Antoine Watteau
Overview
 
Jean-Antoine Watteau was a French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 painter
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

 whose brief career spurred the revival of interest in colour and movement (in the tradition of Correggio
Antonio da Correggio
Antonio Allegri da Correggio , usually known as Correggio, was the foremost painter of the Parma school of the Italian Renaissance, who was responsible for some of the most vigorous and sensuous works of the 16th century...

 and Rubens). He revitalized the waning Baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 style, and indeed moved it to the less severe, more naturalistic, less formally classical Rococo
Rococo
Rococo , also referred to as "Late Baroque", is an 18th-century style which developed as Baroque artists gave up their symmetry and became increasingly ornate, florid, and playful...

.

Watteau is credited with inventing the genre of fêtes galantes
Fête galante
Fête galante is a French term referring to some of the celebrated pursuits of the idle, rich aristocrats in the 18th century—from 1715 until the 1770s...

: scenes of bucolic and idyllic charm, suffused with an air of theatricality.
Encyclopedia
Jean-Antoine Watteau was a French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 painter
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

 whose brief career spurred the revival of interest in colour and movement (in the tradition of Correggio
Antonio da Correggio
Antonio Allegri da Correggio , usually known as Correggio, was the foremost painter of the Parma school of the Italian Renaissance, who was responsible for some of the most vigorous and sensuous works of the 16th century...

 and Rubens). He revitalized the waning Baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 style, and indeed moved it to the less severe, more naturalistic, less formally classical Rococo
Rococo
Rococo , also referred to as "Late Baroque", is an 18th-century style which developed as Baroque artists gave up their symmetry and became increasingly ornate, florid, and playful...

.

Watteau is credited with inventing the genre of fêtes galantes
Fête galante
Fête galante is a French term referring to some of the celebrated pursuits of the idle, rich aristocrats in the 18th century—from 1715 until the 1770s...

: scenes of bucolic and idyllic charm, suffused with an air of theatricality. Some of his best known subjects were drawn from the world of Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 comedy
Comedy
Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

 and ballet
Ballet
Ballet is a type of performance dance, that originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century, and which was further developed in France and Russia as a concert dance form. The early portions preceded the invention of the proscenium stage and were presented in large chambers with...

.

Early life and training

Watteau was born in the town of Valenciennes
Valenciennes
Valenciennes is a commune in the Nord department in northern France.It lies on the Scheldt river. Although the city and region had seen a steady decline between 1975 and 1990, it has since rebounded...

, which had recently passed from the Spanish Netherlands to France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. His father was a master tiler. Showing an early interest in painting
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

, he was apprenticed to Jacques-Albert Gérin, a local painter. Having little to learn from Gérin, Watteau left for Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 in about 1702. There he found employment in a workshop at Pont Notre-Dame
Pont Notre-Dame
The Pont Notre-Dame is a bridge that crosses the Seine in Paris, France linking the quai de Gesvres on the Rive Droite with the quai de la Corse on the Île de la Cité...

, making copies of popular genre paintings in the Flemish and Dutch tradition; it was in that period that he developed his characteristic sketchlike technique.

In 1703 he was employed as an assistant by the painter Claude Gillot
Claude Gillot
Claude Gillot was a French painter, best known as the master of Watteau and Lancret. He had Watteau as an apprentice between 1703 and 1708....

, whose work represented a reaction against the turgid official art of Louis XIV's reign. In Gillot's studio Watteau became acquainted with the characters of the commedia dell'arte
Commedia dell'arte
Commedia dell'arte is a form of theatre characterized by masked "types" which began in Italy in the 16th century, and was responsible for the advent of the actress and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios. The closest translation of the name is "comedy of craft"; it is shortened...

(its actors had been expelled from France several years before), a favorite subject of Gillot's that would become one of Watteau's lifelong passions. Afterward he moved to the workshop of Claude Audran III
Claude Audran III
Claude Audran III was a French painter.Audran was born in Lyon into a family of artists. He was a decorative artist, and made a number of tapestries for the Gobelins. Audran's style included arabesques, grotesques and singeries. He died in 1734. -References:...

, an interior decorator, under whose influence he began to make drawings admired for their consummate elegance. Audran was the curator of the Palais du Luxembourg, where Watteau was able to see the magnificent series of canvases painted by Peter Paul Rubens for Queen Marie de Medici. The Flemish painter would become one of his major influences, together with the Venetian
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 masters he would later study in the collection of his patron and friend, the banker Pierre Crozat
Pierre Crozat
thumb|265px|[[Rembrandt]]'s painting [[Danaë |Danae]] from Crozat's collection.Pierre Crozat was a French art collector at the center of a broad circle of cognoscenti; he was the brother of Antoine Crozat....

.

Career

In 1709 Watteau tried to obtain the Prix de Rome
Prix de Rome
The Prix de Rome was a scholarship for arts students, principally of painting, sculpture, and architecture. It was created, initially for painters and sculptors, in 1663 in France during the reign of Louis XIV. It was an annual bursary for promising artists having proved their talents by...

 and was rejected by the Academy
Académie de peinture et de sculpture
The Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture , Paris, was founded in 1648, modelled on Italian examples, such as the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. Paris already had the Académie de Saint-Luc, which was a city artist guild like any other Guild of Saint Luke...

. In 1712 he tried again and was considered so good that, rather than receiving the one-year stay in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 for which he had applied, he was accepted as a full member of the Academy. He took five years to deliver the required "reception piece", but it was one of his masterpieces: the Pilgrimage to Cythera, also called the Embarkation for Cythera
Embarkation for Cythera
The Embarkation for Cythera is a painting by the French Rococo artist Jean-Antoine Watteau. It is also known as "Voyage to Cythera" and "Pilgrimage on the Isle of Cythera". Watteau submitted this work to the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture as his reception piece in 1717. The painting is...

.

Interestingly, while Watteau's paintings seem to epitomize the aristocratic elegance of the Régence
Régence
The Régence is the period in French history between 1715 and 1723, when King Louis XV was a minor and the land was governed by a Regent, Philippe d'Orléans, the nephew of Louis XIV of France....

(though he actually lived most of his short life under the oppressive climate of Louis XIV
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

's later reign), he never had aristocratic patron
Patrón
Patrón is a luxury brand of tequila produced in Mexico and sold in hand-blown, individually numbered bottles.Made entirely from Blue Agave "piñas" , Patrón comes in five varieties: Silver, Añejo, Reposado, Gran Patrón Platinum and Gran Patrón Burdeos. Patrón also sells a tequila-coffee blend known...

s. His buyers were bourgeois
Bourgeoisie
In sociology and political science, bourgeoisie describes a range of groups across history. In the Western world, between the late 18th century and the present day, the bourgeoisie is a social class "characterized by their ownership of capital and their related culture." A member of the...

 such as bankers and dealers.

Although his mature paintings seem to be so many depictions of frivolous fêtes galantes
Fête galante
Fête galante is a French term referring to some of the celebrated pursuits of the idle, rich aristocrats in the 18th century—from 1715 until the 1770s...

, they in fact display a sober melancholy, a sense of the ultimate futility of life, that makes him, among 18th century painters, one of the closest to modern sensibilities. His many imitators, such as Nicolas Lancret
Nicolas Lancret
Nicolas Lancret , French painter, was born in Paris, and became a brilliant depicter of light comedy which reflected the tastes and manners of French society under the regent Orleans....

 and Jean-Baptiste Pater
Jean-Baptiste Pater
Jean-Baptiste Pater was a French rococo painter.Born in Valenciennes, Pater was the son of sculptor Antoine Pater and studied under him before becoming a student of painter Jean-Baptiste Guide. Pater then moved to Paris, briefly becoming a pupil of Antoine Watteau in 1713. Watteau, despite...

, borrowed his themes but could not capture his spirit.

Among his most famous paintings, beside the two versions of the Pilgrimage to Cythera (one in the Louvre
Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

, the other in the Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

), are Pierrot (long identified as "Gilles"), Fêtes venitiennes, Love in the Italian Theater, Love in the French Theater, "Voulez-vous triompher des belles?" and Mezzetin. The subject of his hallmark painting, Pierrot or Gilles, with his slowly fading smile, seems a confused actor who appears to have forgotten his lines; he has materialized into the fearful reality of existence, sporting as his only armor the pathetic clown costume. The painting may be read as Watteau's wry comment on his mortal illness.
Watteau's final masterpiece, the Shop-sign of Gersaint
L'Enseigne de Gersaint
L'Enseigne de Gersaint, or "Gersaint's Shopsign", is a painting by Jean-Antoine Watteau, which is considered to be his last masterpiece. It was painted as a shop sign for the marchand-mercier, or art dealer, Edme François Gersaint...

, exits the pastoral forest locale for a mundane urban set of encounters. Painted at Watteau's own insistence, "to take the chill off his fingers", this sign for the shop in Paris of the paintings dealer Edme François Gersaint is effectively the final curtain of Watteau's theatre. It has been described as Watteau's Las Meninas
Las Meninas
Las Meninas is a 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez, the leading artist of the Spanish Golden Age, in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. The work's complex and enigmatic composition raises questions about reality and illusion, and creates an uncertain relationship between the viewer and the figures...

, in that the theme appears to be the promotion of art. The scene is an art gallery where the façade has magically vanished. The gallery and street in the canvas are fused into one contiguous drama.
Watteau alarmed his friends by a carelessness about his future and financial security, as if foreseeing he would not live for long. In fact he had been sickly and physically fragile since childhood. In 1720, he travelled to London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, to consult Dr Richard Mead
Richard Mead
Richard Mead was an English physician. His work, A Short Discourse concerning Pestilential Contagion, and the Method to be used to prevent it , was of historic importance in the understanding of transmissible diseases.-Life:The eleventh child of Matthew Mead , Independent divine, Richard was born...

, one of the most fashionable physicians of his time and an admirer of Watteau's work. However, London's damp and smoky air offset any benefits of Dr. Mead's wholesome food and medicines. Watteau returned to France and spent his last few months on the estate of his patron, Abbé Haranger, where he died in 1721 perhaps from tuberculous
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 laryngitis at the age of 36. The Abbé said Watteau was semi-conscious and mute during his final days, clutching a paint brush and painting imaginary paintings in the air.

Critical assessment and legacy

Little known during his lifetime beyond a small circle of his devotees, Watteau "was mentioned but seldom in contemporary art criticism and then usually reprovingly". Sir Michael Levey
Michael Levey
Sir Michael Vincent Levey, LVO was a British art historian and was director of the National Gallery for thirteen years, from 1973 to 1986.-Biography:...

 once noted that Watteau "created, unwittingly, the concept of the individualistic artist loyal to himself, and himself alone". If his immediate followers (Lancret and Pater) would depict the unabashed frillery of aristocratic romantic pursuits, Watteau in a few masterpieces anticipates an art about art, the world of art as seen through the eyes of an artist. In contrast to the Rococo whimsicality and licentiousness cultivated by Boucher
François Boucher
François Boucher was a French painter, a proponent of Rococo taste, known for his idyllic and voluptuous paintings on classical themes, decorative allegories representing the arts or pastoral occupations, intended as a sort of two-dimensional furniture...

 and Fragonard
Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Jean-Honoré Fragonard was a French painter and printmaker whose late Rococo manner was distinguished by remarkable facility, exuberance, and hedonism. One of the most prolific artists active in the last decades of the Ancien Régime, Fragonard produced more than 550 paintings , of which only five...

 in the later part of Louis XV's reign, Watteau's theatrical panache is usually tinged with a note of sympathy, wistfulness, and sadness at the transience of love and other earthly delights.

Soon after his death a series of engravings was made after his works, The Recueil Jullienne. The quality of the reproductions, using a mixture of engraving and etching following the practice of the Rubens engravers, varied according to the skill of the people employed by Jean de Jullienne, but was often very high. Such a comprehensive record was hitherto unparalleled. This helped disseminate his influence round Europe and into the decorative arts.

Watteau's influence on the arts (not only painting, but the decorative art
Decorative art
The decorative arts is traditionally a term for the design and manufacture of functional objects. It includes interior design, but not usually architecture. The decorative arts are often categorized in opposition to the "fine arts", namely, painting, drawing, photography, and large-scale...

s, costume
Costume
The term costume can refer to wardrobe and dress in general, or to the distinctive style of dress of a particular people, class, or period. Costume may also refer to the artistic arrangement of accessories in a picture, statue, poem, or play, appropriate to the time, place, or other circumstances...

, film
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

, poetry
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

, music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

) was more extensive than that of almost any other 18th-century artist. According to the 1911 Britannica, "in his treatment of the landscape background and of the atmospheric surroundings of the figures can be found the germs of Impressionism
Impressionism
Impressionism was a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s...

". The Watteau dress, a long, sacklike dress with loose pleat
Pleat
A pleat is a type of fold formed by doubling fabric back upon itself and securing it in place. It is commonly used in clothing and upholstery to gather a wide piece of fabric to a narrower circumference....

s hanging from the shoulder at the back, similar to those worn by many of the women in his paintings, is named after him. A revived vogue for Watteau began in England during the British Regency, and was later encapsulated by the Goncourt brothers
Goncourt brothers
The Goncourt brothers were Edmond de Goncourt and Jules de Goncourt , both French naturalist writers. They formed a partnership that "is possibly unique in literary history...

 and the World of Art
Mir iskusstva
Mir iskusstva was a Russian magazine and the artistic movement it inspired and embodied, which was a major influence on the Russians who helped revolutionize European art during the first decade of the 20th century. From 1909, many of the miriskusniki also contributed to the Ballets Russes...

. In 1984 Watteau societies were created in Paris, by Jean Ferré
Jean Ferré
Jean Ferré was a French art historian and far-right journalist. He was also the founder of the Paris-based Radio Courtoisie in 1987....

 , and London, by Dr Selby Whittingham. A major exhibition in Paris, Washington and Berlin commemorated the tercentenary of his birth in 1984. Since 2000 a Watteau centre has been established at Valenciennes by Professor Chris Rauseo. A catalogue of his drawings has been compiled by Pierre Rosenberg
Pierre Rosenberg
Pierre Max Rosenberg is a French art historian and essayist.Born in Paris, he graduated at the École du Louvre. He joined the Musée du Louvre in 1962 as an assistant, then became curator and later director of the museum. Rosenberg was elected to the Académie française on 7 December...

, replacing the one by Sir Karl Parker, and Alan Wintermute is preparing one for his paintings.

Lost painting found

La Surprise, painted around 1718, was known only through a copy in the Royal Collection
Royal Collection
The Royal Collection is the art collection of the British Royal Family. It is property of the monarch as sovereign, but is held in trust for her successors and the nation. It contains over 7,000 paintings, 40,000 watercolours and drawings, and about 150,000 old master prints, as well as historical...

 before the original was found during a routine insurance valuation in 2007. The oil painting shows an actor playing a guitar on a stone bench looking across at a couple locked in an amorous embrace. The action is watched by a small dog in the corner. The painting was sold at auction on July 8, 2008 for 15 million Euros; this set a world record price for a painting by Watteau.

Family

His son, Louis Joseph Watteau
Louis Joseph Watteau
Louis Joseph Watteau , known as the Watteau of Lille was a French painter active in Lille...

, and grandson, François-Louis-Joseph Watteau
François-Louis-Joseph Watteau
François Louis Joseph Watteau, known as the Watteau of Lille was a French painter, active in his birthplace. He was the son of the painter Louis Joseph Watteau and grandson of Noël Joseph Watteau - Noël was the brother of Jean-Antoine Watteau, the painter of "fêtes galantes"...

 of Antoine's brother Noël Joseph Watteau (1689–1756), followed him into painting.

Popular references

The 2007 French film "Ce que mes yeux ont vu", starring Sylvie Testud
Sylvie Testud
Sylvie Testud is a French actress, writer and director. Her film career began in 1991. She was later highly acclaimed, and has twice won César Awards.-Biography:...

 and Jean-Pierre Marielle
Jean-Pierre Marielle
Jean-Pierre Marielle is a French actor. He has played in more than a hundred movies in which he brought life to a very large diversity of roles, from the banal citizen , to the serial killer , to the World War II hero , to the compromised spy , to the has-been actor Jean-Pierre Marielle (born...

, depicts a fictional academic research on Watteau's works. In the plot, Watteau supposedly had a secret love relation with Comédie-Française
Comédie-Française
The Comédie-Française or Théâtre-Français is one of the few state theaters in France. It is the only state theater to have its own troupe of actors. It is located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris....

 actress Charlotte Desmares.

Sources

  • Dormandy, Thomas. "The White Death: the History of Tuberculosis". New York University Press, 2000.
  • Levey, Michael, Rococo to Revolution. Thames and Hudson, 1966.
  • Roland Michel, Marianne, Watteau. Flammarion
    Flammarion
    Flammarion may refer to:* Camille Flammarion , French astronomer* Gabrielle Renaudot Flammarion , French astronomer, wife of Camille Flammarion* The Flammarion engraving by unknown artist; appeared in a book by Camille Flammarion...

    , 1984.
  • Schneider, Pierre, The World of Watteau. Time-Life Books, 1967.
  • Dacier, E., and Vuaflart, A., Jean de Jullienne et les graveurs de Watteau au XVIIIe siecle Paris
    Paris
    Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

     1921-9
  • The Watteau Society Bulletin, London.
  • Martin Eidelberg, watteauandhiscircle.org

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK