Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Greuze, Jean-Baptiste

Young shepherd holding a flower (a boy holding a dandelion and pensively making a wish for his love to be reciprocated)
oil on oval canvas
72.5 x 59.5 cm
City of Paris Fine Art Museum (Petit Palais), Paris, France

Painting commissioned by the Marquis de Marigny, Director General of the King's Buildings, for his sister, the Marquise de Pompadour.

Greuze achieved fame for his morally uplifting narrative paintings, but he was equally adept working in the pastoral, erotic mode brought to refinement by Francois Boucher, La Pompadour’s favourite painter. In 1756, while sojourning in Rome, he received support from the Marquis de Marigny, who commissioned from him this oval painting for the Versailles apartment of his sister Madame de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV.

The exceptionally light colour scheme with its harmony of pinks, blues and mauves complemented by the golden tone of the curly hair, and the combination of transparent glazes and vigorous impastos is reminiscent of the art of Francois Boucher, from whom Greuze later had to distance himself.
"With the elegance of the clothing and radiant colours, it could easily be mistaken for the work of Boucher." (Diderot)

Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725 - 1805)  is a French painter, born in Burgundy. He had a great success at the 1755 Salon and went on to win enormous popularity with similar sentimental and melodramatic genre scenes. His work was praised by Diderot as 'morality in paint' and as representing the highest ideal of painting in his day.
Much of his later work consisted of titillating pictures of young girls, which contain thinly veiled sexual allusions under their surface appearance of mawkish innocence.

With the swing of taste towards Neoclassicism his work went out of fashion and he sank into obscurity at the Revolution in 1789. At the very end of his career he received a commission to paint a portrait of Napoleon, but he died in poverty. His huge output is particularly well represented in the Louvre, the Wallace Collection in London, the Musee Fabre in Montpellier, and in the museum dedicated to him in Tournus, his native town.