French classical painter Antoine-Jean Gros was born on March 16, 1771 in Paris. The son of a painter of miniatures, he studied under Jacques-Louis David. Following the death of his father in 1791, he went to Italy, and it was there that he met Josephine Beauharnais, who introduced him to Napoleon, whom he accompanied on his Italian campaign.
He was an eye-witness of the dramatic scene when Bonaparte planted the Tricouleur on the bridge at Arcole in November 1796 and the dramatic painting that recorded this incident gave Gros a sense of purpose. Thereafter, as a war artist, he chronicled on canvas the exploits of the Napoleonic army down to the campaign of 1811, and it is on these heroic paintings that his reputation is largely based, earning him the Napoleonic title of Baron in the process.
His most famous painting is Bonaparte visitant les pestiférés à Jaffa (Bonaparte Visiting the Plague Stricken at Jaffa). The downfall of Napoleon robbed Gros of his true vocation.
In the aftermath of Waterloo, he returned to his classicist roots and concentrated on such works as Hercules and Diomedes, but by now he was fighting a losing battle against the rising tide of Romanticism. Gros died on June 25, 1835.