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