Musée du Louvre curator of paintings. Hautecoeur was born in Paris in 1884, the son of a bookshop owner who sold prints and catalogues on the Rue de Rivoli. An excellent student, Hautecoeur graduated from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in 1908 and went on to study at the Ecole de France in Rome. In Italy he explored the art of Rome during the neoclassical era and published his research on the topic under the title Rome et la renaissance de l’antiquité à la fin du XVIIIe siècle in 1912. Following this, Hautecoeur spent a short period in St. Petersburg as a lecturer at the Institut Français — one of the few foreign scholars to gain first hand experience of Tsarist Russia. His research there led to the publication of L’Architecture classique à Saint-Pétersbourg à la fin du XVIIIe siècle (1912).
During the First World War, Hautecoeur was assigned to the Ministry of War which saw him travel to Lugano, Switzerland, in a diplomatic capacity. Upon his return to Paris in 1920 he was appointed Deputy Curator at the Louvre. He took a position teaching classical architecture in France at the Écoles des Beaux-Arts the following year and was appointed Deputy Curator of paintings at the Louvre in 1923. Hautecoeur published a history of the institution, Histoire du Louvre, in 1928. The following year he published a heavily illustrated historical overview of architecture since the medieval period in the Burgundy region, L’Architecture en Bourgogne. In the same year Hautecoeur was also appointed chief curator at the Musée du Luxembourg and, briefly, director of Fine Arts in Egypt (1928-31). In 1932, he published Les Mosquées du Caire, a product of his experience in this role.
Between 1930 and 1939 he also taught at the Ecole du Louvre while continuing to teach at the Écoles des Beaux-Arts. During World War Two, in 1940, Hautecoeur was part of the team responsible for securing the French national collection in remote locations. Following this, he was appointed to the Vichy cabinet, where he served as Secrétaire d’Etat aux Beaux-Arts amongst other positions. During this time Hautecoeur published Littérature et peinture du XVIIIe au XXe siècle (1942). The book, based on a course he taught at the Louvre, attempted to delineate the main strands in French thinking using examples drawn from works of literature and art. Hautecoeur’s cautious and conservative approach to his cabinet position, however, led to the suspicion that he was part of a “secret resistance." As a result, he was forced to resign by Minister of National Education Abel Bonnard — at the insistence of Hermann Göring, according to some accounts (Karlsgodt). Bonnard, a follower of Charles Maurras (1868-1952) and an enthusiastic collaborationist, replaced Hautecoeur with Georges Hilaire who it was believed would be more amenable to using French art as a diplomatic tool. Ultimately both heads of the department, Hautecourt and Hilarie, were called before tribunals. Hautecoeur was acquitted of any wrongdoing and Hilarie was sentenced to five years in prison in absentia (Spotts). It was also during his period that the first volume of Hautecoeur’s monumental Histoire de l'Architecture Classique en France (1943) was published followed by the publication of six successive volumes between 1948 and 1957.
Hautecoeur moved to Geneva following the war in large part as a result of the damage done to his reputation by serving in the Vichy government. In Switzerland he became a curator of the Musée des Beaux-Arts and a professor between 1946-49. After returning to Paris in 1952 he published Architecture classique en France (1952) alongside a biographical account of Jacques-Louis David in 1954. He was appointed a member of the Institut de France and from 1955 until 1964 he served as perpetual secretary of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, Paris. During this time he continued to write, authoring a number of texts including Mystique et architecture: Symbolisme du cercle et de la coupole (1954), a three-volume survey Histoire de l’art (1959), and Les Jardins des dieux et hommes (1959). During the 1960s, Hautecoeur updated the early editions of his Histoire which deal with the period between the Renaissance and the 17th century.
Hautecourt paid little attention to the emerging art-historical methodologies of the Vienna school, overlooking the work of those such as Emil Kaufmann (1891-1952) whose work tended to highlight the social-historical context in which works of art were produced. However, Hautecoeur did share the Franco-Centric perspective of art historians such as Kaufmann: Hautecoeur “took it as his mission to foster French art as the embodiment of French nationalism," a perspective which was particularly notable in Histoire de l'Architecture Classique en France (Spotts). In spite of his myopic point of view, Hautecoeur’s scholarship was erudite, analytical, and solidly constructed. His writing drew on primary sources and prints, as well as existing scholarly studies. His use of archival collections, however, was limited to those available at the Louvre.
- Rome et la renaissance de l’antiquité à la fin du XVIIIe siècle. Paris: Fontemoing, 1912;
- L'Architecture classique à Saint-Pétersbourg à la fin du XVIIe siècle. Paris: Champion, 1912;
- Histoire du Louvre. Paris: l'Illustration, c.1928;
- L’Architecture en Bourgogne, 3 vols. Paris: G. Vanoest, 1929;
- Les Mosquées du Caire. Paris, n.p., 1932;
- Littérature et peinture du XVIIIe au XXe siècle. Paris: Colin, 1942, rev. 1963;
- Histoire de l’architecture classique en France, 7 vols. Paris: Picard, 1943–57;
- Louis David. Paris: La Table ronde. 1954;
- Mystique et architecture: Symbolisme du cercle et de la coupole. Paris: Picard, 1954;
- Histoire de l’art, 3 vols. Paris: Flammarion, 1959;
- Les Jardins des dieux et hommes. Paris: Hachette, 1959;
- Brucculeri, Antonio. “Louis Hautecoeur: repères biographiques.” Accessed August 18, 2021, https://books.openedition.org/inha/2933;
- Fierens Paul. “Hautecœur (Louis). Littérature et peinture en France du XVIIe au XXe siècle.” Revue belge de Philologie et d'Histoire, Année 1942, 21: 367-370;
- Gallet, Danielle. "Hautecoeur, Louis(-Eugène-Georges)." Grove Art Online. 2003; Accessed 18 Aug. 2021. https://www.oxfordartonline.com/groveart/view/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7000036939;
- Karlsgodt, Elizabeth Campbell. Defending National Treasures: French Art and Heritage Under Vichy. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2011;
- Lemonnier, Henry. “Les richesses d'art de la France. La Bourgogne. L'architecture, par L. Hautecœur.” Journal des Savants, Année 1930, 2: 94;
- Spotts, Frederic. The Shameful Peace: How French Artists and Intellectuals Survived the Nazi Occupation. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010;