Enfilade

Exhibition | Jean-Etienne Liotard

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 15, 2015

On this summer at the Scottish National Gallery (more information to come in the spring). . .

Jean-Etienne Liotard
Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, 4 July — 13 September 2015
Royal Academy, London, 24 October 2015 — 31 January 2016

Curated by MaryAnne Stevens, William Hauptman, and Christopher Baker

Jean Étienne Liotard, Laura Tarsi, 'A Grecian Lady', watercolour and bodycolour on ivory, ca 1745–49 (Cambridge: Fitzwilliam Museum)

Jean Étienne Liotard, Laura Tarsi, ‘A Grecian Lady’, watercolour and bodycolour on ivory, ca 1745–49 (Cambridge: Fitzwilliam Museum)

A stunning exhibition celebrating one of the greatest artists of the eighteenth century. The work of Jean- Étienne Liotard (1702–89) has been rarely exhibited, and this is the first time it will be comprehensively celebrated in Britain.

Liotard enjoyed a long career, and his finest portraits display an astonishing hyper-realism achieved through a combination of incredible, intense observation and remarkable technical skills. He excelled at the delicate art of pastel, but also drew, painted in oil, created enamels, and was a refined miniaturist and printmaker. His activity was prodigious: Liotard wrote a treatise on painting, was a collector, a dealer, a traveller and an artistic innovator. In the age of Mozart and Casanova, he was a key international figure whose achievement deserves to be better known. Highlights of this important show include famous portraits, startling self-portraits, and brilliant experiments with genre and still-life subjects from the end of his career.

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Update (added 5 July 2015) — From the press release:

The National Galleries of Scotland is delighted to announce a major exhibition in the summer of 2015 celebrating one of the greatest yet little- known artists of the eighteenth century. The work of Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702–1789) has rarely been exhibited and this is the first time it will be comprehensively celebrated in Britain. Liotard enjoyed a long career and his finest portraits display an astonishing hyper-realism achieved through a combination of incredible, intense observation and remarkable technical skills.

Liotard was one of the most sophisticated artists of eighteenth-century Europe; a brilliant, witty portraitist, he excelled at the delicate art of pastel, but also drew, painted in oil, created enamels and was a refined miniaturist and printmaker. According to his contemporary Horace Walpole “Truth prevailed in all his works.” In some respects he also displayed striking modernity as a highly accomplished self-publicist, formulating a powerful ‘eastern’ image of himself following his period in Constantinople, by wearing exotic clothes and growing a long beard, which became as much a focus of curiosity as his portraits. His activity was prodigious: Liotard wrote a treatise on painting, was a collector, a dealer, a traveller and an artistic innovator. In the age of Mozart and Casanova, he was a key international figure, whose achievement deserves to be better known.

Born in Geneva, he travelled extensively, working in Amsterdam, The Hague, Venice, Rome and Naples. He spent four years in Constantinople depicting foreign residents in the city and developed a fascination with near- eastern fashions and customs. His career also took him to the courts of Vienna, Paris and London, where he portrayed the families of Empress Maria Theresa, King Louis XV and Augusta, Princess of Wales, creating images of great candour and charm.

Christopher Baker, Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and one of the exhibition’s curators commented: “This exhibition will be a revelation to many visitors who are unfamiliar with Liotard’s dazzling achievement. He was undoubtedly one of the most remarkable and idiosyncratic artists of the eighteenth century, and his work and career are fascinating, as they touch on themes such a travel, orientalism, court art, fashion and technical experimentation.”

Liotard depicted a number of important British patrons, in addition to members of the Royal family, such as the actor David Garrick, and some of his key works remain in U.K. public and private collections. Highlights of the exhibition will also include a selection of his startling self-portraits and brilliant experiments with genre and still life subjects that date from late in his career.

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Christopher Baker, Duncan Bull, Marc Fehlmann, William Hauptman, Neil Jeffares, Aileen Ribeiro, MaryAnne Stevens, Jean-Etienne Liotard (London: Royal Academy Publications, 2015), 224 pages, ISBN: 978-1907533990, £35.

RA_LiotardCover_Softback_NGS.inddRenowned during the eighteenth century for his exquisite portraits and works in pastel, not to mention his outlandish Orientalist outfits, Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702–1789) painted some of the most significant rulers and aristocrats in Europe, including the entire British Royal Family. A peripatetic artist who worked in the Near East as well as in major European capitals, Liotard was born in Geneva and studied in Paris, before travelling to Italy and then on to Constantinople, in the company of Lord Duncannon. While there he painted the local residents as well as the British community, and adopted the eccentric style of dress that, when he later visited London, saw him become known as ‘The Turk’. This volume, accompanying the first exhibition of his works to be shown in the United Kingdom, illuminates the career of this unique artist, showcasing a variety of his extraordinary works, including portraits, drawings
and enamels.

Christopher Baker is Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Duncan Bull is Curator of Foreign Paintings at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Marc Fehlmann is Associate Professor of Archaeology and Art History at Eastern Mediterranean University, Northern Cyprus.
William Hauptman is an independent scholar.
Neil Jeffares is an art historian with a particular interest in eighteenth-century pastels.
Aileen Ribeiro is Emeritus Professor at the Courtauld Institute of Art.
Mary-Anne Stevens, an independent curator, worked as Director of Academic Affairs at the Royal Academy for 29 years.

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Note (added 17 January 2016) — Neil Jeffares has compiled an extensive errata for the catalogue, available at his website.

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