Exhibition | Antoine Watteau: Art — Market — Trade

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on December 1, 2021

Now on view  at Schloss Charlottenburg:

Antoine Watteau: Art — Market — Trade
Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin, 9 October 2021 — 1 January 2022

Curated by Christoph Martin Vogtherr

2021 marks the 300th anniversary of the death of the French painter Antoine Watteau (1684—1721). The fame of the artist, who was already celebrated during his lifetime, continues to have an effect today, and his works are coveted collector’s items. After the Louvre in Paris, the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg owns the most important collection of paintings by this artist. Under the motto ‘Art—Market—Trade’, a special exhibition at Charlottenburg Palace pays tribute to this outstanding painter of the 18th century. The focus of the show is one of Watteau’s major works: the Shop Sign of the Art Dealer Gersaint (L’enseigne du marchand d’art Gersaint). Acquired by Frederick the Great (1712—1786) in 1746, the painting has been considered a masterpiece ever since it was painted. Originally created as a medium of business advertising and as a ‘figurehead’ of the Parisian art trade, the painting continues to stimulate contemporary questions concerning marketing, trade, but also collecting and intellectual engagement with art.

Two protagonists of Parisian art life are presented: Edme-François Gersaint (1694—1750) and Jean de Jullienne (1686—1766). Gersaint, a young up-and-coming art dealer, used his shop on the Pont Notre Dame in Paris to market the artist’s works throughout Europe through new advertising media and formats after Watteau’s death. Together with Jullienne, a collector and patron of Watteau, they realized the idea of reproducing all of the painter’s drawings and paintings in print. This edition, the Recueil Jullienne, was the prototype of a modern illustrated collection of works, which in its aftermath was to trigger a veritable fashion wave: throughout Europe, collectors, manufactory owners, and tradesmen acquired the prints created after Watteau’s works. Watteau’s imagery also inspired court painting and arts and crafts in Prussia. Motifs á la Watteau can be found not only in painting, but also on screens, wallpaper, fans, porcelain, and tapestries of the Frederician period.

As a source of inspiration, Watteau continues to have an impact right up to the modern age. Contemporary artists such as the Swiss painter Thomas Huber (b.1955) and the British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood (b.1941) are represented in the exhibition with one work each. Their artistic positions show that Watteau is still perceived today as an innovative artist and that his work stimulates creative debate. The exhibition, under the patronage of the French ambassador Anne-Marie Descôtes, paints a multifaceted picture of Watteau as an artist and style icon, whose posthumous fame was established with the shop of the art dealer Gersaint on Notre Dame in Paris.

C. Alff, S. Evers, P. Fuhring, A. Moulinier, D. Ranftl, C. Vogtherr, F. Windt, E. Wollschläger, Antoine Watteau: Kunst — Markt — Gewerbe / Art — Marché — Commerce (Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 2021), 272 pages, ISBN: 978-3777437866 (German edition) / ISBN: 978-3777437842 (French edition), 40€.

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