BOOK REVIEW: Watteau’s Soldiers: Scenes of Military Life in Eighteenth-Century France

Watteau’s Soldiers: Scenes of Military Life in Eighteenth-Century France

Aaron Wile

Published by GILES in association with The Frick Collection, New York
PRICE — UK£25.00 / US$39.95
ISBN — 978-1-907804-79-3

9781907804793

France’s involvement in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14) unwittingly provided Watteau (1684-1721) with an opportunity to produce a little-known body of work depicting military subjects. As one might expect the military glories of battles or the generals and kings involved were not the subject matter Watteau chose as he preferred the more run-of-the mill scenes of marches, encampments and bivouacs and showing soldiers at rest and play.

Antoine Watteau was a master draughtsman and the book reveals this through the images of the beautiful chalk drawings as well as finished paintings.  Watteau would take a figure from a drawing and with almost the idea of the ‘cut and paste’ technique use it in the composition of a painting as author Aaron Wile explains.

This book is a delightful and erudite composition which is easily accessible to all but is combined with a catalogue raisonné of Watteau’s military works, including drawings now only known from prints.

While the book was published in conjunction with the exhibition Watteau’s Soldiers: Scenes of Military Life in Eighteenth-Century France, at The Frick Collection, until 2ndOctober 2016, it will have a very long shelf life and be much read and sought after by all interested in the arts of early 18th century France.

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Rubens and His Legacy

Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne, Main Galleries, Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1, until 10th April 2015    

Peter Paul Rubens The Triumph of Henri IV, 1630 Oil on panel, 49.5 x 83.5 cm Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1942 (42.187) Photo c. 2013. Image copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource / Scala, Florence

Peter Paul Rubens
The Triumph of Henri IV, 1630
Oil on panel, 49.5 x 83.5 cm
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1942 (42.187)
Photo c. 2013. Image copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource / Scala, Florence

For anyone intending to visit this glorious exhibition the keyword is legacy.

Jean-Antoine Watteau La Surprise: A Couple Embracing While a Figure Dressed as mezzetin Tunes a Guitar, 1718-19 Oil on panel, 36.3 x 28.2 cm Private Collection Photo: Private Collection

Jean-Antoine Watteau
La Surprise: A Couple Embracing While a Figure Dressed as mezzetin Tunes a Guitar, 1718-19
Oil on panel, 36.3 x 28.2 cm
Private Collection
Photo: Private Collection

Rubens was a highly accomplished artist whose works cover many themesPoetry, Elegance, Power, Lust, Compassion and Violence and while this exhibition offers fine examples of the master’s hand on these subjects it concentrates on successive generations and schools of artists whose works were inspired and influenced by him. Thus you will encounter Turner and Constable, Watteau and Fragonard, Delacroix and Cézanne and many other artists along the way.

Peter Paul Rubens Pan and Syrinx, 1617 Oil on panel, 40 x 61 cm Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, Gemaeldegalerie Alte Meister, Kassel Photo: Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, Gemaeldegalerie Alte Meister/Ute Brunzel

Peter Paul Rubens
Pan and Syrinx, 1617
Oil on panel, 40 x 61 cm
Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, Gemaeldegalerie Alte Meister, Kassel
Photo: Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, Gemaeldegalerie Alte Meister/Ute Brunzel

As the exhibitions curator, Dr Nico Van Hout, says, “It is no coincidence that Delacroix, Vigée-Lebrun, Reynolds and Renoir devoted fascinating discourses, journal entries and letters on the virtuosity and confidence of Rubens’ brushwork, as many artists were trained by seriously studying his altarpieces, allegories, portraits and landscapes. Each artist focused on different aspects of his oeuvre and the works in this exhibition show the great variety of this impact: they include exact copies, creative copies, pastiches and quotations to works that only echo Rubens’ style. Only the best artists were able to translate Rubens’ visual language into a personal idiom and we are delighted to bring together such a rich selection of works to showcase the ongoing strength of Rubens’ legacy throughout the past three centuries.”

Paul Cezanne Three Bathers, c. 1875 Oil on canvas, 30.5 x 33 cm Private Collection Photo: Ali Elai, Camerarts

Paul Cezanne
Three Bathers, c. 1875
Oil on canvas, 30.5 x 33 cm
Private Collection
Photo: Ali Elai, Camerarts

One could suggest that perhaps a few more works by Rubens would have been better or wonder why some of the pictures were chosen as being influenced by him but in the end it does not really matter for the aim of showing how great the legacy of Rubens is addressed with verve and success.

Eugene Delacroix Crucifixion, 1846 Oil on panel, 37 x 25 cm Museum Boijmans van Beuningen Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam/Photographer: Studio Tromp, Rotterdam

Eugene Delacroix
Crucifixion, 1846
Oil on panel, 37 x 25 cm
Museum Boijmans van Beuningen
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam/Photographer: Studio Tromp, Rotterdam

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Peter Paul Rubens Tiger, Lion and Leopard Hunt, 1616 Oil on canvas, 256 x 324.5 cm Rennes, Musee des Beaux Arts Photo c. MBA, Rennes, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Adelaide Beaudoin

Peter Paul Rubens
Tiger, Lion and Leopard Hunt, 1616
Oil on canvas, 256 x 324.5 cm
Rennes, Musee des Beaux Arts
Photo c. MBA, Rennes, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Adelaide Beaudoin