud), but somehow managed to paint and sell his work for a pittance. When Napoleon abdicated, the British freed their prisoners and Garneray returned to Paris. His maritime experience during the First Empire should have qualified him for a responsible position in the French navy, but that was impossible during the Restoration. In Paris he associated with the opposition coalition in the studio of military artist and fashion illustrator Horace Vernet, where he met artist Théodore Géricault, the Baroness Caroline Lallemand (wife of exiled baron Gen. Charles Lallemand, who founded Champ d'Asile), and songwriter-poet Jean Béranger (who wrote a popular song about Champ d'Asile). Garneray also met the future King Louis Philippe, who helped the artist obtain commissions after 1830. In collaboration with Étienne Jouy, who prepared the text, Louis Garneray painted, then engraved coastal scenes, "Vues des côtes de France," that show his practice of reserving a large portion of his canvases for sky. Unlike the other Garnerays, who painted portraits, Louis did not excel at the human figure, but his handling of details and rendering of dramatic atmospheric effects in landscapes, battles, or fishing scenes are exceptional.

Unable to become a ship captain, Louis Garneray served as the painter of the Duke of Angoulême, the admiral of France, after 1817. In 1819, he prepared two attractive engravings to advertise a book being sold for the subscription (fund-raising) campaign for Champ d'Asile and signed his name backwards, "Yerenrag"-a thin disguise for the top-ranking marine artist in Restoration France. It is unknown whether he confused the geographic information of Texas and Alabama deliberately or unknowingly in the First and Second "View[s] of Aigleville" (a legal Bonapartist agricultural colony in Alabama) and Champ d'Asile (an illegal military colony in territory disputed between the United States and Mexico). In these narrative scenes, endlessly reproduced and imitated, soldiers are working in full-dress wool uniforms in the summer in a Texas landscape featuring palm trees and tobacco plants, with a background of wooded mountains.

Auguste Garneray generally worked under the aegis of better-known artists who are frequently credited for his work today. He collaborated with Leroy, dress designer for Empress Josephine and her court, and designed sets and costumes for the Opera and the Théâtre Français that are generally credited to Jean Baptiste Isabey. These three designers adapted the Roman and Greek style dress launched by David into the high-waisted silhouette still referred to as the "empire" cut. They prepared the costumes for the coronation of Napoleon and Josephine and the historic record, Le Livre du Sacre. A single rare volume preserves the collection of opera costumes made by Auguste Garneray, who was the artistic director (procurer) and one of the portrait painters of both of Napoleon's wives, the empresses Josephine and Marie Louise. Auguste Garneray was also one of the painting instructors of Hortense Beauharnais, Josephine's daughter, who became queen of Holland upon marrying Napoleon's brother Louis. After the fall of the empire, he remained faithful to Queen Hortense and visited her in exile in Germany and Switzerland. He may have participated in artistic politics regarding Texas and Alabama during the Restoration. Auguste Garneray excelled at richly detailed interior "portraits" and illustrations for books on medieval subjects in troubadour style. In 1991 the Society of the Friends of Malmaison published a collection of watercolors of the Malmaison by Auguste Garneray.

Émile and Louis Auvray Bellier de la Chavignerie, Dictionnaire général des artistes de l'école française (1882–87; rpt., New York: Garland, 1979). Emmanuel Benezit, Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs (2 vols., Paris: Libraire Grund, 1976). Jacques Ruppert, Le Costume, Vol. 5 (Paris: Flammarion, 1931).

  • Peoples
  • French
  • Visual Arts
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Painting

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Betje Black Klier, “Garneray Family,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 18, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995
November 6, 2019