Trilogy of Soap Bubbles

In Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin’s eulogy, he was remembered for having once said, “One makes use of pigments, but one paints with one’s feelings.” And feelings he presents in his Trilogy of Soap Bubbles… three paintings of playful boys and shiny, shimmering, iridescent soap spheres… and a game, suggesting the transience of life. https://www.artsy.net/artwork/jean-simeon-chardin-soap-bubbles-1

The Metropolitan Museum of New York experts, where my favourite Chardin painting of Soap Bubbles reside, inform us that… The idle play of children was a favorite theme of Chardin, a naturalist among painters. Apparently, the experts continue, he drew inspiration from the seventeenth-century Dutch genre tradition for both the format and the subject, but it is not clear if the artist’s intention was for his painting, understood then to allude to the transience of life, carried such a message. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/435888

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin was the son of a modest cabinetmaker and the student of equally modest artists. Born and raised in Paris, the artist rarely left the city, drawing inspiration from Parisian genre scenes and arrangements of typically French objects and food. He lived on the Left Bank near Saint-Sulpice until 1757, when Louis XV granted him a studio and living quarters in the Louvre. He started his career by painting signposts for tradesmen and details in other artists’ works but in 1728, the Portraitist Nicolas de Largillière “discovered” him at an outdoor show, and Chardin was immediately admitted for membership in the Académie Royale.https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/person/103JYN and https://www.jean-baptiste-simeon-chardin.org/biography.html

Chardin was a frequent participant at the Parisian Salon, a dedicated academician, and, later in life, a pensioner of the French King. He was much admired by Denis Diderot, who would prove to be a great champion of his work. All of his paintings exhibited in the Parisian Salons were outstandingly successful.  By 1770 Chardin was the ‘Premiere peintre du roi’, and his pension of 1,400 livres was the highest in the Academy. I am not surprised… even his simple, unassuming Still Lifes are treated with dignity and respect. So much so, that the novelist Marcel Proust wrote… We have learned from Chardin that a pear is as living as a woman, that an ordinary piece of pottery is as beautiful as a precious stone! https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/person/103JYN and https://www.jean-baptiste-simeon-chardin.org/biography.html

According to the dealer and collector Jean Pierre Mariette, writing some fifteen years after the fact, Chardin’s first figural picture, the MET experts inform us, showed a head of a young man blowing bubbles and was studied from a model. Between 1733 and 1739 Chardin painted three paintings, titled Soap Bubbles. It is also known, that in 1739 a version of Soap Bubbles was exhibited at the Paris Salon. The question is… which version? The answer is probably none of the three that have survived, in the Metropolitan Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington. They are definitely similar but not identical, none of them is dated, two of them are horizontals, and one, at the National Gallery, is vertical. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/435888

Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin’s Trilogy of Soap Bubbles is popular and well-liked! The viewers are absorbed by the depiction of a boy poised on a stone windowsill blowing a big soap bubble and the younger boy next to him, fully absorbed in the activity. Although Chardin gives the illusion of capturing two youths in a candid moment, he has rigorously constructed his composition. Was his intention to present the viewer with an allegorical scene? Does it matter what the artist’s intention was? Are Chardin’s paintings of Soap Bubbles the perfect example of Rococo Art? My answer… I do not know… all I want is to feast my eyes and enjoy a moment of playfulness, and innocence… https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.994.html

For a PowerPoint on Chardin’s Soap Bubbles, please… Check HERE!

A wonderful Video for Children, prepared by the National Gallery of Art, on Chardin’s Soap Bubbles… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaxg6MjjM6g

The Bastille in the first days of its Demolition

Hubert Robert,  French Artist, 1733-808
The Bastille in the first days of its Demolition, 1789, oil on canvas, 96×135 cm, Musée Carnavalet, Paris, France https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubert_Robert#/media/File:The_Bastille_in_the_first_days_of_its_demolition,_by_Hubert_Robert_(cropped).jpg

More than any other event of the eighteenth century writes Prof. Mircea Platon, the French Revolution, which began in 1789, changed the face of modern politics across Europe and the world. And it all began one July day when the people of Paris captured a fourteenth-century gothic prison known as the Bastille. The 14th of July is the anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille, a major event of the French Revolution, and the most important French Fête Nationale! Hubert Robert’s,  painting of The Bastille in the first days of its Demolition shows us how important and hated Bastille was by the French Revolutionaries. https://origins.osu.edu/milestones/july-2014-storming-bastille?language_content_entity=en

In the summer of 1789, Paris was at a boil. In May, the Estates-General, France’s Parliament, met for the first time in more than one hundred years, but it was a failure. Members of the Third Estate broke ranks and declared themselves to be the National Assembly of the country. On the 20th of June 1789, they gathered in a tennis court near the royal palace and solemnly swore not to separate before having established a Constitution. There was more… heavy taxation, food shortage, army mobilization around Paris, and the dismissal of the popular minister Jacques Necker on the 11th of July. The political situation in Paris was explosive! https://www.carnavalet.paris.fr/collections/serment-du-jeu-de-paume-le-20-juin-1789 and https://origins.osu.edu/milestones/july-2014-storming-bastille?language_content_entity=en

Early on the 14th of July, the angry Parisian crowd besieged the Hôtel des Invalides where they looted approximately 3,000 firearms and five canons. The weapons, however, required gunpowder, which was stored in the Bastille. After arriving at the prison and negotiating with its governor, marchers burst into an outer courtyard and a pitch battle erupted. By the time it was over, the people of Paris had freed the prisoners held in the Bastille and taken Governor de Launay captive. All of this happened on July 14, which has been known in France and all over the world as “Bastille Day” ever since. Hearing that the Bastille had fallen, Louis XVI asked the duke de La Rochefoucauld: “So, is there a rebellion?” To which the duke retorted: “No, Sire, a revolution!” https://origins.osu.edu/milestones/july-2014-storming-bastille?language_content_entity=en

On July 15, 1789, the day after Bastille was captured by the angry Parisian crowd, its demolition was decided and entrusted to the contractor Pierre-François Palloy. It was an important decision the citizens of Paris wanted to remember! As workmen tore down the spires on the roof, ordinary people ripped stones off the base. These stones soon became collectors’ items, souvenirs of the people’s role in the outbreak of the Revolution. https://www.carnavalet.paris.fr/en/collections/bastille-early-days-its-demolition and https://revolution.chnm.org/d/17

One of the many artists who painted Bastille’s Demolition was Hubert Robert. Known for his capricci paintings, real or fictional compositions of contemporary buildings, and/or archaeological ruins, the artist was famous, popular, and prolific. His painting of Bastille’s Demolition presents a historic event. The medieval fortification is depicted as monumental in size, strong, and commanding. The dramatic use of chiaroscuro acquires a symbolic and meditative dimension. According to the Musée Carnavalet experts, the Bastille state prison symbolized absolutism and the monarchy. Hubert Robert’s painting of  The Bastille in the first days of its Demolition encourages us to remember the stormy, and bumpy road toward representative democracy, and the noble ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity. https://www.carnavalet.paris.fr/en/collections/bastille-early-days-its-demolition

Joyeux Quatorze Juillet à tous!

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

John Singleton Copley’s Portrait of Paul Revere

John Singleton Copley, 1738 – 1815
Portrait of Paul Revere,
1768, oil on canvas, 89.22 x 72.39 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA, USA https://collections.mfa.org/objects/32401  

Listen, my children, and you shall hear /  Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, / On the eighteenth of April in Seventy-Five; / Hardly a man is now alive / Who remembers that famous day and year. / He said to his friend, –“If the British march / By land or sea from the town to-night, / Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch / Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light— / One if by land and two if by sea; / And I on the opposite shore will be, / Ready to ride and spread the alarm / Through every Middlesex village and farm, / For the country-folk to be up and to arm…     /     So through the night rode Paul Revere; / And so through the night went his cry of alarm / To every Middlesex village and farm,— / A cry of defiance, and not of fear, / A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, / And a word that shall echo forevermore! / For, borne on the night-wind of the Past, / Through all our history, to the last, / In the hour of darkness and peril and need, / The people will waken and listen to hear / The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed, / And the midnight message of Paul Revere. Thus, begins and ends Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem “Paul Revere’s Ride.” On the 4th of July 2022, I want to remember and honour the man, the brave Massachusetts Minuteman, and the talented silversmith… by looking at John Singleton Copley’s Portrait of Paul Revere! https://poets.org/poem/paul-reveres-ride

By 1867 Paul Revere was a member of the Massachusetts Minutemen, a group of patriots ready to act against the British army at a moment’s notice, had joined the Sons of Liberty group and was an active political figure. He was also famous for his considerable talents as a silversmith. Today his fame springs from Longfellow’s poem “Paul Revere’s Ride.”, a work that was first published in the January 1861 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, his remarkable portrait of 1768 by John Singleton Copley, and a select group of silverware like the “Sons of Liberty Bowl,” commissioned by 15 members of the Sons of Liberty in 1768, and made by the artist.

John Singleton Copley, 1738 – 1815
Portrait of Paul Revere (details),
1768, oil on canvas, 89.22 x 72.39 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA, USA https://smarthistory.org/john-singleton-copley-paul-revere/

It is interesting how John Singleton Coplay portrayed Paul Revere in his traditional job as a silversmith, and not as the important revolutionary figure he was. He stands behind his highly polished table, holding a silver tea-pot, tools of his trade in front of him, modestly dressed… showing an industrious and humble character. It is no surprise that Revere was portrayed this way, for the revolutionary Americans, especially those of the north, were very proud of their industrial nature. https://gschmittleinushistory.weebly.com/mfa-project.html

Copley’s portrait of Paul Revere is, according to Dr. Bryant Zygmont, striking in many ways. The way he is dressed is one of them… Revere, shown by Copley in half-length, wigless, holding his chin with his right hand and regarding the viewer as if he has just looked up, is not portrayed wearing his “Sunday’s Best” clothing, as was the custom of the time. Revere wears, for example, no Jacket or Coat, as every Colonial American man would have worn if they could afford to do so. Instead, he wears simple working attire, a decision that underscores his artisan, middle-class status. Details not to be missed are… the open-collared shirt, made from plain white linen, the lack of cravat, a kind of formal neckwear, the open undershirt peeking from underneath his linen shirt, and a wool (or perhaps a dull silk) waistcoat, unbuttoned as well, yet featuring two gold buttons. https://smarthistory.org/john-singleton-copley-paul-revere/

There are more details to notice. Revere’s, for example, open white shirt and the blue-green waistcoat is worn without a jacket are associated with work clothes. Yet, the cleanliness of his attire, the golden buttons of his vest, the nearly completed silver tea-pot in his left hand, and the polished, pristine table in front of him, do not reflect the garments Revere actually wore to ply his trade, nor the craftsman’s workbench. Is John Singleton Copley’s Portrait of Paul Revere an idealized image of the American artisan at work? One can only wonder! https://collections.mfa.org/objects/32401

Happy 4th of July

Information for my short presentation was sourced in https://smarthistory.org/john-singleton-copley-paul-revere/ and https://collections.mfa.org/objects/32401

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

For a Student Activity on Copley’s Portrait of Paul Revere, Check the Teachers Resource Book of Picturing America by the National Endowment for the Humanities, pp. 10-11 https://web-archive-2017.ait.org.tw/zhtw/PUBS/PicturingAm/PA_TeachersResource_Book_en.pdf

Photo of the 2019 Exhibition Becoming a Painter in 18th-Century Boston: Copley and Others. Copley’s Portrait of Paul Revere and the “Sons of Liberty Bowl,” created by Paul Revere Jr. and commissioned by 15 members of the Sons of Liberty in 1768.
https://www.mfa.org/programs/gallery-activities-and-tours/becoming-a-painter-in-18th-century-boston-copley-and-others

The Death of Socrates by Jacques Louis David

Jacques-Louis David, French Artist, 1748-1825
The Death of Socrates, 1786, Pen and black ink, over black chalk, touches of brown ink, squared in black chalk, 27.9 × 41.6 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/679783?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=Jacques+Louis+David&offset=20&rpp=20&pos=40

Jacques Louis David: Radical Draftsman (February 17 – May 15, 2022 – the MET, NY) is the first exhibition devoted to works on paper by the celebrated French artist who navigated vast artistic and political divides throughout his life – from his birth in Paris in 1748 to his death in exile in Brussels in 1825. His iconic works captured the aspirations and suffering of a nation, while addressing timeless themes that continue to resonate today. Among the works exhibited at the MET, in New York City, The Death of Socrates by Jacques Louis David, a most delicate and fragile drawing of 1786, is a priceless treasure in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. Every time I see the drawing or the oil painting of the same theme, I remember my senior High School year… reading The Apology of Socrates by Plato, on the quest for Wisdom, on piety and the corruption of youth… and the acknowledgment that philosophy begins with an admission of ignorance. https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/jacques-louis-david-radical-draftsman and http://www2.hawaii.edu/~freeman/courses/phil100/04.%20Apology.pdf

In 1786, on the verge of the French Revolution, Jean Charles Philibert Trudaine de Montigny, French administrator, scholar, and scientist, commissioned David to paint The Death of Socrates, a theme inspired by a pivotal moment in ancient Greek history, when the ideals of Athenian Democracy were questioned and challenged. David was fascinated by Antiquity, Greek or Roman. The recipient of the coveted Prix de Rome, the artist first traveled to Italy in October 1775. By 1786, he was familiar with the dynamics of Classical Art, and although he declared, the Antique will not seduce me, it lacks animation, it does not move, he kept twelve sketchbooks with drawings of antique sculptures that he and his studio used as model books for the rest of his life. He was also acquainted with the German artist Raphael Mengs, who advocated the rigorous study of classical art. He was familiar with the writings of the German scholar, and many considered to be the founder of modern Art History, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, and in 1779, had visited the ruins of the newly discovered city of Pompeii. David, a great admirer of the High Renaissance, Raphael in particular, and Classical Culture was ready to render a theme of ancient Greek origin, The Death of Socrates, and do it justice. https://www.biography.com/artist/jacques-louis-david

Jacques-Louis David, French Artist, 1748-1825
The Death of Socrates, ca. 1782, Pen and black ink, with brush and gray wash over black chalk, with light squaring in black chalk 24.4 × 37.8 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/426600

Two drawings on paper, one in the Metropolitan Museum and the other in a Private Collection, testify to the fact that David was intrigued by the circumstances of Socrates’s Death, as early as 1782. Both these drawings were a starting point for the final version of the theme, an impressive oil painting,  dated 1787, in the MET Collection as well. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436105

Jacques-Louis David, French Artist, 1748-1825
The Death of Socrates (Detail), 1786, Pen and black ink, over black chalk, touches of brown ink, squared in black chalk, 27.9 × 41.6 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/online-features/metcollects/the-death-of-socrates-video

Thanks to the MET Exhibition Jacques Louis David: Radical Draftsman, we can closely examine David’s 1786 preparatory Drawing of the theme of Socrates’s Death. Perrin Stein, an expert on the subject par excellence, emphasizes how David’s drawing in the MET,  is a working drawing, that sheds light on the artist’s main concerns. For example, the perspective lines in the lower left recede toward a vanishing point just above the head of Plato, the somber figure seated at the foot of the bed. In this subtle way, Perrin Stein explains, David calls attention to the special role of Plato, who was not present in Socrates’ prison cell, but who described the scene in Phaedo, one of his Dialogues. Another interesting feature is Socrates’s gesture toward the heavens which suggests that Socrates’s final moments were spent describing to his disciples his notions on the immortality of the soul. It is also interesting to note the ancient lyre, lightly sketched, just behind Socrates’s right leg. The musical instrument in David’s drawing figures—metaphorically—in Plato’s text as a proposed analogy for the relationship of the human soul (music) to the body (instrument). Finally, it is important to notice the many visible pentimenti, or changes, in the disciple’s hand holding the cup, in Socrates’s hand pointing up, and in both of Socrates’s legs, all indications of the artist’s exacting focus on the nexus of forms and gestures that would become the resonant and haunting focal point of the final oil painting.

Jacques-Louis David, French Artist, 1748-1825
The Death of Socrates, 1787, oil on canvas, 129.5 x 196.2 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436105

For a  PowerPoint on Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Socrates, please… Click HERE!

Jacques-Louis David, French Artist, 1748-1825
The Death of Socrates, after 1787, Oil on canvas, 133 x 196 cm, Princeton University Art Museum, NJ, USA
https://puamsab.princeton.edu/2019/11/death-of-socrates-anika-yardi-21/

An interesting MET Video titled: “What is the path to a masterpiece?” by Dr. Perrin Stein, who presents and analyzes the dynamics of  Jacques Louis David’s The Death of Socrates drawing… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgWouRo_1hw

The Legacy of Jacques Louis David (1748–1825) is a short MET presentation worth reading… https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/jldv/hd_jldv.htm

The Exhibitions Catalogue… Jacques Louis David: Radical Draftsman by Perrin Stein with more contributions by Daniella Berman, Philippe Bordes, Mehdi Korchane, Louis-Antoine Prat, Benjamin Peronnet, and Juliette Trey, is published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press. https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9781588397461/jacques-louis-david

The Tennis Court Oath by Jacques-Louis David

Jacques-Louis David, 1748 – 1825
The Tennis Court Oath, 1791, oil on canvas, 65 × 88.7 cm, Musée Carnavalet, Paris, France
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/87/Serment_du_Jeu_de_Paume_-_Jacques-Louis_David.jpg

One of the two representations of the historic The Tennis Court Oath by Jacques-Louis David is exhibited in the Musée Histoire de Paris Carnavalet. The Museum experts describe the painting as… An emblematic work of the revolutionary period, this historical representation illustrates a key moment in 1789: “the year without equal”. While the States General have been gathered in Versailles since their convocation on May 5, the debates trample around an essential issue: that of deliberation by order or by head. Soon, the elected officials of the third estate formed a National Assembly and were joined by the majority of those of the clergy, then by a very active minority of gentlemen. Gathered in a tennis court near the royal palace following a ban on sitting, the deputies of the Nation solemnly swear not to separate before having established a Constitution. The oath, read by the President of the Assembly Jean-Sylvain Bailly, is signed by all representatives except one, whose freedom of opinion was respected. The actors, none of whom are turning their backs, seem to play their role as on a stage. But this is the theater of history… https://www.carnavalet.paris.fr/collections/serment-du-jeu-de-paume-le-20-juin-1789

Jacques-Louis David, 1748 – 1825
The Tennis Court Oath, 1791, pen, ink, wash and heightened with white on pencil on paper, 65.5×101 cm, Palace of Versailles, France
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tennis_Court_Oath_(David)#/media/File:Le_Serment_du_Jeu_de_paume.jpg

David’s canvas at Carnavalet’s Museum is unfinished, just a step in colour, compared to the sketch in Versailles, of the same theme, and few preparatory drawings. The importance of the theme is momentous. David was commissioned to do a huge painting on the Oath of the Jeu de Paume, held in Versailles on June 20, 1789, by the Society of Friends of the Constitution. His aim was to represent very recent history, and real people in contemporary costume, thus posing a real challenge to the public traditional history painting. This drawing was exhibited in the Salon of 1791 with the intention to raise money and finance, at first, an engraving and in the end, the final painting of the historic Tennis Court Oath, which, unfortunately, was never completed. David’s drawing entered the Louvre collection in 1886 and on April 5, 1939, was deposited at the Versailles Museum, where is currently exhibited. http://collections.chateauversailles.fr/#310a5e1d-d66e-4101-8358-463f4746b06a and https://en.chateauversailles.fr/discover/estate/royal-tennis-court

The artist of both artworks, Jacques-Louis David, is the finest representative of Neoclassicism in At and one of the most important French artists of all times. Seeking inspiration in the work of Nicolas Poussin and antiquity, David gained immediate success when in 1785 he displayed,  at the Parisian Salon, his painting Oath of Horatii, a portrayal of his artistic and political beliefs… classical and revolutionary to their core. David proceeded in painting the important events of the French Revolution, right from its very beginning… the Tennis Court Oath taken by the Third Estate, Marie Antoinette led to her Execution and his most influential revolutionary painting of all, The Death of Marat in 1793.

For  PowerPoint on Jacques-Louis David’s oeuvre, please… Click HERE!