Jean-Etienne Liotard, The Sackler Wing of Galleries, Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1, until 31st January 2016
Visitors to this wonderful exhibition will be left in no doubt as to the reasons why the Swiss artist Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702-1789) earned such international recognition as a portraitist in his lifetime. There are more than seventy works by him on view – oil paintings, miniatures, drawings and most importantly his speciality – pastels.
He was a well-travelled man and so as well as images of his own family and himself we meet members of British Society, the French Royal Family, the family of Maria Theresa, Continental Nobility and of course there are also the Orientalist pictures from his time in Constantinople. These are remarkable works, even more so when one realises that he did not flatter his sitters but painted them as they looked. It is a view into the real 18th century.
One must not forget either that Liotard also painted some Still Lifes, Genre Scenes and Trompe L’Oeil. They too as in the case of Still-life: Tea Set, c. 1770-83 (The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles) also provide a visual aid to the sort of porcelain and other objects used in the 18th century. This picture is one of two works by him featured in the book accompanying the recent Tea, coffee or chocolate? – The rise of exotic drinks in Paris in the 18th century exhibition at Paris’s Museé Cognacq -Jay.