Although thought to have been born as early as 1700, little is known about Lacroix de Marseille's life until he is documented in Rome in 1750. His first known work is a view of a Seaport
signed and dated "Grenier. de La. Crois. fecit Rom 1750."1
In 1751, Lacroix made four copies of works by Claude-Joseph Vernet, under whom he must have been studying, so indistinguishable in style are his copies from Vernet's originals.2
Only after Vernet left Rome in 1753 to return to France did Lacroix's paintings take on their own identity. He seems to have remained in Rome for quite some time after that, as he was not recorded back in France until 1776 when he exhibited at the Exposition du Colisée.
Vernet's influence on Lacroix de Marseille is evident in this magnificent painting of a Mediterranean sea harbor at dusk, which can be dated stylistically to the early 1760s. Lacroix's sense of color and attention to detail are particularly impressive; the sea is calm as the sun begins to set, a large vessel pulls in as a soft pink hue begins to emerge in the clouds. Fishermen and women are playfully interacting along the harbor as an elegant couple and their dog stroll by, with more figures along the bridges in the distance. The motif of the elegant lady strolling along the foreground (see detail) derives from a 1748 painting of Naples by Vernet.3
1. Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio; see France and the Eighteenth Century, exhibition catalogue, London, Royal Academy, 6 January 1968 - 3 March 1969, no. 358.
2. Now at Uppark House & Garden, West Sussex (accession numbers 138297.1-4), along with Vernet's originals (accession numbers 138296.1-4). See Oil Paintings in National Trust Properties, London 2013, vol. V, pp. 372-374.
3. View of Naples with Vesuvius, about 1748. Now in the Louvre, Paris, inv. no. R.F. 1976-21.