Enfilade

Jean Barbault Exhibition in Strasbourg

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on June 26, 2010

Jean Barbault: Le théâtre de la vie italienne / The Theater of Italian Life
Strasbourg, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 22 May — 22 August 2010

Catalogue by Pierre Rosenberg et al. (ISBN: 9782351250815)

This year the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg will present an exhibition focused around the painter Jean Barbault (Val-d’Oise, 1718 — Rome, 1762). This seemed an opportune moment to spotlight such an enticing artist since the museum acquired one of his masterpieces just a few short months ago. The exhibition thus unveils a complete, eloquent panorama of his work. Barbault is renowned for whimsical figures painted with virtuosity and refined color as well as canvases treating “Mascarades” organized by residents at the Academy of France in Rome. He also signed landscapes of ruins and considered himself a “painter of History.” As an added feature the exhibition is showing a series representing his French contemporaries working in Rome at the same period, including Fragonard, who, like him were deeply attracted to Ancient (fascinating) and modern (picturesque) Rome and dazzled by Italian light.

Last year the Musée des Beaux-Arts further enriched its collection (thanks to a purchase made possible by the City of Strasbourg and by the Fonds Régional d’Acquisition des Musées / Regional Fund for Museum Acquisitions) with a major painting entitled Neapolitan Shepard and Buffalo Cow Leaving the Grotto by Jean Barbault. This is one of the mid-18th century’s most attractive works of French (and Italian) painting. Its subject matter and spiritual treatment personify the very essence of the Age of Enlightenment. The painting is a masterpiece done in Italy circa 1750 by an artist who largely remains in the shadows despite exhibitions previously shown at the Museums of Beauvais, Angers and Valence, 1974-1975.

The exhibit – and its catalog – gives an overview of his painted work. Barbault settled in Rome in 1747, remaining in this fascinating city and fully integrating himself into Italian life until his death. He was an original artist, the author of characters in typical Italian costume and exotic figures for Mascarade, who also undertook the register of ruins. Despite a rather dramatic existence, he considered himself an artist-in-full. Besides an extraordinary collection of engravings by the Italian Piranesi, the exhibition also exposes the unique milieu of residents at the Academy of France in Rome. Barbault was the contemporary of Jean-Honoré Fragonard and belonged to an exciting generation, between Boucher and David, Rocaille and Neo-Classicism.

Catalogue: Pierre Rosenberg et al., Jean Barbault: Le théâtre de la vie italienne (Strasbourg: Editions des Musées de la Ville de Strasbourg, 2010), 160 pages (ISBN: 9782351250815), $53.50, available at artbooks.com.

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Didier Rykner’s review of the exhibition for La Tribune de l’Art (5 June 2010) can be found here»

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