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Jean-Baptiste Olive was born in Marseille in 1848. Olive’s artistic talents were evident from a young age, and at the advice of a local artist named Étienne Cornellier, he was enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts de Marseille. His skill as a draughtsman was quickly recognised, and in 1871 Olive was awarded the first prize for life drawing. Following his studies, Olive entered the studio of Gustave Julien and then Étienne Cornellier, with whom he travelled to Paris for the first time. In Paris, Olive became immersed in the bohemian circle of artists and writers that lived around Montmartre and soon assisted with the painting decorations of Sacré Coeur du Montmartre and the pavilions of the World Fair of 1889. Olive began to exhibit in the Paris Salons and received numerous awards for his vibrant and colourful landscapes, becoming a member of the Société des Artistes Français in 1881, a year which marked the beginning of a long and successful artistic career. Olive is greatly favoured for his dazzling marine paintings of the sea, its shores and ports, captured in a diffusion of bright light inspired by the intensity of the southern French sun of his childhood; canvases that sing the splendors of the sea. Olive travelled extensively in France and northern Italy, but it was the particular atmospheres of Venice, Genoa and Treport in Normandy that led to a more mature style with subtle shading and soft colouring. Olive’s work can be found in numerous public museums and private collections and he remains a treasured artistic talent in his native city of Marseille, with a large retrospective “Jean-Baptiste Olive – Prisme de lumière” held in the city from 2008-2009.


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