Émile Friant (16 April 1863, Dieuze, Moselle – 9 June 1932, Paris) was a French artist. Friant was born in the commune of Dieuze. He would later be forced to flee to Nancy due to the encroachment of the Kingdom of Prussia’s soldiers. His paintings were featured throughout his lifetime at the Salon, until a tragic fall lead to his demise in 1932. Friant created works in charcoal, oil, and other media. He also used photographs to prepare finished paintings.
Friant was born in the commune of Dieuze in 1863. His father was a locksmith and mother a dressmaker. The wife of a chemist, Madame Parisot would hire the wife of Émile Friant’s father to design custom clothing. The Parisots took an early interest in the young Friant and treated him maternally as they were without children of their own. With the defeat of the Second French Empire at hand, as part of the then-ongoing Franco-Prussian War, Dieuze was no longer under state control. Intensely distressed by this, Parisot intended to leave the commune for Nancy, but died shortly before having the chance. In 1871, Madame Parisot fled with Friant to Nancy while his biological family would follow later.
Friant was to sent to the lycée to learn Latin as Madame Parisot intended for him to follow in her husband’s footsteps and become a chemist. Meanwhile, friends of his biological father had suggested sending him to a municipal school of art because of his skill with the brush. Because of his poor work at the lycée, Friant requested permission to leave and focus on his art. His father agreed, and the young Friant was placed under the guise of a private tutor who would arrange his academic work so that time remained for painting. Under the guidance of Louis-Théodore Devilly, director of a school in Nancy and a proponent of realism, Friant learned the art of still life and landscape painting. Friant painted Le petit Friant at the age of 15. It was exhibited in Nancy and quickly became the center of public intrigue. The municipal council granted him permission to travel to Paris a year later. There, he studied under Alexandre Cabanel, who tutored him in creating oil sketches of historical works. Friant, becoming disenchanted by the academic style of the Atelier Method, returned to Nancy.
In 1882, Aime Morot, a friend of Friant, encouraged him to debut two of his works at the Salon, The Prodigal Son and Studio Interior. The following year, Friant took second place in the Prix de Rome and again presented at the Salon. At his next two Salon presentations, spanning from 1883 to 1884, he won third-class and second-class honors respectively. He would form a lasting friendship with Ernest and Benoit Coquelin. With the grant he received from the Salon of 1886, Frian traveled to and studied in the Netherlands. His portrait of the Coquelins’ mother reflects the influence of that trip. Friant was appointed a professor of painting in 1923 at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France, promoted to the position of commander in the Legion of Honor, and made a member of the Institut de France. In 1932, Friant fell to his death in Paris.