About the painter: Jean-Baptiste Pater was born in Valenciennes where he first studied with a local painter and his sculptor father before moving to Paris to train under Jean-Antoine Watteau. Dismissed by the latter, Pater attempted to make it on his own in Paris before having to return to his hometown. In 1718, he returned to Pairs and worked for some of Watteau's clients, including his art dealer. Pater was also influenced by Flemish art. He joined the Academia Royale in 1728.he came of an industrious petit -bourgeois family and was from an early age exposed to arts. It is probable that he received his first training from his father as a draughtsman, even though he was denied the permission to instruct a painter being a sculptor.In the year 1706, Pater was enrolled, not as an apprentice, but as an amateur, with an unknown local painter Baptiste Guider. He was the only student of Watteau, a fellow native of Valencienne), with whom he had a somewhat touchy relationship. An unlikely legend has it that Watteau dismissed him from his studio (1713) because he was disturbed by the threat offered by his progress to his own pre-eminence; whatever the reason for their differences, they were reconciled soon before Watteau's death. Like Watteau's other imitator Lancret, Pater repeated the master's type of 'fêtes galantes' in a fairly stereotyped fashion. Pater was taught in his native Valenciennes by Jean-Baptiste Guidé [-1711] and also by his father, Antoine Pater [1670-1747], a sculptorwhose portrait (1716; 741x581pix, 36kb) was painted by Watteau, who was also a native of Valenciennes. Jean-Baptiste Pater probably followed Watteau to Paris after the short stay that the latter made in Valenciennes around 1710. Pater thus became a student of Watteau. Watteau's difficult character led to Pater's dismissal.He then spent a few hard years on his own in Paris, before returning to Valenciennes about 1715 or 1716. He tried to work independently of the local corporation of Saint Luc, of which he was not a member; a number of comical legal difficulties ensued, and Pater returned to Paris in 1718. There he must have been in contact with Watteau, since he worked for some of the latter's clients, such as the dealers Pierre Siros and Edmé-François Gersaint, and the collector Jean de Julienne. Later as years passed Pater and Watteau rubbed each other the wrong way. Nevertheless this is because of this sojourn with Watteau that Pater absorbed and profited by the training of the great master who opened the eyes of the young man to subtleties of color and aroused in him an equal enthusiasm for fetes galantes which he had already made famous.Despite refusing to cloak his subject in mythological conventions, Pater was sophisticated enough to recognize its literary and artistic precedents, and allude to them wittily. The enormous rose pink swag of drapery that shades the glade of bathers derives, most prominently, from the memorable and identically colored drape that is pushed aside by the hapless young hunter Actaeon in Titian's celebratedDiana and Actaeon(National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, Duke of Sutherland Loan). In the eighteenth century, Titian's painting and its pendant,Diana and Callisto, were two of the masterpieces of the Orléans collection, housed until 1791 in the Palais Royal in Paris, and available for study to interested artists andamateurs. InLes Baigneuses, the disposition of the bathers who seem to hold court around a single, dominant woman; the prominence of the carved garden fountain; and the presence of small, yapping dogs all found their inspiration in Titian's painting. The nymph, who had been one of Diana's most devoted companions, had been seduced by Jupiter, and when the shame of her pregnancy was revealed, she was expelled from the company of the goddess. No such fate awaits Pater's bather, who may simply be drying herself, but the nod to Ovid's tale and Titian's canvases would provide a concealed layer of meaning for the sophisticated connoisseurs who collected Pater's paintings. Similarly, while Pater would never darken the mood of his painting by referring to the gruesome death of Actaeon, the actions of the women on the left of his composition who look into the woods at an unseen presence, might be seen to presage the arrival of the hunter who accidentally trespassed Diana's sacred grotto, was transformed into a stag, and torn apart by his own hounds. Florence Ingersoll-Smouse, who published the only extended modern study of Pater's paintings (1928), believed that Pater's more than fifty known depictions of female bathers may have been commissioned by members of private libertine societies, so-calledcénacles galants, of the sort that Watteau's friend the Comte de Caylus was a member; in any event, they would certainly have been purchased by an elite group of discerning collectors who would have found their layers of reference amusing.Pater built his career on the shoulders of his teacher, mastering the genre of thefête galante, and quite naturally stepping in to fill the void left in the market by Watteau's untimely death. While he devoted himself principally to painting like fêtes galantes, military encampments andcommedia dell'artecompositions in the manner of Watteau, he enlarged the range of his subject matter to include depictions of village fairs, such as his masterpiece, the so-calledFair at Bezons atMetropolitan Museum of Art, New York, comic genre scenes illustrating the tales of La Fontaine, and a series of bathers, rarely if ever found in the works of his mentor.
The Fair at Bezonsis frequently cited as Pater's, marvelous masterpiece. The painting description is based on a Fair, held annually on the first Sunday in September in a village near Versailles, inspired several artists of the period. The theme was used for a stage play as early as 1695 and also by Favart for a ballet-pantomime in 1735. Pater's masterpiece, probably dates to the beginning of the 1730s and preceded a smaller (1733) version that is at Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam. The fair that is its subject was held each year at Bezons, a village near Versailles, on the first Sunday in September. On the occasion for an outing in the country when the weather was fine, this fair inspired a stage play, a ballet-pantomime, and, among other works of art, a painting that François Octavien (d. 1740) submitted to the French Academy in 1735 as his reception piece Pater was a pupil of Watteau, whose works was an inspiration in a large composition. A smaller version dated 1733 is at Sans-Souci, Potsdam. The group of commedia dell'arte players at the left in the middle distance, including the white-suited figure of Gilles, reappears in another painting by Pater entitled Procession of Italian Comedians like Frick Collection, New York. The principal dancer in the ballet-pantomime is Mademoiselle d'Angeville, a famous actress. The picture when noticed keenly, it is observed that just behind her and to the left are performers from the French and Italian comic theatres, including Pierrot, in a white suit and ruff; to the right, a costumed monkey performs on a stage. The audience comprises small figures, people from all classes of society, in contemporary dress, eating, drinking, and making music.In his own day, Pater's reputation was very nearly equal to his teacher's. Frederick the Great owned over forty of his paintings. Pater's masterpiece, probably dates to the beginning of the 1730s and preceded a smaller (1733) version that is at Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam. The fair that is its subject was held each year at Bezons, a village near Versailles, on the first Sunday in September.The picture describes an occasion for an outing in the country when the weather was fine, this fair inspired a stage play, a ballet-pantomime, and, among other works of art, a painting that François Octavien (d. 1740) submitted to the French Academy in 1735 as the principal dancer may be Mademoiselle d'Angeville, a famous actress. Just behind her and to the left are performers from the French and Italian comic theatres, including Pierrot, in a white suit and ruff; to the right, a costumed monkey performs on a stage. The audience comprises small figures, people from all classes of society, in contemporary dress, eating, drinking, and making music. The stone buildings and elegant ruins engulfed in dense foliage are imaginary, and typical of Pater's work, whatever his theme.
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Watteau and the Cultural Politics of Eighteenth-Century France:The most brilliant and original artists of the eighteenth century, Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) had an impact on the development of Rococo art in France and throughout Europe lasting well beyond his lifetime.The most delectable paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection is a smallish canvas of a man playing a guitar, seated on a stone bench in what seems to be a garden. His posture, the legs crossed, torso angled, head tipped back seems exaggerated. His clothes-a tight-fitting silk suit in marzipan-hued stripes, ruffled collar and cuffs, an enormous silk beret and matching cloak in deep rose-seem as extravagant. At first, we simply accept these qualities, fascinated by the ravishing color and the fluent touch that conjure up gleaming silk, softly gathered lace, tightly stretched stockings, and the crisp rosettes on narrow shoes. Gradually, though, we become aware of just how artificial everything about the elaborately dressed musician really is. His position becomes a pose, his gorgeous suit a costume, and the "garden" in which he plays his instrument a painted backdropLiving only thirty-six years, and plagued by frequent illness, Watteau nonetheless rose from an obscure provincial background to achieve fame in the French capital during the Regency of the duc d'Orléans. His paintings feature figures in aristocratic and theatrical dress in lush imaginary landscapes. Their amorous and wistful encounters create a mood but do not employ narrative in the traditional sense. During Watteau's lifetime, a new term, fete galante, was coined to describe them. Watteau was also a gifted draftsman whose sparkling chalk sheets capture subtle nuances of deportment and expression. Watteau's work was widely collected during his lifetime and influenced a number of other painters in the decades following his death, especially in France and England. His drawings were particularly admired. Documented facts about Watteau's life are notoriously few, though several friends wrote about him after his death (see Champion). Of over two hundred paintings generally accepted as his work.In 1709, Watteau tried to obtain the highly sought afterPrix de Rome. The Prix was an art scholarship toItaly. However, the Academy that decides the scholarship turned Watteau down. Not accepting failure as an option, Watteau applied himself to his craft even more and tried again for the prize in 1712. Watteau was surprised to find that the Academy now regarded his talent as being so great, that instead of offering him thePrix de Rome,they instead offered him a position as a full member of the Academy. To complete his membership, Watteau was required to create areception piece. It took him five years to complete, butPilgrimage to Cytheraor theEmbarkation for Cytheraturned out to be one of his most famous masterpieces. These two versions of the same painting epitomize French Rococo at its peak. The elegant men and women are displayed in their shimmering silks. All these details are indicative of the style of this movement. It was with this painting that Watteau became known as the painter of theFetes He was a celebrated painter in Paris. Today, he is generally considered to be the father of the rococo style because he developed thefête galante,'gallant party', as a subject; it became a hallmark of the era's painting. Watteau's work in particular and the rococo style in general, reflect a major transformation of the French art world. At the beginning of Watteau's lifetime, King Louis XIV (ruled 1643-1715) controlled the production of culture through the establishment of academies and state-supported patronage of the arts. By the time of his death, patronage of the arts had shifted to private individuals who were no longer interested in the highly didactic and often propagandistic art demanded by royal patronage. Although Watteau was a member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, it was a group of private collectors who collected his work and cultivated his reputation.Thefêtes galanteswere contemporary scenes of elegant men and women, usually in an outdoor setting and sometimes dressed in masquerade, engaged in conversation, flirtation, music making, and dancing. Watteau'sfêtes galanteswere intimate in scale; the pictures were the appropriate size to be enjoyed in a private space, rather than the monumental paintings of subjects taken from classical mythology and history that decorated the public spaces of Louis XIV's palaces. Thefêtes galantesmirrored the kinds of social activities enjoyed by Watteau's elite collectors and also reinforced their image of themselves.The appearance of some figures dressed in theatrical costumes and others in contemporary everyday garb is another trait of Watteau'sfêtes galantes.Watteau absorbed the theatrical milieu under the tutelage of his first teacher in Paris, Claude Gillot (1673-1722), who illustrated theatrical troupes. Claude Audran (1658-1734), who did decorative painting in the homes of Parisian high society, taught Watteau his highly ornamental style and introduced him to his future patrons. Watteau himself later had two students, Nicolas Lancret and Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Pater, who also specialized infêtes galantes.The paintingrepresents a lighthearted topic that was popular in theatrical and musical performance-a pilgrimage to Venus's Island of Cythera, where everyone would fall in love. In Watteau's painting, a statue of Venus indicates the pilgrims are on the island of Cythera. Three couples are arranged on a hillock and this can be read as a narrative of departure. The couple closest to the statue is most fully under Venus's spell of love; the next couple to the left is getting up, emerging from the spell of love; and the third couple is already standing. The woman glances back, as if wistfully remembering the spell of love already gone. On the other side of the hillock, a group of people heads toward a boat. Their pilgrimage is over and they will return to the real world. Watteau'sfêtes galanteshave often been characterized as melancholy, containing a subtext that alludes to the passing of love and of life.The passing of the era of King Louis XIV is represented in another of his celebrated works,The Signboard of Gersaint (1721, Staatliche Museum, Berlin). This work shows the interior of the shop of Watteau's friend, the art dealer Edmé Gersaint. On the left side, workmen pack away a portrait of Louis XIV, and the walls are covered with paintings representative of an older style associated with his reign. On the right side, elegantly dressed customers admire paintings representative of the new, or rococo, style preferred by elite private patrons. This painting also celebrates the collection and enjoyment of art, which had become part of the social rituals enacted among the elite.Watteau's paintings are often very witty. InThe Signboard of Gersaint,the painting of Louis XIV being stored not only represents the passing of an era, but is also a visual pun, referring to the name of Gersaint's shop, "The Grand Monarch." In Pilgrimage to Cythera,the cherubs who flutter above the ship cavort erotically, perhaps acting out what the more decorous pilgrims below are thinking about. Today, as in the eighteenth century, Watteau's works are highly prized. He managed to combine superb draftsmanship with deft painting to subtly represent facets of both the complex social life and the attitudes of those who came to dominate early modern European society.French literature of the 18th centuryusually refers to the literature written between 1715, the year of the death ofking Louis XIV of France and 1798, the year of the coup d'état which broof Bonaparte ought theconsulateto power, concluded theFrench revolution and began the modern era of French history. This century of enormous economic, social, intellectual and political transformation produced two important literary and philosophical movements. TheLumeires questioned all existing institutions, including the church and state, and applied rationalism and scientific analysis to society and a very different movement, then began the romantism that exalted the role of emotion in life. Watteau made important contributions to the art world. He is so well known for creating thefetes galantesthat many have failed to realize Watteau's role in developingchinoiseriesandsingeries. These decorations were based on oriental subject matter and variousmotifs. The design was then applied to various foundations, including panels,and porcelain. The contribution Watteau made to the world is noteworthy.