Sunday, 19 June 2011

The build up to Watteau.

Thought I would revisit Watteau (1684–1721) and explore some of his life and times. Most of what hopefully follows will have been gleaned from "A History of Western art" and William Orpen’s book "An Outline of Art" plus vigorous web browsing!
The seventeenth and succeeding century was a time of turmoil throughout Europe with the waging of wars and signing of treaties the map and political alliances changed continually.
Art flourishing in Holland with the rise of the Dutch Republic, but it was not until 1648 that Spain finally recognizing Dutch independence.
By this time in France two streams of tradition, one democratic and derived from the Low Countries, the other aristocratic and inspired by Italy was developing. These two French schools of painting, which mirror respectively the life of the nobles and the life of the peasants, gave warning of that sharp division of the classes which led to the French Revolution.
After the hundred years war(1337-1453) French art was no longer the church art of the earlier centuries. The French painters were still almost wholly under the influence first of Flanders and then of Italy. Jean Clouet was appointed Court Painter to King Francois I in 1516 he was the son of a Brussels artist, and both he and his son Francois Clouet (c. 1510-72), who succeeded him, carried on a Flemish tradition.

Portrait of an Unknown Man By Jean Clouet

Portrait of an Unknown Man By Francois Clouet

Though the drawing of the Clouets has been held to be characteristic of France, the style of both artists was close to that of their contemporary Holbein.

Holbein Head of a Woman

Flemish again in character was the work of the three brothers Le Nain, Antoine and Louis, who both died in 1648, and Matthieu, died 1667—who came from Laon and settled in Paris. The gentle seriousness of their paintings of rustics foreshadows the peasant masterpieces of Jean Francois Millet. They are the ancestors of the democratic painters of France.

Louis Le Nain- Happy Family- 1642

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