Enfilade

Exhibition | Loutherbourg: Torments and Chimeras

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on October 28, 2012

From the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Strasbourg:

Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg: Torments and Chimeras
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg, 17 November 2012 — 18 February 2013

Curated by Dominique Jacquot and Olivier Lefeuvre

This exhibition in his native city marks the bicentenary of the death of the “Anglo-French” painter Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg. It will be the first retrospective of this artist in France and the only one since the exhibition which took place in London in 1973.

With more than a hundred works, both paintings and works on paper, from public and private collections in France, Britain and the United States, it aims to show all the facets of his art. In Paris, the artist was successful at a very early age, from 1763, and was acclaimed by Diderot, who regarded him as a prodigy. In 1771 he settled in London and adapted perfectly to the English environment. He became a member of the Royal Academy, had his portrait painted by Gainsborough and was acknowledged by his peers and the public alike as one of the most important painters of his time.

His private life was hectic. After working in Paris with the painter Casanova (the brother of the famous adventurer), he quickly fell out with him and, after a brief, stormy marriage, dropped everything to go and settle in London. There he gave up painting for a while, dispensing medical care by the “magical” laying on of hands, echoing the experiments of the famous Cagliostro, with whom he shared a brief friendship, and of Mesmer.

In London, Loutherbourg was in touch with the world of the theatre, the source of a fascinating aspect of his work. While he is known mainly for his pastorals and his landscapes, in which he at times depicts the perilous or sublime aspects of Nature, he was also a strikingly original historical painter, drawing his subjects from the Bible or from modern history, and his most memorable qualities are thus his versatility and great technical facility.

The approach of the exhibition is chronological, while keeping to certain thematic threads :

. Pastorals
. Shipwrecks
. Historical Painting (the Bible and Battles)
. English Landscapes
. Nature’s Perils

The artist’s graphic output is another of the revelations of this exhibition, which includes the considerable collection from the Strasbourg Prints and Drawings Cabinet.

An Alsatian by birth but with the talent of a European, Loutherbourg had the makings of a character from fiction. He embodied the Enlightenment while at the same time wholly prefiguring Romanticism.

Exhibition curators : Dominique Jacquot, Head Curator of the Strasbourg Fine Arts Museum, Olivier Lefeuvre, art historian.

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