Thursday, August 11, 2016

French Painting (1760-1790)

Jean-Baptiste Oudry
Still-life with pheasant
1763
oil on canvas
Louvre

"Painting is like music. You've mastered the rules of composition; you know all the chords and their inversions; modulations emerge from beneath your fingers at your pleasure; you know how to link and connect the most disparate chords; you can produce the rarest, the most piquant harmonic effects at will; and that's a great deal. But these terrible or voluptuous songs that, at the very moment they stun or charm my ears, bring love or terror into my heart, dissolve my senses or rattle my insides, do you know how to find those? What's the most beautiful handling without an idea? A painter's virtue. What's a beautiful idea without handling? A poet's virtue. Find the thought first; the style will follow." 

 from The Salon of 1767 by Denis Diderot, translated by John Goodman

Jean-Baptiste Greuze
Portrait of Claude-Henri Watalet
1763
oil on canvas
Louvre

Gabriel de Saint-Aubin
Salon of 1765
watercolor
Louvre

"Rapid sketches characterize everything with a few strokes. The more ambiguity there is in artistic expression, the more comfortable the imagination. In vocal music one can't help but hear the words it expresses. I make out a good piece of orchestral music to be saying whatever I like, and as I know from experience better than anyone else what touches my heart, it rarely happens that the expression I attribute to the sounds, analogous to my current situation, serious, tender, or gay, is less affecting than another one that's less well suited to me. It's rather like this with sketches and paintings: in a painting I see something that's fully articulated, while in a sketch there are so many things I imagine to be there that in fact are scarcely indicated!"

 from The Salon of 1765 by Denis Diderot, translated by John Goodman

Anne Vallayer-Coster
Still-life with marine plants, shells, corals
1769
oil on canvas
Louvre

Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Portrait of a young woman
ca. 1770-72
oil on canvas
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Jean-Baptiste Greuze
Portrait of Madame du Barry
ca. 1771
oil on canvas
private collection

Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié
Young Draughtsman
1772
oil on canvas
Louvre

Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié
Courtyard of the Custom House
1775
oil on canvas
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Jean-Michel Moreau
Head of an Apostle
1773
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun
Portrait of a young musician
1777
oil on canvas
private collection

Joseph Duplessis
Portrait of Monsieur de Buissy
1780
oil on canvas
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

"I hold that the main reason the arts have never, in any century or nation, attained a degree of perfection equal to that achieved in Greece is that this is the only place on earth where they were reduced to proceeding tentatively; that, thanks to the models they left us, we've never been able, like them, to slowly, successfully attain the beauty of these models; that we have made ourselves slavish imitators, to a greater or lesser degree mere portraitists, and that we've never been possessed of more than vague, indistinct borrowings from the ideal model, the true route; that if all these models had been destroyed, there is every reason to believe that, obliged like them to drag ourselves after a misshapen, imperfect, corrupted nature, we would have managed, like them, to arrive at a first, original model, at a true line which would have been our own, as it is not now and never can be."

 from The Salon of 1767 by Denis Diderot, translated by John Goodman

Jean François Pierre Peyroun
Funeral of Miltiades
1782
oil on canvas
Louvre

Hubert Robert
Interior of the Temple of Diana at Nîmes
1783
oil on canvas
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Hubert Robert
Civil Guard
ca. 1780-85
oil on panel
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid