Art of the 18th Century--3

[ Poussin Lorrain ] [ Lebrun Watteau Fragonard ] [ Chardin Boucher ]

[ Gainsborough Canelleto ] [Wright David ]

Along with the Rococo of Watteau, and Fragonard, "naturalness" emerged as another 18th century artistic genre. Adherents of the "'natural' preferred narratives that would teach a moral lesson, dismissing the frivolities and indecent gallantries of the Rococo" (Tansey and Kleiner 901).

Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin (1699-1779)

"Chardin sought to express moral values in quiet scenes of domestic life, wherein the artist seems to praise the simple goodness of ordinary people, especially mothers and young children, who, in spirit, occupation, and environment live far from corrupt societ." (901.) In his fascination with light and the depiction of light, Chardin reminded his viewers of Vermeer (Roberts). Roberts contined, "No other French painter of the century, not even Watteau, can rival him for the excitement and delicacy of his textures. And his sense of colour is one of the glories of French painting." Chardin's "naturalism" made him a great favorite of Diderot (Witt, et al. 233).


The Return from the Market (1739)

"Chardin's art is intimate, reflective and slowly wrought..." (Roberts). His works "are touched by a humanity, a self-effacing technical masstery and a breadth of conception which had not been seen in European painting since the death of Rembrandt" (Roberts). "Order and harmony are extracted from the simple events and objects of the middle classes" (Witt, et al. 233). He "...imparts to his subjects, whether a maid, a mother and child, or a still life, a monumental and quiet objectivity that recalls Vermeer" (233).

The Governess (1739) almost reminds the viewer of the 20th century American artist, Norman Rockwell, in its evocation of the intimate, the homely, the unsophisticated. Probably influenced by his contemporary, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Chardin was critical of the taste and esthetics of society (Tansey and Kleiner 901). The Governess suggests a mood of quiet attention with its "hushed lighting and mellow color" and its atmosphere of humble domesticity. (901) "...Chardin meant his pictures to educate and to instruct in virtue..." (Witt, et al. 233).

As seen in The Fast-Day Meal (1731,) Chardin was also interested in "pure still life, quiet arrangements of fruit..." or fish in this case "intermingled now and then with the hard lustre of a silver goblet or the figured gaeity of a piece of china" (Roberts). His depictions of still-life "...seem constructed from a carefully, loving observation of nature..." (Witt, et al. 233).


Francois Boucher (1703-1770)

Boucher, very much a man of his time, enjoyed considerable popularity and success. Taken up by Madame de Pompadour, he secured lucrative appointments as well as acceptance into the Academy. A prolific artist, he left behind hundreds (perhaps thousands) of landscapes, portraits, religious scenes, mythological subjects. He produced designs for Gobelin tapestries and for the Sèvres China factory as the fad for chinoiserie unfolded in 18th century France. His lovely paintings and decorations usually portray an idyllic, pastoral world. His style, despite a myriad of influences, remained "...superficial; a delightful Rococo cork, which however deeply it may be plunged into the waters of life, rises to its natural level and functions mosts happily on the surface" (Roberts). His style was widely imitated, but by the 1770s, people began to tire of it--as they did of Fragonard--finding both too facile and sentimental.
In Diana Leaving the Bath, Boucher demonstrates how his fame rested on "gay and graceful allegories" complete with nymphs and goddesses cavorting in shady glens or other idealized settings (Tansey and Kleiner 892). One art historian wrote, "...Boucher's... works reveal a characteristically French instinct for chic, for a polish that is as masterly in execution as it is elegant in effect." (Roberts) Diana and her companion are idealized, "divinely blonde...touched with a voluptuous vacancy...which increases their charm."
In Diana Leaving the Bath (1742,) Boucher continued the "decorative and intimate character" of art while adding "a more sexual, sensuous content," as seen in the "golden colors, the flesh tones and textures, and the delightful abandon" of the figures of Diana and her attendant (Witt, et al. 233).

One of Boucher's most famous patrons and subjects of his considerable skill in portraiture was Madame de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV. In a famous 1756 portrait, Boucher depicts her not as the maitresse en titre of the king, but as an intellectual and supporter of the Enlightenment, reading a book, with her writing table nearby. go to

Pastorale (1761)

Boucher mastered the Rococo genre paintings of "shepherds and shepherdesses, innocents awash in a countryside teaming with nature, and natural tendencies to love-making." Art historians speculate on Rousseau's influence on Boucher. In Pastorale, Boucher suggests that happiness could best be achieved by returning to a simple life, suggested by the goat and basket of flowers, though her elaborate dress is not that of a shepherdess or milkmaid.
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