Exhibition | America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on April 1, 2017

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.

Image: Joseph Ducreux, Le Discret, ca. 1791, oil on aluminum, transferred from canvas (Lawrence: Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas).

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Note (added 28 May 2017) — A checklist for the exhibition is available here. Online, there’s also a useful chronology (condensed from the catalogue), establishing larger contexts and tracing the history of selected works in the exhibition.

Note (added 30 May 2017) — The catalogue is published by Lund Humphries:

Yuriko Jackall, Philippe Bordes, Jack Hinton, Melissa Hyde, Joseph Rishel, and Pierre Rosenberg, with Joseph Baillio, Susan Earle, Christophe Leribault, Robert Schindler, and D. Dodge Thompson, America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting (London: Lund Humphries, 2017), 304 pages, ISBN: 978  18482  22342, £50 / $70.


Director’s Foreword
Lenders to the Exhibition

• Pierre Rosenberg, Only in America
• Yuriko Jackall, American Visions of Eighteenth-Century France
• Joseph Bailliom, Wildenstein in America
• Jack Hinton, Fiske Kimball and French Period Rooms in America
• Christophe Leribault, The Tuck Donation to the Petit Palais: A Mirror of American Taste
• Melissa Hyde, Femmes-Artistes and America from the Early Republic to the Gilded Age
• Robert Schindler, Eugenia Woodward Hitt Collects
• Philippe Bordes, Buying against the Grain: American Collections and French Neoclassical Paintings
• Susan Earle, Joseph Ducreux, John Maxon, and the Spencer Museum of Art
• D. Dodge Thompson, When the Eighteenth Century Was New: Joseph Bonaparte in America
• Joseph Rishel, Notes on the American Reception of Eighteenth-Century French Painting

Yuriko Jackall
• Collector’s Century: From the King’s Mistress to the Shores of San Francisco
• Sensual Century: Pursuit of Love
• Opulent Century: Douceur de Vivre
• Playful Century: Games and Pastimes
• Fanciful Century: Masquerade and the Pleasures of the Imagination
• Inspired Century: Artists and Artistic Practice
• Virtuous Century: Institutional Taste
• Enlightened Century: Science, Nature, and the Passage of Time

Checklist of the Exhibition



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