DATE: January 6, 2016
- (Press Release)
Exhibition includes more than 30 sculptures and 100 drawings and prints by the famed Royal artist and is the first major museum examination of his work
BOUCHARDON: ROYAL ARTIST OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles January 10 – April 2, 2017
Special Installation of Bouchardon’s masterwork The Sleeping Faun now on view in the Getty Museum’s Entrance Hall
The Sleeping Faun, 1726–30, Edme Bouchardon, French, 1698–1762 Marble H: 184 X W: 142.5 X D: 119.5 cm (72 7/16 X 56 1/8 X 47 1/16 in.) Musée du Louvre, Département des Sculptures, Paris Image © Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Raphaël Chipault
Los Angeles – One of the most imaginative and celebrated artists of the eighteenth century, Edme Bouchardon (French, 1698-1762) was both an exceptionally accomplished sculptor and astonishingly talented draftsman. A new exhibition on view at the Getty Museum from January 10 through April 2, 2017 – Bouchardon: Royal Artist of the Enlightenment – will present the first comprehensive survey devoted to this extraordinarily important, but not well-known artist. Organized in partnership with the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the exhibition was on view there from September 12 to December 5, 2016. At the Getty the show will include more than 150 works, including sculptures, drawings, prints, and medals designed by Bouchardon. In advance of the opening date, one of Bouchardon’s masterworks, The Sleeping Faun, has been installed in the Getty Museum’s Entrance Hall where it will be on view through the run of the exhibition.
“Bouchardon’s astounding skill in carving marble and his brilliantly realized drawings, marveled at in his own time, remain just as captivating today,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “This exhibition and the companion publication, which explore Bouchardon’s art in greater depth than ever before, will offer the general public a rare opportunity to discover one of the most engaging and admired figures of eighteenth-century European art while also providing a stimulus to further scholarly research."
Organized chronologically, the exhibition features key themes of Bouchardon’s art through selected masterpieces that highlight his strong commitment to life drawing, his exploration of the relationship between drawing and sculpture, and his passion for classical art. The exhibition includes 30 sculptures in marble, stone, terra cotta, plaster, and bronze, many of which have never before been exhibited outside of France.
“Bouchardon is one of history’s most admired draftsmen and sculptors. As a result of his prolific imagination and constant quest for perfection, his works were praised and sought after by the most discriminating art collectors of Europe, including the royal court,” explains exhibition curator Anne-Lise Desmas. “However, over the centuries his renown has waned, especially outside of France. This exhibition is a tribute to an exceptional artist who should be a household name.”
Edme Bouchardon (French, 1698-1762) was the son of sculptor and architect Jean Baptiste Bouchardon. He was a prominent member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris and was much celebrated in his time as both a sculptor and a draftsman. In France, as official sculptor to the king and also draftsman to the Royal Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres, he created some of the best-known images of the age of Louis XV (reigned 1715–1774), from the small and private to the monumental and public. Bouchardon's creations are the result of an exceptional and marvelous synthesis of his passion for ancient art and his intense study of nature.
The Sleeping Faun
After winning the competition of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris in 1723, twenty-five-year-old Bouchardon was granted a sojourn in the French Academy in Rome to perfect his artistic training by studying and copying classical art and the great Italian masters. According to the regulations of this royal institution, sculptors were required to make a copy of a classical statue for the king during their stay.
Bouchardon’s marble sculpture after the ancient Barberini Faun was greatly admired by connoisseurs and artists. While preserving the beauty of the classical original, Bouchardon’s Sleeping Faun was more naturalistic and sensual. In 1753, King Louis XV gave it to the Marquis de Marigny, director of the Office of the Royal Buildings and brother of his mistress Madame de Pompadour, for his gardens at Monceau.
Lent by the Musée du Louvre, this striking sculpture has been installed in the Getty Museum’s Entrance Hall where it will be on view through the run of the exhibition.
Bouchardon in Rome
During his nine years in Rome (1723–32), Bouchardon refined his artistic education by copying classical art and the great masters. A selection of lavish red-chalk drawings displayed in the exhibition will show Bouchardon's skills in this exercise, including complete compositions as well as details, either in a big format on independent leaves or in a small format in precious sketchbooks.
In Rome, Bouchardon also made a brilliant start on his career, meeting influential cardinals in the papal court, as well as the city’s collectors, antiquarians, and aristocrats. Starting in 1727 with the bust of Baron Philipp von Stosch, Bouchardon carved several portrait busts in a classicizing style to suit the demands of certain patrons, mostly British tourists. Though Bouchardon also excelled in sculpting busts in a Baroque style that owed much to Bernini, evident in his portrait of Pope Clement XII, the influence of classical art in many of his busts was at the time a novelty in portraiture. The exhibition brings together for the first time these busts, conserved now in Germany, France, Scotland, and Italy.
Bouchardon particularly enjoyed designing fountains, which combined sculpture, architecture, decoration, and water features in a single work of art. He created one of his first designs in Rome in the early 1730s, when he entered the competition for the Trevi Fountain. Although Bouchardon designed about thirty fountains—some for urban settings but most for gardens or parks in Rome and Paris—only two of his ideas were executed. His work in this field was so innovative that the 1747 edition of La théorie et la pratique du jardinage, a classic book by Antoine Joseph Dezallier d’Argenville on gardening, included several illustrations of fountains after Bouchardon’s drawings.
In 1739 he completed sculptures in lead for the Neptune Fountain at Versailles: his Proteus Accompanied by Dolphins and Seals is among the fountain’s three most significant sculptural groups, and his two Geniuses Riding Sea Dragons adorn the ramps on either side of the basin.
Bouchardon’s most important commission was the Grenelle Fountain (1739–45) in Paris. In 1739, the Paris city council purchased a property on rue de Grenelle for a public fountain. Bouchardon received the commission for the design and was responsible for all aspects of its decoration; it was completed in 1745.
The Grenelle Fountain was a major monument in the development of Paris as a metropolis. The design—an aesthetic revival of the classical model—aroused passionate debate among contemporaries, while the sculptural decoration was highly praised for its depiction of nature. Related drawings, prints, and sculpture in the exhibition illustrate Bouchardon’s preparatory work for the fountain’s elements as well as their success and dissemination. For the first time, visitors will also be able to examine closely the newly cleaned marble reliefs of the Seasons lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, usually hung high up above doors in the Museum’s decorative arts galleries.
Religious and Funerary Art
Bouchardon was introduced to religious art at a very young age by his father, Jean Baptiste, who produced altarpieces and church furnishings in Champagne and Burgundy. In Rome, Bouchardon copied many religious subjects and tomb figures. Before leaving Italy he created a model for the statue of Justice for the pontifical Corsini chapel in the Lateran Basilica, which he did not realize full scale. This terracotta statuette lent by the Rhode Island School of Design will be shown for the first time in the context of Bouchardon's œuvre.
In France, his most important religious art commissions were a bronze relief for the chapel of Versailles, illustrated in the exhibition by a refined preparatory drawing, and the decoration of the choir of the SaintSulpice church in Paris. From this ensemble, the nearly eight-foot-high stone statue of the Virgin of Sorrows, restored for this exhibition, is one of Bouchardon’s most-admired masterpieces.
Throughout his career, Bouchardon elaborated many compositions for funerary monuments, which are known exclusively by his drawings. Unfortunately, prestigious commissions such as the monuments to Pope Clement XI or to Cardinal de Fleury were abandoned and the few tombs he did execute are no longer extant.
The exhibition features one of Bouchardon’s masterpieces, Cupid Carving a Bow from Hercules’s Club, a major royal commission that occupied him between 1745 and 1750. The marble statue was installed at Versailles in 1750, but it quickly aroused much criticism.
Several people, including the philosopher Voltaire, considered the subject to be enigmatic and unpleasant, turning the god of Love into a “carpenter.” The courtiers, especially women, thought Bouchardon’s depiction of the youth’s body was overly realistic, reducing Cupid to a common street porter. By 1754 the sculpture had been sent to the castle of Choisy to be displayed in the orangery. This was near a small château used as a retreat by Louis XV and his mistress Madame de Pompadour, making it an appropriate site for the Cupid.
Despite this criticism, some art critics and artists appreciated the novelty of what is now acknowledged to be Bouchardon’s masterpiece. The perfect embodiment of his aesthetic, Cupid combines the simplicity of forms of ancient art with a faithful attention to nature. Bouchardon skillfully differentiated the surface textures and some details—such as the tapering thickness of Cupid's wings—are virtuosic. This provides a contrast that enhances the smooth skin of the young god and its elegant body. Three red-chalk studies of the same live model examined from different viewpoints exhibited near the statue demonstrate Bouchardon's scrupulous work for the youthful figure.
Drawing medals and engraved gems
From 1737 until 1762, the year of his death, Bouchardon occupied the prestigious position of draftsman of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres. This royal institution had the dual mandate of advancing knowledge about classical antiquity and history and providing inscriptions for the regime’s propaganda.
Bouchardon’s primary task was to draw designs for tokens and medals based on ideas developed by the academicians. Tokens were distributed annually to employees of the royal administrations, while medals commemorated major events of Louis XV’s reign. Thanks to the generosity of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, two medals in gold from the series that belong to the King himself will be displayed in the exhibition so visitors can fully appreciate these small object's refinement with their respective preparatory drawings nearby.
In addition to medals and tokens, Bouchardon also made another type of small sculpture: engraved gemstones. Closely associated with antiquity, when the practice flourished, this diminutive art form enabled a historically minded artist such as Bouchardon to respond to Classical art, which fascinated him throughout his life.
Innovations in the Graphic Arts
The drawings and prints in the exhibition attest to Bouchardon’s remarkable inventiveness in the graphic arts. His wide-ranging interests led him to depict subjects including allegory, myth and fable, ancient history, the decorative arts, caricature, and the animal world. While some drawings, such as the Cries of Paris, were meant to serve as models for prints, many others were intended as independent works. Bouchardon’s belief in the relative autonomy of his practice as a draftsman was reflected in his decision to exhibit drawings unrelated to his sculpture at the Paris Salon exhibitions between 1737 and 1746. This was highly unusual at the time, certainly for a sculptor, who would have been expected to exhibit only three-dimensional objects.
Bouchardon disseminated many of his works through his collaboration with the comte de Caylus, an amateur printmaker, and Étienne Fessard, a professional engraver, which helped establish his reputation as a prolific draftsman. Some of his compositions reflect his desire to create drawings in the grand manner of historical painting, although using only red chalk.
Equestrian Monument of Louis XV
Bouchardon’s last major commission was a monumental equestrian statue in honor of Louis XV depicting the king on horseback, wearing classical costume and crowned with laurel leaves. In his right hand he held the baton of command, resting on his thigh. Commissioned in 1748, the project was demanding and took years to complete. After extensive preparatory drawings, Bouchardon completed a large-scale plaster model in 1757; the casting in bronze took place in 1758. However, a setback with casting, coupled with Bouchardon’s meticulousness, delayed the sculpture for five years while it was repaired and refined. The seventeen-foot-tall statue was finally installed in 1763, several months after Bouchardon’s death, on Place Louis XV (the present-day Place de la Concorde) in Paris.
Less than 30 years later, in 1792, the statue was destroyed during the French Revolution. The exhibition features the only surviving fragment—Louis XV’s right hand— together with striking life studies of horses and a treatise published on the casting process. The Getty and the Louvre have produced an educational video specifically for the show, which will be available in the galleries and online.
Bouchardon: Royal Artist of the Enlightenment is curated by Anne-Lise Desmas, curator and head of the Department of Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and Édouard Kopp, the Maida and George Abrams Associate Curator of Drawings at the Harvard Art Museums.
Getty Publications will publish two related books: Bouchardon: Royal Artist of the Enlightenment by Anne-Lise Desmas, Édouard Kopp, Guilhem Scherf and Juliette Trey, and The Learned Draftsman: Edme Bouchardon by Édouard Kopp. Both available in January 2017.
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