Tuesday, January 12, 2010

From Rococo to Revolution....

Francois Boucher- "Sunrise" 1700's French School

Dear Friends,

Last week saw the closing of the Morgan Library and Museum exhibit, "Rococo to Revolution, Drawings from 18th Century France".

I had the privilege of going on a quiet Friday evening, and was quite excited! I have never been to the Morgan before! Let me first say that the house next to the Morgan Library is unbelievable. I wish I had taken a picture. It is awe inspiring, especially at night. Beaux Arts style and just layer upon layer of gorgeousness.

As per Library rules no photgraphs allowed. A shame, but I took notes and made comments.. Here is my essay on the exhibit.

The exhibit was fairly small, around 30 works, most very fairly small.
( around 8 1/2" x 11"). One of the largest and most impressive pieces was a pastel portrait by Jean Baptiste Perronneau entitled "Portrait of a Man" 1756.

This was one of the largest pieces ( approx. 18 x 27 ") and one of the only pieces with in a full colour spectrum. The pieces was still framed in its original gold gilt frame with large ornate gilt bow on top.

Perroneau's mastery with pastels and colouring is quite exceptional. This is 'photo-realism' at it's best. Bear in mind, they did not use photographs 250 years ago! All the portraits were done in sittings with the actual person!

I was humbled by this portrait, and so many of the other pieces shown! There is such a vast difference in quality and competency betweeen masters of the 18th century and today's artists.

The biggest difference? The sense of awe and magic.

Which also means No- You-Can't-Make-This-In-An-Afternoon!

You must practice sincerely for a decade at least to reach even a level of partial competency on a similar level as Fragonard and Boucher!

Other notable pieces ( they were all so beautiful!):

Nicholas Lancret- "Studies of Two Men" black crayon on toned paper
line quality and contours were expresssive, confident and very lovely.

Boucher!!- Design for a Frontispiece
gray and brown wash, watercolour , pen and ink

This was unbelievable. The amount of detail was astounding for such a small area ( around 11 x 17?" Think flourish frames with cherubs outlining a central point
( like a frame almost)

All the little studies of trois crayons were
charming. Apparently it was de rigeur to use this method for studies after Reubens'
example. Sepia red, black and white crayon colours were used.

Jean- Honore Fragonard- "Landscape with Flocks and Trees "
brush and brown wash approx. 11 x 8 1/2"

This was more like a monochromatic watercolour rendering. Thou are magnificent at painting trees Monsieur Fragonard! Tres Magnifique!! The levels of depth on his Tree, and little tiny brush strokes of each leave.. He became known for a 'pointilism' technique that enabled him to attain such superb detail and depth .

-Jean-Francois-Therese Chalgrin "Le Salle des Machines Palais des Tuileries" 1778
brown wash w/ pen and ink? unsure but remember no colour

Gorgeous detail of one of the largest theatres in France. The stage at Le Salle des Machines was apparently one of the largest ever built.

The costumes of the ladies were very detailed here, I noted the habit of Polonaise style gowns here, with the turned up skirts.. The ceiling is rendered incredibly high and positively dripping with ornamentation! Imagine the illumination in the evening with all the chandelier candles highlighting the gold relief work?
Like a sparkling fairy tale.

The Tuileries Palace was burnt down from a fire in the 1870's. (The result of an an uprising of the Paris Commune.)

Watteau- several studies of girls, trois crayon on toned paper
His sketching ability is amazing, I love his line quality.
"Studies of head/Shoulders of a Girl"
particularly was wonderful, even as an over study on a partially rendered very faint
study of legs!
Her eyes and nose were exquisite and beautifully defined.

This was a study for a finished painting of "The Music Lesson" 1719

In Closing;
I hope in my lifetime, a resurgence of talent, honest dedication to skill and refinement; and passion for greatness will emerge, enlighten, and enliven all of our lives. Mediocrity is surely killing our society.. and our potential!

Portrait of Marquise De Pompadour by Francois Boucher french 1700's

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