Exhibition | From Watteau to Fragonard: Les Fêtes Galantes

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on March 14, 2014

The exhibition opens today at the Jacquemart-André. In addition to the remarkably comprehensive 30-page press kit, the exhibition website, available in both French and English, is outstanding. -CH

From Watteau to Fragonard: Les Fêtes Galantes
Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris, 14 March — 21 July 2014

Curated by Christoph Vogtherr and Mary Tavener Holmes


Antoine Watteau, An Embarrassing Proposal, oil on canvas, ca. 1715–20
(Saint-Petersburg, Hermitage Museum)

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The Musée Jacquemart-André is delighted to be holding the exhibition From Watteau to Fragonard, les fêtes galantes. There will be approximately sixty works on display, mostly paintings lent for the occasion by major collections, predominantly public, from countries including France, Germany, the UK and the USA.

The poetical term fête galante refers to a new genre of paintings and drawings that blossomed in the early 18th century during the Regency period (1715–1723) and whose central figure was Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684–1721). Inspired by images of bucolic merrymaking in the Flemish tradition, Watteau and his followers created a new form, with a certain timelessness, characterised by greater subtlety and nuance. These depict amorous scenes in settings garlanded with luxuriant vegetation, real or imaginary: idealised dancers, women and shepherds are shown engaged in frivolous pursuits or exchanging confidences. The poetical and fantastical atmospheres that are a mark of his work are accompanied by a quest for elegance and sophistication characteristic of the Rococo movement, which flourished during the Age of Enlightenment, evidenced in his flair for curved lines and light colours.


Jean-Honoré Fragonard, A Game of Hot Cockles, oil on canvas, ca. 1775–80 (Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art)

The exhibition offers a chance to rediscover the pioneering nature of Watteau’s output. These are works of great creativity, depictions of life outdoors in some of his finest paintings and most accomplished drawings. Nicolas Lancret (1690–1743) and Jean-Baptiste Pater (1695–1725) were greatly influenced by the master, their works revisiting and refining the codes of the fêtes galantes. Their imaginary scenes are anchored in reality, featuring locations, works of art and multiple details that would have been easily recognisable to their contemporaries.

The flexibility of the fête galante theme proved to be an invitation to experimentation and innovation, and the genre was to inspire several generations of artists, occupying a central place in French art throughout the 18th century. Works by other highly creative painters, such as François Boucher (1703–1770) and Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806), illustrate their very personal visions of the joys of the fête galante as first imagined by Watteau.

The Musée Jacquemart-André, with its marvellous collection of 18th-century French paintings, is the perfect setting for an exhibition looking at fêtes galantes. We are particularly pleased that several of the finest drawings from the period, from the collection created by Nélie Jacquemart and Édouard André, will also be on display as part of the exhibition.

The Curators

9789462300453Currently director of London’s Wallace Collection, Christoph Vogtherr is a specialist in 18th-century French painting. He is the author of an authoritative work on the subject, the catalogue raisonné of paintings by Jean-Antoine Watteau, Jean-Baptiste Pater, and Nicolas Lancret in Berlin and Potsdam, published in 2010. During 2011, he curated two successful exhibitions of works by Watteau at the Wallace Collection.

Mary Tavener Holmes holds a doctorate from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. A specialist in 18th-century French paintings and drawings, she has over thirty years’ experience as a curator, author and professor of European art. She has produced numerous publications, including A Magic Mirror: The Portrait in France, 1700–1900 (1986) and Nicolas Lancret: Dance before a Fountain (2006).

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The catalogue is available from Artbooks.com:

Christoph Vogtherr and Mary Tavener Holmes, De Watteau à Fragonard. Les Fêtes Galantes (Antwerp: Mercator, 2014), 224 pages, ISBN: 978-9462300453, €39.

Call for Papers | Decline—Metamorphosis—Rebirth

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on March 14, 2014

From the conference website:

Decline—Metamorphosis—Rebirth: International Conference for PhD Students
Ljubljana, Slovenia, 18–19 September 2014

Proposals due by 12 May 2014

Throughout history mankind has witnessed rises and declines of civilisations, governments and regimes, ideologies and ideas, cultural movements and artistic creativity. The periods of crisis in social as well as artistic fields are generally periods of reflection and pursuit of new ways. However, crises often bring about voices that advocate a return to old values and beliefs. Various connotations may be implied by the word decline, which in turn leads to different understandings of the concept. That is why the term itself rarely refers to something terminal—revivals of ideas, past ages and artistic movements are a common historical occurrence. In connection to these revivals and bearing in mind Heraclitus’s utterance »Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers.«, new questions emerge: what is the effect of a new historical context on old, revived ideas, and what is the dialectical relationship between their manifestations in different periods of time?

The international conference Decline—Metamorphosis—Rebirth is intended for PhD students and recent PhD graduates from different fields of humanities and social sciences, who are invited to participate. Proposed topics for interdisciplinary analyses are:
• understanding and interpretation of concepts of decline, transformation/metamorphosis and rebirth in different periods and in different fields of humanities and social sciences
• artistic creation and modes of living in periods of decline, transformation and rebirth (the effect of social changes on artistic creativity, artistic and/or creative reactions on social changes)
• ways of understanding and attitudes towards historical phenomena, periods, and cultural heritage in different periods of time
• decline, transformation and rebirth of social systems, political structures, ideologies
• artistic and social contexts and the role of historicisms, neo- and post- styles in art
• decline, transformation and rebirth as iconographical motifs
• metamorphosis of iconographical motifs, ways in which they are perceived in new contexts
• forgotten, rediscovered or »rehabilitated« artists
• crisis, transformation, and rebirth in an individual artist’s oeuvre
• revival (Nachleben) of concepts and content within art historical periods

Abstract in English of maximum 400 words should be send, with the title of the paper, name and contact information (address, phone number, e-mail) until 12th of May 2014 by e-mail to phdconference2014@gmail.com or by post to Department of Art History, Faculty of Arts, Aškerčeva 2, SI-1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia (with the note ‘Conference for PhD students’).

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