Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Good, The Bad, and the I'm not sure

"Madame Francois Buron", 1769

Wandering into the A.I.C. room
of 18th C. French painting,

Here's the Good,
done by the 21-year old
Jacques Louis David.

What a prodigious talent!

He hasn't discovered
his more severe Jacobin style yet,
and this portrait is so charming,
it really has a personal,
almost mischievous presence

and I love the painterly details
in the drapery and on the book,
i.e. all the stuff that painters can do
(and photographs can't)

Fragonard "Figure of Fantasy", 1768

Moving on to the "Bad",
with a painting done a year earlier
by a painter 15 years older
(but still he's only 35)

No ... it's not a bad painting,
just a colorful character
who wouldn't seem to fit into a genteel home
except as a footman or lackey

and the rough,
thick painterly qualities
across this bald pate
are so delicious.

It's nice to remember that loose painting
did not begin with Post-Impressionism

Watteau "Fete Champetre" (1718)

And now for the
"I'm not sure"

because the closer you come
the worse this painting looks

Many paintings are strong in detail
but weak in the whole....
but this one is the exact opposite.

which probably led earlier owners
to attribute it to Pater or Lancret.

It just seems to have been begun by one person,
and then finished by another (and lesser) painter.

There's an awful lot that has to happen here in a very small space,
and if it doesn't look effortless and elegant,
could it really be the great master himself ?

But modern scholarship being what it is,
the experts of the Art Institute of Chicago
have scientifically determined that
the actual artist was Watteau.

(although it does seem that the results are
inconclusive -- and perhaps the conclusion was
reached before the examination was begun)


Anonymous Sir G said...

Nearly all of watteau looks like this -- you have to be in the optimum viewing distance (OVD?) or else it's crap. this is true about everything of that school/age, btw. i love the watteau impressions -- and the subjects -- I mean, how about "Departure from the Island of Cythera"? -- but i am not a great fan of the technique. i say "nearly" because his two baby masterpieces, of which one is called "the italian opera" (and the other i think "the french opera") are not like that -- you can view them with delight even very much upclose. they are almost -- well, Boticelli like.

December 18, 2007  
Blogger chris miller said...

I'll defer to your wider experience with this, your favorite age, Sir. G.

But still -- this painting remains frustrating for me -- because the details pull me closer -- and as I get closer -- I get a slap in the face.

Perhaps this is what aristocratic painting is supposed to do to a commoner like myself ?

December 19, 2007  

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