Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Luxembourg Palace

The Luxembourg Palace
His stay with Audran had a profound influence on the art of Watteau. There were no gardens of the Luxembourg in those days, and the park attached to the royal palace was full of wild and natural beauty which appealed to the young artist, and drew forth his powers as a landscape-painter. It was here that he discovered and learnt to paint those clumps of trees which form the background to the figures of his idylls and pastorals.
Inspired thus by the externals of the palace, Watteau was also profoundly moved by what was within, the picture-gallery containing the series of great paintings by Rubens which illustrated the life of Marie de' Medici.

The Felicity of the Regency of Marie de' Medici this is the final painting in the cycle.

Watteau viewed these spirited paintings again and again ; he copied them with zest, and became so saturated with Rubens that eventually he was able to deflect his fellow-countrymen from Italian ideals and revivify French painting with the vigorous realism of Rubens. His worship of the great Fleming, to whom he felt himself related by ties of race as well as artistic sympathy, never degenerated into servile imitation. Camille Mauclair a French critic said " by means of a gradually widening realism," Watteau " arrived at the point of preserving in his small canvases all Rubens' admirable breadth, while achieving a masterly originality of grouping." A superb example of Watteau's powers in this respect is his " Lady at her Toilet " in the Wallace Collection.

Lady at her Toilet
Watteau experimented with glazes that have darkened with time, unfortunately the cleaning attempt conducted by the Wallace Collection means that this painting once thought of as the most beautiful ever painted by Watteau now looks grubby and neglected, indeed a sorry sight.

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