Georges de La Tour (March 13, 1593–January 30, 1652) was a painter from the Duchy of Lorraine, now in France.
Georges de La Tour was born in the town of Vic-sur-Seille in the part of the independent Duchy of Lorraine which was absorbed into France in 1641, during his lifetime. Baptism documentation reveals that he was the son of Jean de La Tour, a baker and Sybille de La Tour, née Molian. It has been suggested that Sybille came from a partly noble family. The de La Tours had seven children in all, with Georges being the second-born.
La Tour's educational background remains somewhat unclear, but it is assumed that he travelled either to Italy or the Netherlands early in his career. His paintings reflect the Baroque naturalism of Caravaggio, but this probably reached him through the Dutch Caravaggisti of the Utrecht School and other Northern (French and Dutch) contemporaries. In particular, La Tour is often compared to the Dutch painter Hendrick Terbrugghen.
In 1617 he married Diane Le Nerf, of a minor noble family, and in 1620 he established his studio in her quiet provincial home-town of Lunéville, painting mainly religious and some genre scenes. He was given the title "Painter to the King" (of France) in 1638, and he also worked for the Dukes of Lorraine in 1623–4, but the local bourgeoisie provided his main market, and he achieved a certain affluence. He is not recorded in Lunéville in 1639–42, and may have travelled again; Blunt detects the influence of Gerrit van Honthorst in his paintings after this point. He was involved in a Franciscan-led religious revival in Lorraine, and over the course of his career he moved to painting almost entirely religious subjects, but in treatments with influence from genre painting.
He and his family died in 1652 in an epidemic in Lunéville. His son Étienne was his pupil.
His early work shows influences from Caravaggio, probably via his Dutch followers, and the genre scenes of cheats and fighting beggars clearly derive from the Dutch Caravaggisti, and probably also his fellow-Lorrainer, Jacques Bellange. These are believed to date from relatively early in his career.
He is best known for the nocturnal light effects which the Dutch Caravaggisti took from Caravaggio, and which La Tour developed much further, and transferred from mostly genre subjects in their paintings to religious painting in his. He painted these in a second phase of his style, perhaps beginning in the 1640s, using chiaroscuro, careful geometrical compositions, and very simplified painting of forms. His work moves during his career towards greater simplicity and stillness — taking from Caravaggio very different qualities than Jusepe de Ribera and his Tenebrist followers did.
He often painted several variations on the same subjects, and his output is relatively small. His son Étienne was his pupil, and distinguishing between their work in versions of La Tour's compositions is difficult. The version of the Education of the Virgin, in The Frick Collection in New York is an example, as the Museum admit.
After his death in 1652, La Tour's work was largely forgotten until rediscovered by Hermann Voss, a German scholar, in 1915. In 1935 an exhibition in Paris began the revival in interest among a wider public. In the twentieth century a number of his works were identified once more, and forgers tried to help meet the new demand; many aspects of his œuvre remain controversial among Art historians.