The Musée Jacquemart-André is delighted to be holding the exhibition "From Watteau to Fragonard, les fêtes galantes". There will be approximately sixty works on display, mostly paintings lent for the occasion by major collections, predominantly public, from countries including France, Germany, the UK and the USA.
The poetical term fête galante refers to a new genre of paintings and drawings that blossomed in the early 18th century at the end of the reign of Louis XIV and during the Regency period (1715-1723) and whose central figure was Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721). Inspired by images of bucolic merrymaking in the Flemish tradition, Watteau and his followers created a new form, with a certain timelessness, characterised by greater subtlety and nuance. These depict amorous scenes in settings garlanded with luxuriant vegetation, real or imaginary: idealised dancers, women and shepherds are shown engaged in frivolous pursuits or exchanging confidences. The poetical and fantastical atmospheres that are a mark of his work are accompanied by a quest for elegance and sophistication characteristic of the Rococo movement, which flourished during the Age of Enlightenment, evidenced in his flair for curved lines and light colours.
The exhibition offers a chance to rediscover the pioneering nature of Watteau’s output. These are works of great creativity, depictions of life outdoors in some of his finest paintings and most accomplished drawings. Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743) and Jean-Baptiste Pater (1695-1725) were greatly influenced by the master, their works revisiting and refining the codes of the fêtes galantes. Their imaginary scenes are anchored in reality, featuring locations, works of art and multiple details that would have been easily recognisable to their contemporaries.
The flexibility of the fête galante theme proved to be an invitation to experimentation and innovation, and the genre was to inspire several generations of artists, occupying a central place in French art throughout the 18th century. Works by other highly creative painters, such as François Boucher (1703- 1770) and Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), illustrate their very personal visions of the joys of the fête galante as first imagined by Watteau.
The Musée Jacquemart-André, with its marvellous collection of 18th century French paintings, is the perfect setting for an exhibition looking at fêtes galantes. We are particularly pleased that several of the finest drawings from the period, from the collection created by Nélie Jacquemart and Édouard André, will also be on display as part of the exhibition.
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- Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743), Baigneuses et spectateurs dans un paysage (Les Plaisirs du bain), Avant 1725, huile sur toile, 97 x 145 cm, Paris, Musée du Louvre, Département des peintures, collection du baron Edmond de Rothschild (1926-1997); dation en paiement de droits de mutation, 1990, © RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi
- Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), La Fête à Saint-Cloud, Vers 1775-1780, huile sur toile, 211 x 331 cm, Paris, collection Banque de France, © RMN-Grand Palais / Gérard Blot
- Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743), Fête Galante avec la Camargo dansant avec un partenaire, Vers 1727-1728, Huile sur toile, 76,2 x 106,7 cm,
National Gallery of art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon collection
© Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington
- Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), Esquisse pour La Surprise (L’Escalade), Vers 1771, huile sur toile, 69 x 38 cm, Angers, Musées d’Angers, © cliché musées d’Angers, photo P. David
- Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), Le Jeu de la Main chaude, Vers 1775-1780, Huile sur toile, 115,5 x 91,5 cm, Washington D.C., National Gallery of art, Samuel H. Kress collection, © Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington
- Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Esquisse pour La Poursuite, Vers 1771, huile sur toile, 70 x 38 cm, Angers, Musées d’Angers, © cliché musées d’Angers, photo P. David