Enfilade

Exhibition | Boilly: Scenes of Parisian Life

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on February 13, 2019

Opening this month at the National Gallery:

Boilly: Scenes of Parisian Life
National Gallery, London, 28 February – 19 May 2019

Curated by Francesca Whitlum-Cooper

Working in a politically turbulent Paris, Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761–1845) witnessed the French Revolution, the rise and fall of Napoleon, and the Restoration of the French Monarchy. From controversially seductive interior scenes, which saw him get into trouble with the authorities, to ‘first-of-their-kind’ everyday street scenes and clever trompe l’oeils, this exhibition shows Boilly’s daring responses to the changing political environment and art market he encountered, and highlights his sharp powers of observation and wry sense of humour.

Focusing on 20 works from a British private collection never previously displayed or published, this exhibition—the first of its kind in the UK—celebrates an artist who is little known in Britain and provides unparalleled context for our Boilly, A Girl at a Window.

The catalogue is distributed by Yale UP:

Francesca Whitlum-Cooper, Boilly: Scenes of Parisian Life (London: National Gallery Company, 2019), 96 pages, ISBN: 978-1857096439, £17 / $25.

Louis-Leopold Boilly lived a long life in the most turbulent times. From 1785 he spent half a century at the heart of the Parisian art world, throughout the turmoil of the Revolution, the rise and fall of Napoleon and the restoration of the monarchy. This first English-language publication on Boilly in over twenty years brings together portraiture, interiors on the theme of seduction, and vivid and groundbreaking scenes of raucous Parisian street life. The majority of these pictures have never been published before. The book introduces readers to Boilly’s richly detailed paintings and drawings, emphasising his technical brilliance, his acute powers of observation and his wry sense of humour, and illustrates Boilly’s daring responses to France’s changing political environment and burgeoning art market. It offers an alternative to the accepted view of Revolutionary French art as the purview of grand history painters such as Jacques-Louis David. Boilly popularised trompe l’oeil paintings—he invented the term—and by depicting daily life on the streets of Paris for the very first time, he turned the accepted hierarchies of art on their head.

Francesca Whitlum-Cooper is the Myojin-Nadar Associate Curator of Paintings, 1600–1800 at the National Gallery, London.

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