|Francois Boucher, The Toilette of Venus, 1751|
(Metropolitan Museum of Art)
|Francois Bocher, Dark-Haired Odalisque, 1745|
(Musee du Louvre)
Art criticism, came into its own as we understand it today with La Font de Saint-Yenne's pamphlet published in 1747, about the current state of painting in France. In his lengthy pamphlet, La Font severely criticized the decadence of contemporary art, calling out to artists to let go of the frivolous and sensuous subject matter for a return to the grand manner of history painting.2
|Jean-Baptist Greuze, Father Reading the Bible to His Children, 1755|
Diderot called for a new art that would promote virtue and not vice.
Jean-Baptiste Greuze's genre paintings about drame bourgeois, depicting the lives of the middle classes in an austere way, with elevated virtue could be identified as the perfect models for this new art. In the etching of Father Reading the Bible to His Children, we see a middle class family who is engrossed in what their father is reading with their backs to the door. This is a family who is not interested in what is going on outside with the nobility. The sons are engrossed in what their father is reading, one stands with a solemn expression on his face. Just the fact that the father is reading shows that they are educated. The maid in the background informs us of the financial stability of the family. It is a clean, orderly, humble setting in an enclosed space, quite a contradiction to Boucher's paintings of nubile ladies carouseing in nature. With his somber, moralizing paintings Greuze would be the bridge between Rococo and Neoclassicism.
|Francois Boucher, Shepherd and Shepherdess Resting, 1761|
(Wallace Collection, London)
| Jean-Baptiste Greuze, The Village Bride, 1761|
(Musee du Louvre)
1 Alistair Horne, Seven Ages of Paris, Vintage Books, New York, 149
2 Rémy G. Saisselin, The Enlightenment against the Baroque - Economics and Aesthetics in the Eighteenth Century, University of California Press, 1992; 49
3 Ibid., 50
4 Diderot, Denis translated by John Goodman, Diderot on Art I The Salon of 1765 and Notes on Painting, Yale University 1995, xxiii