Exhibition | America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting
From the NGA:
America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 21 May — 20 August 2017
When Joseph Bonaparte, elder brother of Napoleon, arrived in the United States in 1815, he brought with him his exquisite collection of eighteenth-century French paintings. Put on public view, the works caused a sensation, and a new American taste for French art was born. Over the decades, appreciation of French eighteenth-century art has fluctuated between preference for the alluring decorative canvases of rococo artists such as François Boucher and Jean Honoré Fragonard to admiration for the sober neoclassicism championed by Jacques Louis David and his pupils. This exhibition brings together sixty-eight paintings that represent some of the best and most unusual examples of French art of that era held by American museums and tells their stories on a national stage: Who were the collectors, curators, museum directors and dealers responsible for bringing eighteenth-century French painting to America? Where are the paintings now?
The exhibition highlights smaller museum collections, less well-known paintings, and diverse locations across the United States, from Pittsburgh and Indianapolis to Birmingham and Phoenix. It considers eighteenth-century America’s very real fascination with France—a staunch ally in the American Revolution, an intellectual model for Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and other Americans abroad—and how the cultural ideal of eighteenth-century France has continued to endure in the American imagination to this day.
Yuriko Jackall et al, America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting (London: Lund Humphries, 2017), 304 pages, ISBN: 978 18482 22342, £50.
Image: Joseph Ducreux, Le Discret, ca. 1791, oil on aluminum, transferred from canvas (Lawrence: Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas).