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"From the Sun King to the Royal Twilight: Painting in Eighteenth-Century France from the Musee de Picardie, Amiens"
2001-04-24 until 2001-06-17
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Santa Barbara, CA, USA

The collection of eighteenth-century painting at the Musée de Picardie, Amiens, is notable for its numerous royal commissions and for a donation of over two hundred and fifty paintings made in the 1890s by the Lavalard brothers--two avid collectors of works from the French classical age. The approximately eighty paintings selected for From the Sun King to the Royal Twilight will provide a rich overview of French painting from the end of the reign of Louis XIV to the fall of the French monarchy in the mid-nineteenth century. The exhibition will highlight the pictorial variations within the established genres of history and religious painting, landscape, portraiture, and still life.

Over the course of the eighteenth century, artists began to receive commissions not only from the court, but also from the bourgeoisie. This shift is reflected in the work, which moved away from the official, and at times heavily historical, subjects so highly prized under the Sun King toward an elegant intimate, and more imaginative rendering of these same subjects.

In order to place the works in a historical context, the exhibition will be organized chronologically and divided into three sections, introduced by portraits of Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI, respectively. It will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an introductory essay by Mattieu Pinette, chief curator at the Musée de Picardie, Amiens, on the revival of collecting eighteenth-century painting in the nineteenth century, as exemplified by the Lavalard brothers; and a foreword by Pierre Rosenberg, director at the Musée du Louvre. Additional guest authors will explore questions of attribution and iconography and examine the shift in patronage--translated into a change in taste--from the court to the bourgeoisie. The essays will also place the works within a social and historical context by examining the economic and political circumstances that helped formulate royal taste. An exploration of the major genres--still life, landscape, and mythological subjects--that developed during the reign of Louis XIV through the fall of the French monarchy will provide readers with an understanding of the social undercurrents of the eighteenth century that shaped artistic subjects and patronage.


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