VILNIUS - Lithuanian and French Ministers of Foreign Affairs opened the exhibition Antoine Watteau and the Art of French Engraving at Vilnius Picture Gallery.
This is an exceptional first-ever exhibition of the Louvre Museum in Lithuania and the Central and Northern Europe region.
The exhibition features over 90 works by Antoine Watteau, one of the most famous French artists. The exhibition of engravings after his drawings and paintings reveals the artist’s creativity and originality, and his influence upon European art. Most of the engravings come from a collection containing nearly 40,000 works which was bequeathed to the Louvre by Baron Edmond de Rothschild in 1935.
“The Lithuanian people, the people of the country that is now holding the Presidency of the EU Council, have the possibility to see the exhibition of the Louvre, the world’s most visited museum. This is a symbolic coincidence which, I know, required a lot of joint effort of the Louvre, the Lithuanian Art Museum, the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Culture, and the Rothschild Foundation. I also know that there was a lot of goodwill that can move mountains. And so we have come here today,” Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Linas Linkevicius said.
The painter, engraver and illustrator Jean Antoine Watteau (1684, Valenciennes–1721, Nogent-sur-Marne) left a significant impression on 18th century French art. Very few of the artist’s etchings, illustrations or sketches have survived, but thanks to the masters of print reproductions, Watteau’s works have been brought back to life.
In 18th-century France there was a rapid growth in the popularity of opulently released albums of print reproductions (Fr. Ouvrage) which were dedicated to the day’s finest collections of artwork, the largest collections of paintings, sculptures and illustrations. Of the many ouvrage that were released in 18th-century France, one of the most consistently produced and stylistically uniform was the Jullienne Album, which consisted of four volumes and contained almost six hundred folio size prints of the works of Antoine Watteau.
The album was conceived and published by the artist’s close friend, patron and self-taught graphic artist Jean de Jullienne (1686–1766) already after Watteau’s death. The publication that was created in 1723–1735 became a comprehensive digest of the artist’s creative activities, as the publisher sought to collect and graphically reproduce all of Watteau’s works (canvases, etchings and illustrations). The first two volumes of the Jullienne Album that appeared in 1726–1728 contained close to 400 etchings, based on interpretations of Watteau’s masterful illustrations.
Continuing the Rubens-esque colored illustration tradition which the famous Flemish artist had appropriated from the Italian masters, Watteau created his own unique version of the colored illustration. Watteau admired the so-called trois crayons technique of 18th-century French masters, where the drawing is completed in sanguine, Italian pencil and chalk on toned paper. In terms of their color characteristics, such illustrations were similar to painted works, and they also demonstrated the artist’s attention to nature.
The third and fourth volumes of the album were dedicated to Watteau’s genre compositions. A whole group of the most gifted French engravers of the time studiously worked on this project.
The important contribution of Francois Boucher to the album’s creation is also worth mentioning. In 1722–1723 this artist used Watteau’s illustrations to create almost one hundred print reproductions. One of the most prominent graphic art masterpieces created by Boucher for the album is the sanguine self-portrait of Watteau, created using the etching technique and appearing as the title page of the Jullienne Album. The album was known for its exceptional quality of etchings and its stylistic uniformity. The engravers that worked on this project succeeded in conveying the mood captured in Watteau’s works and used graphic art measures to repeat their painterly qualities, to give a sensation of the dynamically changing translucent colors as the deep background plane appears to melt away completely. They were able to record the difficult-to-capture emotional movement of the characters. The Jullienne masters had to combine several graphic art techniques and apply them all onto one sheet.
At the Vilnius Picture Gallery, visitors will see the world of Watteau’s works in all their variety, with the gallant celebrations, the quiet, emotional dramas, the scenes from everyday life depicting those at work, or simply day-dreaming, the characters deep in thought. The exhibition will present the artist’s painting “Diana at her Bath” (ca. 1715–1716), Watteau’s original illustrations and etchings from the famous Prints and Drawings Department of the Louvre Museum, four volumes of the Jullienne Album, and the most well known graphic art interpretations of Watteau’s works from the collection of French philanthropist Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845–1934), which started to be compiled back in 1870 and was bequeathed to the Louvre Museum in 1935. This exhibition will help reveal the uniqueness of one of the most eminent French artist’s works and the influence of his art on the evolution of European art in general.
Exhibition will be held through Nov. 10
More info can be found at: www.ldm.lt