Paintings by such celebrated eighteenth-century artists as Watteau, Boucher, Chardin, Fragonard, Greuze, and Boilly have long been admired for their charming and intimate subjects--fêtes galantes, pastorals, tableaux de mode, middle-class domestic interiors, and scenes of family life and romantic love--and for their pleasing color schemes. In this lavishly illustrated and produced book, genre painting is explored for the first time within the broader cultural context of Enlightenment France. Through a series of innovative and lively essays dealing largely with aspects of art, gender, and politics in the decades preceding the French Revolution, Intimate Encounters enables us to appreciate genre paintings anew: although they are almost always attractive to the eye, sometimes to the point of appearing fanciful, the paintings also bear the intellectual imprint of turbulent times. the interactions of "ordinary" people--nonhistorical, nonmythic figures--within the family and in romantic encounters. We learn that genre painters tended to infuse their depictions of intimacy with moral and ideological significance. Their imagery coincided with fundamental debates over gender roles and relationships, the family, child-rearing, and illicit versus conjugal love, topics that were crucial to such writers and social commentators as Rousseau, Diderot, and Laclos.
Published in conjunction with a major traveling exhibition, Intimate Encounters contains five essays written by specialists from a variety of disciplines, which are followed by fifty-one full catalog entries on the paintings included in the show. The essays delve into such matters as art criticism and the presence of women in cultural life (Richard Rand), the family and the ideology of sentimentalism (Sarah Maza), the influence of innovative theater on genre painting (Mark Ledbury), the debate over women's rights (Virginia Swain), and the production and marketing of prints to a growing art audience (Anne L. Schroder).
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Mr. Rand has been assisted by Juliette M. Bianco and four contributors of essays in the creation of this survey of genre painting depicting Love and Domesticity in Eighteenth-Century France. The paintings, with the exception of Watteau's ambiguous fantasies and Chardin's understated views of middle-class life, are brilliantly colorful scenes of flirtation, seduction, and peeping-Tommery. The critics of the time, quoted at length, complained of the "feminization" of painting. Female authors unconnected with painting complained discreetly of their limited rights. There was a lively market for prints. These matters are earnestly reported by the scholarly contributors to the overall text. There is no information from the patrons who actually bought these cheerful works instead of the sober historical and religious paintings favored by the critics. One would like to know what those cash customers thought when they made their choices.Review:
Winner of the 1997 for Excellence in Design and Production in Professional/Scholarly Publishing, Association of American Publishers
"Marries the pleasures of the catalogue to the virtues of the academic text and so allows us to appreciate genre paintings at different levels. . . . Rand's commentaries place each of the paintings in a context that draws helpfully on the latest insights of art criticism and social commentators of the age. . ."--The Art Newspaper
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