Saturday Art: Jean-Baptiste Oudry

Henri, Camille, Chevalier de Berengen by Oudry
Henri Camille, Chevalier de Berenghen by Oudry
Misse and Latine by Oudry
Misse and Latine by Oudry

A painter known best for his portrayal of animals, Oudry studied and showed expertise from an early age and began as a portrait artist.   He showed mastery in art featuring animals and attracted interest from members of the court of Louis XV and support that gave him a solid profession in a comfortable life.

Through his friend, Jean-Baptiste Massé, a portrait-painter and miniaturist, Oudry was introduced to the Marquis de Beringhen, hereditary master of the royal stables,[3] for whom he painted a pair of paintings in 1727,[4] followed by a suite of landscapes in the Flemish manner. Through this connection, he was commissioned to produce the painting that made his reputation, Louis XV hunting a deer in the Forest of Saint-Germain (1730; now at Toulouse). Subsequently he was commissioned to produce numerous works for the King, who was passionate about the hunt and appointed Oudry Painter-in-Ordinary of the Royal Hunt,[5] in which capacity he produced portraits of dead game, the day’s kill. Oudry was granted a workshop in the Tuileries and an apartment in the Louvre.

M. Hultz, an adviser to the Académie de Peinture, commissioned Oudry to produce a buffet, or still-life combining silver plates and ewers, fruit and game; the work was exhibited in the Salon of 1737. Oudry timidly asked for tenpistoles for his work, but Hultz valued it much higher, insisting on paying twenty-five. Oudry was also commissioned to produce a buffet for Louis XV (exhibited in the Salon of 1743), that went to the château de Choisy, the King’s favoured hunting residence.

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Although Oudry produced excellent scenes of animals and of hunting, he also painted portraits, histories, landscapes, fruits and flowers; he imitated bas reliefs in monotone tints en camaïeu, used pastels, and created etchings. He was often sent examples of rare birds to draw.

An important patron was Christian Ludwig II, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who commissioned two pairs of paintings from Oudry: Three Does Watching Two Stags Fighting and A Family of Roe Deer; and A Boar Hunt and A Wolf Hunt, both delivered in 1734.[8] He later purchased a series of large paintings of animals from Louis XV’s menagerie at Versailles. Oudry’s initial motive for painting these works is obscure. When exhibited at the Paris Salon, they had been described as having been painted for the French king; however the commission seems to come through the king’s surgeon, François Gigot de la Peyronie, who had engravings made after them,[9] and in a letter to Christian dated March 1750, Oudry wrote that they had become available for sale due to de La Peyronie’s death. In addition to the portraits of the animals from the royal menagerie, Christian also bought Oudry’s life-size painting of “Clara“, an Indian rhinoceros which had been exhibited all around Europe to great public interest.[10] The works are still at Schwerin.

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Saturday Art: John Singleton Copley

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Watson and the Shark, by Copley

(Picture courtesy of Eric Wilcox at flickr.com.)

Colonial America produced more industry than art, but even for this time Copley gained stature in English-speaking society for his depiction of the figures of his time, and of historically and physically true representation in artwork.   His careful choice of accurate detail distinguished his portraits, and his rich surface and color renderings brought attention throughout the art appreciators of the time. (more…)

Art Saturday: Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin

Chardin Still Life
Still Life with a White Mug, Above, Fruit, Jug and a Glass, Below; Chardin Still Life

A staunch member and supporter of the French Academy,  Chardin has been called master of still life.

Upon presentation of The Ray in 1728, he was admitted to the Acadèmie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. …Chardin’s work had little in common with the Rococo painting that dominated French art in the 18th century. At a time when history painting was considered the supreme classification for public art, Chardin’s subjects of choice were viewed as minor categories. He favored simple yet beautifully textured still lifes, and sensitively handled domestic interiors and genre paintings. Simple, even stark, paintings of common household items (Still Life with a Smoker’s Box) and an uncanny ability to portray children’s innocence in an unsentimental manner (Boy with a Top [below]) nevertheless found an appreciative audience in his time, and account for his timeless appeal.

Largely self-taught, he was greatly influenced by the realism and subject matter of the 17th-century Low Country masters. Despite his unconventional portrayal of the ascendant bourgeoisie, early support came from patrons in the French aristocracy, including Louis XV. Though his popularity rested initially on paintings of animals and fruit, by the 1730s he introduced kitchen utensils into his repertoire (The Copper Cistern, ca.1735, Louvre). Soon figures populated his scenes as well, supposedly in response to a portrait painter who challenged him to take up the genre. At any event, he was presently painting half-length compositions of children saying grace, as in Le Bènèdicitè, and kitchen maids in moments of reflection. These humble scenes deal with simple, everyday activities, yet they also have functioned as a source of documentary information about a level of French society not hitherto considered a worthy subject for painting. The pictures are noteworthy for their formal structure and pictorial harmony.

In 1756 he returned to the subject of the still life. In the 1770s his eyesight weakened and he took to painting in pastels, a medium in which he executed portraits of his wife and himself.

Chardin’s paintings are often used as prints by decorators, his subdued tones and subjects much in conformity with interiors that are calm and lend themselves to easy living.