Boilly: Scenes of Parisian Life, National Gallery, (Room 1), Trafalgar Square, London WC2, until 19th May 2019
It wasn’t that this exhibition was free or the first of its kind in this country that impelled me to make a special trip to London to come and see it, it was the skill and talent of the artist Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761 – 1845) that was my driving force.
I had often seen the three Boilly paintings in the Wallace Collection, depicting scenes from everyday life in the more upper-middle class homes of late 18th century France but in this exhibition at the National Gallery one sees how he “triumphed” as an artist in the ever-changing world of Paris from the French Revolution to the July Monarchy of Louis Philippe.
Boilly’s paintings are a revelation whether genre scenes whose style recalls Dutch artists of the 17th century or a trompe l’oeil painting that looks exactly like a print. He set a trend with his small portraits and his everyday street scenes. I chose the image above because it represents elements of his work from all periods. Most importantly look at it closely for the elements of humour that can be found in such works by him.
What makes this ravishing, must see exhibition particularly special are the twenty works from an English private collection which are both being shown and published for the first time. The collection was put together by the late Harry Hyams (1928-2015) and I count myself fortunate that I met him at a porcelain exhibition in London in 2010 and could appreciate the knowledge and connoisseurship he had of art and antiques during our enjoyable conversation.
Among the exhibitions this year at Waddesdon Manor is Brought to life: Eliot Hodgkin Rediscovered (25 May – 20 October) which will feature paintings from Mr Hyams’ collection.