Exhibition | Jean-Étienne Liotard: A Cosmopolitan Artist

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on November 14, 2015

Press release (12 November 2015) from the Getty:

Jean-Étienne Liotard: A Cosmopolitan Artist
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 20 October 2015 — 24 April 2016

Curated by Ketty Gottardo


Jean-Étienne Liotard, Portrait of Maria Frederike van Reede-Athlone at Seven Years of Age, 1755–56, pastel on vellum, 54.9 x 44.8 cm (Los Angeles: Getty Museum)

Swiss artist Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702–1789) excelled at the delicate art of pastel. His finest portraits display an astonishing realism achieved through intense observation and remarkable technical skill and feature royalty, aristocrats, and the bourgeoisie. Jean-Étienne Liotard: A Cosmopolitan Artist, comprised of pastels and drawings from the Getty Museum’s collection and two spectacular loans from a private collection, is now open and continues through April 24, 2016, at the Getty Center.

“For most of his very long career, Liotard worked as an itinerant portraitist,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “The works of art in this room testify to the artist’s numerous travels and fame as well as to his astonishing facility in the medium of pastel.”

The remarkable success of pastel in the eighteenth century was due to the high demand for portraits from the nobility and bourgeoisie. The ease and swiftness with which pastel could be used allowed for much shorter sittings that pleased artists and sitters alike. Unlike oil painting, pastel does not need to dry, so drawings could be executed quickly, with changes and corrections easily made. The Portrait of Lord Mountstuart features a young English aristocrat whom Liotard encountered during a brief stay in Geneva in the midst of his Grand Tour to Italy; Mademoiselle Jacquet was a famous singer at the Paris Opera; Jean Tronchin was among Liotard’s cultivated Swiss patrons; and the magnificent Portrait of Baroness Maria Frederike, one of the Getty’s most-beloved treasures, is probably the most famous portrait he executed in Holland.

In his Treatise on Painting (1781), Liotard recommended the use of nine tones—four light, four dark, and one medium—to build up pastel images. Colors were blended with brushes, fingers, a stump, or even his own long beard. Liotard preferred to use vellum—made from calf skin—for his support, which imitated the texture of skin in portraits. “The delicate tone of skin seen in Liotard’s Portrait of Jean Tronchin (1759) is remarkable. Liotard used the texture of the vellum, along with a fine sfumato effect, to define his rich, fleshy, and aged face,” says Ketty Gottardo, associate curator of drawings and curator of the installation.

Liotard innovated a drawing technique that reinforced his compositions with large areas of tone applied to the verso (back), which would create glowing, translucent effects on the recto (front). After drawing the basic outlines of a composition, Liotard would turn over the sheet of paper and hold it against a window or source of light in order to trace it onto the verso with a thin stick of black chalk. Then he would fill in entire areas of the verso with watercolor, chalk, or pastel which served to enhance the colors on the front.

Additional information is available at Iris: The Online Magazine of the Getty.

Exhibition | Art of the Fold: Drawings of Drapery and Costume

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on November 14, 2015

Press release (2 September 2015) for the exhibition now on view at the Getty:

Art of the Fold: Drawings of Drapery and Costume
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 6 October 2015 — 10 January 2016

Curated by Stephanie Schrader

Louis Carrogis de Carmontelle, The Duchess of Chaulnes as a Gardener in an Allée, 1771, watercolor and gouache over black and red chalk (The J. Paul Getty Museum)

Louis Carrogis de Carmontelle, The Duchess of Chaulnes as a Gardener in an Allée, 1771, watercolor and gouache over black and red chalk (The J. Paul Getty Museum)

Drawn from the J. Paul Getty Museum’s renowned permanent collection, Art of the Fold: Drawings of Drapery and Costume explores how artists harnessed the expressive potential of cloth to convey meaning.

“From the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries, the convincing depiction of voluminous folds of fabric was a standard part of artistic training and practice,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Focusing on the relationship between the body and clothing, artists of this period exploited drapery and costume to enhance the depiction of a figure’s emotional state and place in society. The drawings in this exhibition demonstrate the many ways in which artists employed drapery to evoke moods, shape identities, and tell stories.”

In Standing Female Saint (about 1450), from the Circle of Martin Schongauer, the abstract pattern of drapery folds generates an agitated sense of motion. Rather than outlining the body beneath it, the flowing tunic accentuates an emotional fervor typical of German fifteenth-century devotional imagery.

Drapery also played a crucial part in artists’ characterization of the human figure. In Hans Brosamer’s Study of a Pleated Skirt and Study of a Hanging Drapery (about 1500) the artist accurately depicts the tonal variations and ranges of light and shade created by folded fabric, capturing the natural flow of cloth with a refined linear quality and variegated hatchings. By isolating drapery from a human form, while at the same time making it anthropomorphic, the artist celebrates drapery as an independent subject.

In drawings of soldiers, peasants, nobles, and foreigners, clothing served as a primary indicator of social standing and class. In Jacob Jordaens’ Man Kneeling, Facing Right (about 1630) the artist applied opaque watercolor in thick layers creating angular, broken folds that animate the pose and heighten the sense of piety. Often a figure’s clothing indicates status or rank in the social hierarchy, and the flamboyant uniforms of the mercenary soldiers and the elegant attire of the upper classes convey their status.

In their depictions of costume, artists often departed from strict naturalism and relied upon their vivid imaginations. “Drawings of foreigners suggest how dress is embellished and exoticized, whereas theatrical costumes further illustrate how clothing can mask the identities of individuals represented,” says Stephanie Schrader, curator of drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum, who organized the exhibition.

A checklist of the 38 works on view is available as a PDF file here.

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