Achille-Etna Michallon was a highly ambitious prodigy, who first exhibited at the Salon at the age of fifteen. Michallon won the inaugural Grand Prix for Historical Landscape in 1817, a prize introduced with him in mind, and one he actively lobbied the recently reformed Académie to institute.
Landscape with Philoctetes on the Island of Lemnos is an excellent example of Michallon’s historical landscapes, which are characterised by his faithful attention to the dramatic conditions of the elements and panoramic views, and often include isolated figures from antiquity. Michallon’s close attention to nature is apparent, but the landscape is rendered heroic. There is a Romantic passion in his depiction of the elements and of the lonely figure of Philoctetes, forced to eke out a miserable existence in the face of that violence. Thus, Michallon’s landscape suggests both the naturalism of his best student, Camille Corot, and nostalgia for the grandeur and glory of pre-Revolutionary classicism.