Georges Croegaert (7 October 1848 – 1923) was a Belgian academic painter who spent most of his career in Paris. He is known for his genre paintings of elegant society women and humorous depictions of cardinals executed in a highly realist style.
Possibly looking for a lucrative niche in the market, Croegaert started to paint ‘cardinal paintings’, sometimes also referred to as ‘anti-clerical art’. These paintings depict Roman Catholic cardinals in a sumptuous setting typically engaging in some banal activity. Georges Croegaert was not the only artist in Paris practicing in this genre. Others who made a name in the genre include the Italian Andrea Landini and the Frenchmen Jehan Georges Vibert, Charles Edouard Delort and Marcel Brunery. By depicting cardinals participating in activities such as ‘approving the artist’s nude model’, card games, excessive or sumptuous eating and drinking and indulgent pastimes such as philately and painting, these painters poked fun at the excessive and sometimes debauched lifestyles of the upper echelons of the Catholic clergy. There was clearly a large demand for these paintings as evidenced by the fact that so many artists worked in this genre. The tone of Croegaert’s cardinal paintings was humorous and slightly mocking rather than overtly anti-clerical. Croegaert’s very detailed technique was perfectly suited for this genre as it allowed him to depict the excesses of the cardinals’ lifestyle amid an environment of ornate furnishings, tapestries, glass and silverware rendered in realistic detail. He was particularly accomplished in capturing the vivid reds and purples of the cardinals’ robes and the characterisation and humour in the faces of his somewhat pathetic subjects.
He died in Paris in 1923 after a long and successful career.