Exhibition | Watteau’s Soldiers: Scenes of Military Life

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 25, 2015

Press release (23 October 2015) from The Frick:

Watteau’s Soldiers: Scenes of Military Life in Eighteenth-Century France
The Frick Collection, New York, 12 July — 2 October 2016

Curated by Aaron Wile

Jean-Antoine Watteau, The Portal of Valenciennes (La Porte de Valenciennes),ca. 1711−12, oil on canvas, 12 3/4 x 16 inches (New York: The Frick Collection; photo by Michael Bodycomb)

Jean-Antoine Watteau, The Portal of Valenciennes (La Porte de Valenciennes), ca. 1711−12, oil on canvas, 12 3/4 x 16 inches (New York: The Frick Collection; photo by Michael Bodycomb)

It would be difficult to think of an artist further removed from the muck and misery of the battlefield than Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684–1721), who is known as a painter of amorous aristocrats and melancholy actors, a dreamer of exquisite parklands and impossibly refined fêtes. And yet, early in his career, Watteau painted a number of scenes of military life, remarkable for their deeply felt humanity and intimacy. These pictures were produced during one of the darkest chapters of France’s history, the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14). But the martial glory on which most military painters of the time trained their gaze—the fearsome arms, snarling horses, and splendid uniforms of generals glittering amid the smoke of cannon fire—held no interest for Watteau, who focused instead on the most prosaic aspects of war: the marches, halts, encampments, and bivouacs that defined the larger part of military life. Inspired by seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish genre scenes, the resulting works show the quiet moments between the fighting, when soldiers could rest and daydream, smoke pipes and play cards.

Watteau produced about a dozen of these military scenes, but only seven survive. Though known primarily only to specialists, they were once counted among the artist’s most admired works and owned by such prominent figures as Catherine the Great and the Prince of Conti. Presented exclusively at The Frick Collection in the summer of 2016, Watteau’s Soldiers is the first exhibition devoted solely to these captivating pictures, introducing the artist’s engagement with military life to a larger audience while offering a fresh perspective on the subject. Among the paintings, drawings, and prints are four of the seven known paintings—with the Frick’s own Portal of Valenciennes as the centerpiece—as well as the recently rediscovered Supply Train, which has never before been exhibited publicly in a museum. Also featured are about twelve studies of soldiers in red chalk, many directly related to the paintings on view.

Jean-Antoine Watteau, The Supply Train (Escorte d'équipages), ca. 1715, oil on panel, 11 1/8 x 12 3/8 inches (Private collection)

Jean-Antoine Watteau, The Supply Train (Escorte d’équipages), ca. 1715, oil on panel, 11 1/8 x 12 3/8 inches (Private collection)

The works on display offer a rare opportunity to study the drawings and paintings together and probe Watteau’s complex and remarkable working methods. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Watteau did not proceed methodically from compositional sketches, studies, and full-scale models to the final painting. Instead, his process followed the whims of his imagination and the demands of the moment. He began by drawing soldiers from life, without a predetermined end in mind. These drawings provided him with a stock of figures, often used multiple times, that he would arrange in an almost spontaneous fashion on the canvas. As a result, figures previously isolated in his sketchbook were brought together and juxtaposed in new social relationships on the canvas, producing the ambiguous, dreamlike effects that make his paintings so intriguing.

The exhibition is rounded out by a selection of works by Watteau’s predecessors and followers: the Frick’s Calvary Camp by Philips Wouwerman, a typical example of the seventeenth-century Dutch paintings after which Watteau modeled his own; a study of a soldier by Watteau’s follower Jean-Baptiste Pater, from the Fondation Custodia, Paris; and a painting of a military camp by his other great follower, Nicolas Lancret, from a private collection. These works shed light on the ways in which Watteau transformed the painting of military life in Europe, demonstrating his pivotal influence on the genre.

Aaron Wile, Watteau’s Soldiers: Scenes of Military Life in Eighteenth-Century France (London: D. Giles, 2016), 112 pages, ISBN: 978-1907804793, £25 / $40.

Published by The Frick Collection in association with D Giles, Ltd., London, the book accompanying the exhibition is the first illustrated catalogue of all Watteau’s works related to military subjects.

Additional works included in the exhibition are illustrated here»




PhD Studentships in French Studies at the University of Exeter

Posted in graduate students by Editor on October 25, 2015

Niklaus-Cartwright PhD Studentships
University of Exeter

Proposals due by 15 November 2015

Through the generosity of Professor Michael Cartwright (French, Exeter 1960), and the Professor Robert Niklaus fund, established to support and strengthen eighteenth-century French studies, the Department of Modern Languages at Exeter is delighted to be offering excellent funding opportunities for exceptional researchers in the area of French Studies. Three Doctoral Studentships (open to UK/EU students only) will provide full tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant for three years. The maintenance grant will be £14,057 per year. At least one studentship is expected to be awarded in the field of eighteenth-century French studies.

The Department prides itself on its vigorous research culture, in which postgraduate research students play central roles. Our academic staff produce excellent research across a wide variety of disciplines including European and other global literature and culture, Art History and Visual Culture, Film, Linguistics, Medieval studies, Gender studies, and Translation. Modern Languages at Exeter is ranked in the Top Ten within the UK and in the top 150 language departments worldwide. Committed to providing outstanding, research-led teaching, the department maintained its momentum in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) with nearly a third of its research classified as ‘world-leading’—more than double that of the previous assessment. The REF also underlined what a great place Exeter is to pursue research in languages and culture: the department was rated 100% for providing ‘an environment that is conducive to producing research of world-leading (70%) or internationally excellent (30%) quality’. In French we have a wide range of research specialists and research interests, covering many aspects of French literary and visual culture from the medieval to the contemporary, linguistics, and French thought.

Research interests in French

•Specialists in linguistics carry out research in the sociolinguistics and linguistic variation of contemporary French.
•Recent and contemporary writing: including biographical fiction, women’s writing, and modern critical theory.
•Medieval French literature and culture
•Renaissance thought and literature
•French and Francophone cinema
•Seventeenth century literary studies
•Eighteenth and nineteenth-century visual art and literature.

Research carried out by staff in French deals with issues including the reception of Classical myth, sexuality, gender, war and trauma, and questions of ‘race’, citizenship, and national identity.

Entry criteria

We invite applications from candidates with a strong academic background and a clear and engaging research proposal which can be developed through available research supervision. Successful applicants normally have a good first degree (at least 2.1, or international equivalent) in Modern Languages or a Humanities discipline, and have obtained, or are currently working towards, a Masters degree at Merit level, or international equivalent, in Modern Languages or a Humanities discipline. If English is not your native language then you will also need to satisfy our English language entry requirements.

There is a French language requirement for candidates taking up these opportunities. All candidates will have achieved at least A-level French or equivalent.

To apply

To be considered for these doctoral awards, you must complete an online web form where you must submit personal details and upload a full CV, research proposal, transcripts, details of two referees and, if relevant, proof of your English language proficiency, by 15 November 2015. In addition you must also ensure that your referees email their references to the Postgraduate Administrator at humanities-pgadmissions@exeter.ac.uk by 15 November 2015. Please note that we will not be contacting referees to request references and so you must arrange for them to be submitted to us by the deadline. References should be submitted by your referees to us directly in the form of a letter. Referees must email their references to us from their institutional email accounts. We cannot accept references from personal/private email accounts, unless it is a scanned document on institutional headed paper and signed by the referee.

Please note that if you have already submitted references to support your application to one of our MPhil/PhD programmes you may re-use these to support your funding application.  However, this is not automatic and you must email us at humanities-pgadmissions@exeter.ac.uk to confirm that we have two references on file to support your application, and to request that they be used to support your funding application.

All application documents must be submitted in English. Certified translated copies of academic qualifications must also be provided.

For more information contact:
Dr Matt Barber, Graduate School Administrator
College of Humanities Graduate School, University of Exeter
Queen’s Building, The Queen’s Drive
Exeter, Devon, EX4 4QH

For informal enquiries, contact Professor Melissa Percival, M.H.Percival@exeter.ac.uk

%d bloggers like this: