Philippe Bordes is a renowned international art historian, specialised in the art of the Revolution and Empire periods, in particular the work of the French painter Jacques-Louis David. He has published a number of reference works; in 2005 he published the exhibition catalogue 'Jacques-Louis David : Empire to Exile', organised by the J.Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown. In 2010 he wrote the essay 'Representing the Revolution'.
He was born to a French family, Cevenole by his mother, and emigrated to the United States when he was very young. Philippe Bordes earned his BA degree at Stanford University in 1970, his MA at the Courtauld Institute of Art in 1972, the year when he returned to France, and his PhD at the Paris IV-Sorbonne University in 1983
In 1981, when he was History of Art assistant at Paul Valéry University in Montpellier, teaching 19th and 20th century art, Philippe Bordes began his research into the collection of Alfred Bruyas and on the work of Alexandre Cabanel. François Saint-Pierre, the artist's great grandnephew, gave him access to numerous previously unseen documents, known as the 'Saint-Pierre Archives.' It included some 120 letters and Philippe Bordes gathered an important body of documents about Cabanel: transcriptions and photocopies of the letters and accounts. He was familiar with the Musée Fabre since his MA thesis on François-Xavier Fabre, written in London, and through his work at Paul Valéry University. He was research curator of the exhibition 'Courbet in Montpellier' in 1985 which highlighted the wealth of the Bruyas collection.
Philippe Bordes had to end his research into Cabanel in1984 when he was nominated the first director of the Musée de la Revolution Française in Vizille, near Grenoble; a post which he held until 1996. After a period teaching at Paris X – Nanterre University, from 2001 he was Professor of History of Modern Art at Lyon 2 University. In 2007, following a year abroad, he was named Head of the Research and Study department in the National Institute of the History of Art in Paris. In Autumn 2010 he returned to teaching in Lyon in order to develop joint projects on Renaissance Arts in Lyon and on portraiture.
In 2009, in the context of the exhibition 'Alexandre Cabanel 1823 - 1889. The Tradition of Beauty' (2010) he gave his documentation, which he had collected in the early 1980s, to the museum.