Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), Interior of a Park: The Gardens of Villa d’Este.

The Rococco Movement and Events in 18th
Century France

Few eras in French history witnessed the same degree of radical social and political changes as those of the eighteenth century. The efflorescence of the ancien régime and its eventual downfall provide the backdrop to a period of remarkable artistic vitality and variety that subtly chronicled the many changes taking place in France.

The show features more than 80 exceptional drawings almost exclusively from the Morgan’s renowned holdings from this era. Artists represented in the exhibition include Antoine Watteau, Jacques-Louis David, François Boucher, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Claude Gillot, Nicolas Lancret, Hubert Robert, Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, Anne-Louis Girodet, and Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, among others.

The royal court and wealthy Parisian merchants defined the artistic sensibility of the century’s early decades. This exuberant style, called Rococo, eventually assimilated the burgeoning classicism of the Enlightenment. Later, with the triumph of “reason” and the stirrings of the Revolution, a more formally austere Neoclassicism developed.

The Rococo initially flourished during the waning years of the reign of Louis XIV (r. 1661-1715), and serves as a starting point for the exhibition. Works by artists active at the French Academy in Rome during its greatest years, coinciding with the rule of Louis XV (r. 1715-1774), document drawing’s robust role in artistic practice during mid-century. The exhibition concludes with works executed during the last decades of the ancien régime, under Louis XVI (r. 1774-1792), and the onset of the Revolution, as artists embraced the rigorous Neoclassical style. Contextually, the exhibition also touches on concurrent developments in Parisian patronage, fashion, theater, and literature.

“The Morgan’s collection of 18th-century French drawings is truly remarkable for its quality and depth,” said William M. Griswold, director of the Morgan. “This survey offers some of the finest works in the collection, distinctive as individual sheets of superb quality and reflective as a whole of changes in tone, temperament, and subject matter, as French art and society moved in dramatic new directions.”

During the opening years of the eighteenth century, academic traditions yielded increasingly to a preference for spontaneity, charm, and subjects that celebrated the pleasures of love and everyday life. The first and greatest master of this new sensibility, later dubbed the Rococo, was Antoine Watteau (1684-1721). Among the several Watteau drawings in the exhibition is a drawing of a seated young woman executed in trois crayons—a technique revived by the artist that would remain popular throughout the eighteenth century in which red, black, and white chalks are used to produce images of striking vivacity and immediacy. The exhibition also includes a lively pair of chalk figure studies by Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743), Watteau’s closest contemporary.

François Boucher (1703-1770), who succeeded Watteau as the most fashionable Rococo painter, was a prolific draftsman, once boasting that he had produced some 10,000 drawings. He favored a drawing style that emphasized sinuous contours, exploiting Watteau’s technique of using multiple chalks. Boucher’s technique and mastery of a variety of media are seen to brilliant advantage in Adoration of the Shepherds, a richly worked, tender Nativity scene; Four Heads of Cherubim, a quintessential study of cherubic heads for a painting; Thatched Mill Cottage and Shed with Two Trees at the Edge of a Stream, a picturesque landscape; and the sumptuously decorative Design for Frontispiece.

Drawings by Boucher’s contemporary and rival — and a key figure at the French Academy in Rome — Charles Joseph Natoire (1700-1777), include a dynamic figure study of a Camel Driver, and a pair of sheets depicting views from the upper and lower portions of the cascade at the Villa Aldobrandinini, Frascati.

Jean Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), Boucher’s and Natoire’s protégé, was the last great artist of the ancien régime.

Rococco and Revolution >

Bita Fayazzi, Road Kill, 1997.

Bita Fayyazi, what is Art, but the Making of the Work
Rearranged: Selected Works from 1998 to 2014, surveys and reinterprets the career of Bita Fayyazi. The show is conceived by Rokni and Ramin Haerizadeh. Rearranged refers to several iconic moments in the artist’s career to describe her performative and markedly social practice.

Bita Fayyazi >>

Iwan Baan, Amateur Architecture Studio, NingBo History Museum. © Iwan Baan. detail.

A Look at the Roots of the Chinese Phenomenon
The 21st century promises to be more Chinese than ever. The wealth of oriental tradition and the economic great power of 2009 both attract the West. And yet it remains quite tricky to see beyond the facade, the clichés, and the preconceptions.

China in Belgium >>

Jinbaori (surcoat) with Dutch sailing ships, Edo period, 18th century, Wool and crepe, detail.

Samurai, 700-year Japanese Martial Culture
Art of the Samurai: Japanese Arms and Armor, 1156-1868 brings together 214 masterpieces, including 34 National Treasures, 64 Important Cultural Properties, and six Important Art objects, a number of which have never traveled outside Japan.

Art of the Samurai >>

John Cage, M: Writings, '67-'72, 1973 (interior spread). Published by Wesleyan University Press, detail.

John Cage's Chicago Projects at MCA
MCA DNA: John Cage, mounted for Cage’s centenary year, traces the productive, 25-year relationship of the celebrated avant-garde composer/artist with the MCA through works in the collection as well as archival materials. MCA DNA: John Cage is curated by MCA Curator Lynne Warren.

John Cage >>

Litarary and
and Graphic Synthesis before the Graphic Novel

This exhibition highlights the work of four authors who, thanks to their audacious illustrations and narratives, were instrumental in the development of the comic strip by expanding the art form beyond the realm of children. It will take place in the impressive setting of the Centre For Fine Arts in Brussels.

In the mid-1960s, the four artists in question found their inspiration in painting (including the Pop Art movement), cartoons (Yellow Submarine, etc.), cinema, music (anything from rock to innocent French 'Yé-yé' pop), literature and photography. Through the eyes of these four major artists, the exhibition will attempt to paint a picture of an era that saw many changes in quick succession.

Guido Crepax (1933-2003), an Italian, created Valentina, whose physique was inspired by the actress Louise Brooks, in 1965 for the publication Linus. Éric Losfeld, an avant-garde publisher, put out the album in 1968.

Right from the start, Crepax was considered an undisputed master of highbrow eroticism. The following decade, this top-flight graphic artist would adapt, in an inimitable black and white, the great classics of eroticism: Histoire d’O, Emmanuelle and Justine. His layouts included a revolutionary narrative system consisting of stories within stories and flashbacks.

Belgian Paul Cuvelier (1923-1978) was a leading post-war Belgian comic-strip artist. His Corentin gives us little glimpses, from time to time, of a sensuality that would be expressed later in a more adult work.

Jean Van Hamme, then just starting out as a scriptwriter, drafted Epoxy (1968) for the artist. In this mythological tale, Cuvelier finally and fully expressed his passion for drawing the human body, especially the female form. Indeed, drawing would remain a central part of his comic books.

In 1962, Frenchman Jean-Claude Forest (1930-1988) initiated a shockwave by creating Barbarella in V-Magazine. The character, whose physique was inspired by Brigitte Bardot’s, embodied modern woman during a period of sexual liberation. Seen by some as scandalous, the album that appeared in 1964 turned Barbarella into the first-ever "adult" comic.

Before the Graphic Novel >

Valentina © Crepax.