François Pascal Simon, Baron Gérard (4 May 1770 – 11 January 1837), was a French painter born in Rome, where his father occupied a post in the house of the French ambassador. His mother was Italian. As a baron of the Empire, he is sometimes referred to as Baron Gérard.
In 1808 as many as eight, and in 1810 no less than fourteen, portraits by him, were exhibited at the Salon, and these figures afford only an indication of the enormous numbers which he executed yearly; all the leading figures of the Empire and of the Bourbon Restoration, all the most celebrated men and women of Europe, sat to Gérard. This extraordinary vogue was due partly to the charm of his manner and conversation, for his salon was as much frequented as his studio; Madame de Staël, George Canning, Talleyrand, the Duke of Wellington, have all borne witness to the attraction of his society. Rich and famous, Gérard was stung by remorse for earlier ambitions abandoned; at intervals he had indeed striven with Girodet and other rivals, to prove his strength at history painting, still a more prestigious genre than portraiture; his Bataille d'Austerlitz (1810) showed a breadth of invention and style which are even more conspicuous in L'Entrée d'Henri IV à Paris (at Versailles), the work with which in 1817 he did homage to the returned Louis XVIII. After this date Gérard declined, watching with impotent grief the progress of the Romantic school.
Loaded with honors – baron of the Empire in 1809, member of the Institut on 7 March 1812, officer of the légion d'honneur, first painter to the king – he worked on, sad and discouraged; the revolution of 1830 added to his disquiet; and on 11 January 1837, after three days of fever, he died.
Gérard is best remembered for his portraits; the color of his paintings has suffered, but his drawings show in uninjured delicacy the purity of his line; and those of women are specially remarkable for a virginal simplicity and frankness of expression.