Exhibition | La Surprise: Watteau in Los Angeles

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 24, 2021

Opening next month at the The Getty:

La Surprise: Watteau in Los Angeles
The Getty Center, Los Angeles, 23 November 2021 — 20 February 2022

Graceful scenes of courtship, music and dance, strolling lovers and theatrical characters: this is the imaginary world conjured by the greatest French painter and draftsman of the 18th century, Antoine Watteau (1684–1721). Los Angeles is home to an extraordinary group of Watteau’s works. This focused exhibition, marking the 300th anniversary of the artist’s death, brings together a dozen of them from public and private collections and celebrates the Getty’s recent acquisition of an exquisite example: the painting La Surprise. The picture belongs to what was a new genre of painting invented by the artist himself—the fête galante. These works do not so much tell a story as set a mood: one of playful, wistful, nostalgic reverie. Esteemed by collectors in Watteau’s day as a work that showed the artist at the height of his skill and success, La Surprise vanished from public view in 1848, reemerging only in 2007. The Getty Museum acquired the painting in 2017.

Emily Beeny, Davide Gasparotto, and Richard Rand, Watteau at Work: La Surprise (Los Angeles:‎ J. Paul Getty Museum, 2021), 88 pages, ISBN: ‎978-1606067352, $25.

La Surprise by Antoine Watteau has never before been the subject of a dedicated publication. Marking the three hundredth anniversary of Watteau’s death, this book considers the painting within the context of the artist’s oeuvre and discusses the surprising history of collecting works by the artist in Los Angeles.

Emily A. Beeny, former associate curator of drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum, is curator in charge of European paintings at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Davide Gasparotto is senior curator of paintings and chair, curatorial affairs, at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Richard Rand is associate director for collections at the J. Paul Getty Museum.


Timothy Potts, Director’s Foreword

Richard Rand, Jean Antoine Watteau, Three Hundred Years Later
Davide Gasparotto, Rediscovering a Masterpiece: Watteau’s La Surprise
Emily Beeny, Quelle Surprise! Watteau in Los Angeles

Works in the Exhibition


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