Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin. Part 3 – Retours de chasse and Genre works.

During the last years of the 1720’s and the early part of the 1730’s Chardin completed many paintings which were termed as retours de chasse, literally meaning returns from the hunt, paintings which depicted the animals killed by hunters and the instruments used for the kill. Although such sights of dead animals may not be popular during our time now, they were very sought after during Chardin’s time and during the seventeenth century in the Netherlands.

Still Life with Hare by Chardin (1730)

One such painting is his work Still Life with Hare which he completed around 1730 and can be found in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The first interesting thing to note about this painting is that there is no geometrical demarcation of the background wall and the surface on which the hare lies. Neither the wall nor the surface are marked in any way other than the shadow cast by the paws and body of the dead animal. The depiction is all about the dead animal and the items used to kill it and bring it home. It is some ways a minimalistic depiction which simply depicts the hare lying on top of a game bag next to a powder flask tied with a dark blue ribbon, both of which were his own props and appear in other works. Once again take time to examine the animal and the number of shades of brown Chardin has used in its depiction.

Two Rabbits with Game Bag, Powder Flask and Orange by Chardin (1728)

Two other Chardin’s retours de chasse works are thought to be pendant pieces which he completed in 1728. In the painting, Two Rabbits with Game Bag, Powder Flask and Orange, our eyes immediately focus on the Seville orange in the left foreground which is illuminated by a shaft of light emanating from the left. Once our focus leaves the orange it moves upwards towards the two dead wild rabbits, the powder flask and the game bag which are painted with a mixture of dirty whites, grey, cream, and beige and highlighted in blue. On the stone surface we glimpse at a few wisps of straw.

Partridge, Bowl of Plums and Basket of Pears by Chardin (1728)

The pendant piece is Partridge, Bowl of Plums and Basket of Pears. The grey partridge is depicted secured by a large nail to the wall in front of a stone alcove. On a stone ledge in the middle and foreground we can see a plethora of fruit and vegetables all of which have been meticulously painted. There is a large basket of pears, a bowl of plums, two peaches, one of which has had a chunk removed, two figs, some blackberries and some sticks of celery all of which are placed on two levels. The colour palette used is a mass of sumptuous colours and tones and is much richer than its companion piece. Again, in this work the light source is to the left of the depiction which links the two pictures. Like its companion painting, it is one you need to study carefully and take in the colours, shapes and shadows Chardin has given to the work. Both paintings are part of the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe, Germany.

The Water Spaniel by Chardin (1730)

Around 1733 Chardin changed his painting style from works of still-life which depicted inanimate objects to genre painting. Why did Chardin change his style? Maybe the reason was given by comments made by Pierre-Jean Mariette, a collector of and dealer in old master prints, a renowned connoisseur, especially of prints and drawings, and a chronicler of the careers of French, Italian and Flemish artists. He tells the tale of Chardin being at his friend’s house, the French Rococo painter, Joseph Aved, when a lady called. Mariette continues with the story:

“…One day a lady came to find M. Aved to request him to do her likeness; she wanted it to extend as far as her knees and claimed that she could afford to pay only four hundred livres. She left without a deal being struck for, although M. Aved was not as busy as he has been since, her offer seemed to him to be far too modest. M. Chardin, on the contrary, urged him not to waste the opportunity and tried to demonstrate that four hundred livres was a reasonable payment for someone who was not yet very well known. ‘Yes’ said Aved, ‘if a portrait was as easy to do as a saveloy.’ He said this because M. Chardin was engaged in painting a picture for a fire screen in which he was depicting a saveloy on a dish. Aved’s remark made a strong impression on Chardin; he took it as the truth rather than jest and began seriously to re-examine his career…”

Chardin’s thought process made him realise that the public would soon tire of his inanimate still-life and his retours de chasse works. He was also wise enough to understand that to turn his attention to painting live animals he would put himself up against the leaders in that field, François Desportes and Jean-Baptiste Oudry and he would struggle to compete and sell such works. His decision to change genres was two-fold. Firstly, there was the financial aspect as he knew that there would be plentiful profit from prints made from his genre scenes whereas nobody ever made prints of still-life works. Secondly, there was the artistic argument for him to change genre. His still-life works were classed by the French Academy as the lowest in the hierarchy of artistic genres whereas the status of genre scenes which included human figures was much higher in the hierarchy and portraiture which Chardin started to do in 1734 was even higher up in the artistic pecking order. Maybe part of the reason could have been that Chardin no longer felt fulfilled with his still life works.

The Draughtsman or Young Student Drawing by Chardin (c.1734)

One of Chardin’s most famous works was a small work (21 x 17cms) in the style of Dutch cabinet paintings entitled Young Student Drawing, often referred to as The Draughtsman. The work is housed in the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Chardin returned to the composition repeatedly over a twenty-year period, and completed no fewer than twelve versions, which illustrates how important the subject was to him. We see a young draughtsman from behind. He is seated on the ground with his legs wide apart, wearing a tricorn hat. He is copying in red chalk the figure of a male nude which is pinned to the wall in front of him. Again, look at the details of the work. The boy’s overcoat is torn on the left shoulder and through the hole we glimpse the red of his suit. Our eyes are immediately drawn to this spot of red.  On the floor we can see a knife which the young man has used to sharpen his pencils and leaning against the wall to the right we can see a stretcher and a bare canvas. Through this work, Chardin seems to have been making a comment on the arduous process of artistic training followed by the French Academy. Chardin used to copy his teacher’s academic studies just as the young man in the painting is doing. Chardin recalled his early training with Pierre-Jacques Cazes when he was a young boy:

“…We were set at the age of seven or eight with pencil holder in hand……We spent long hours bent over our portfolio…..We spent five or six years drawing from the model…..The eye has to be taught to look at nature…”

Woman Sealing a Letter by Chardin (1733)

In 1733 Chardin completed his genre work entitled Woman Sealing a Letter which is housed at Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin. It is a large painting (146 x 147cms) and was the largest work Chardin had attempted. Was this choice of size a way of Chardin showing the public what he was capable of producing? Engravings were made of this painting in 1738 and it was the earliest engraving made of a painting by Chardin. The lady holds her letter which she has just written in one hand whilst the other holds sealing wax and she awaits impatiently for her servant to light the candle which will in turn melt the wax and seal the letter. Our eyes are immediately drawn to the white envelope and the red sealing wax. Women and letter writing were a popular motif in the seventeenth century Netherlandish paintings and maybe Chardin had seen some examples. The painting depicts an affluent woman in a wealthy setting but soon Chardin veered towards portraying more modest folk in their domestic settings. This painting was exhibited at the Place Dauphine, Paris in 1734 and at the Salon in 1738.

Prime examples of Chardin genre paintings depicting a poor household are his 1733 work entitled The Washerwoman and Woman Drawing Water at the Cistern both of which are housed at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm. These two paintings have been classified of works of Intimism, a French term which is applied to paintings and drawings of quiet domestic scenes. The Washerwoman which Chardin completed in 1733 was one of sixteen paintings by him which were exhibited in June 1734, at the Exposition de la Jeunesse in place Dauphine in the French capital.

The Washerwoman by Chardin (1733)

The Washerwoman when first exhibited was, because of its beautiful rendering of the contrast of the colours and textures, billed as a work in the style of the Flemish 17th-century artist David Teniers the Younger. It was later exhibited at the 1737 Paris Salon, where some critics even likened his style to that of Rembrandt. Chardin was undoubtedly inspired by Rembrandt’s honest descriptions of household chores. In the work we see a servant engaged in the servile, domestic chores of the household. The woman is depicted scrubbing the washing in a large wooden wash bucket. Chardin has portrayed her in full-face albeit gazing away from her work. She seems preoccupied almost as if something has distracted her attention, or maybe she has been depicted in an instant of idle daydreaming.

Woman Drawing Water at the CisternBy Chardin (1733)

The other work classed as one of a pair with The Washerwoman was his painting Woman Drawing Water at the Cistern.  Here we see everyday chores in a kitchen far away from the rooms occupied by the master and mistress. We see a female servant, who because of her pose and the large bonnet she is wearing, has her face hidden from view. She is bent over filling a jug from a large copper urn. To the left of the urn we can see a side of meat hanging from a hook. Behind her there is a doorway through which we can see another servant clasping the hand of a small child. Once again, several of the objects depicted came from Chardin’s home, such as the copper cistern.

An Old Peasant caresses a Kitchen Maid in a Stable by David Teniers the Younger (c.1650)

The beautiful rendering of the contrast of the colours and textures has been compared with works by Flemish masters such as David Teniers the Younger.

Carl Gustaf Tessin, one of the most brilliant personages of his day, and the most prominent representative of French culture in Sweden was tasked by the Swedish Court to purchase the two works on behalf of Crown Prince Adolf Fredrik and his future wife, Lovisa Ulrika at a Paris auction in 1745.

..…….. to be continued.

A Winter Scene with a Man Killing a Pig by David Teniers the Younger

A Winter Scene with a Man Killing a Pig by David Teniers II (c.1650)

I think there is an adage, or maybe it was just advice I was once given, that says you should be happy with what you have or maybe it was that you should just want what you have.  There is certainly an element of truth in that as I can always remember a disastrous policy my former company brought out in making it known to all the employees what each person earned by publishing the grades of each employee and having a separate list of salary against each grade.  Up to that point nobody knew what each other earned and most people had, until then,  been reasonably happy with their remuneration but once they found out what their colleagues earned there were unmerciful screams around the building.

So what has all this got to do with art?  The reason I bring this up is that as I told you the other day I went to see the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London and a large number of them focused on winter in Canada.  The winter scenes were well executed and very lifelike.  However the problem came when I decided to have a look around the rest of the Gallery and its permanent collection and came across a winter landscape by David Teniers the Younger and really, in my mind, it was in a different class to those of the Canadian artists.  I was completely amazed by the works of the Canadian artists until my eyes focused on Teniers’ work.  Of course, by now you know I love Dutch and Flemish art and therefore I am slightly biased with my comparison but I thought I would let you compare the two styles and see what you think.

David Teniers the Younger was born in Antwerp in 1610.  His father was David Teniers the Elder, also an artist, as were his son David Teniers III and grandson, David Teniers IV.  His artistic connections don’t end there as his wife, Anna, was the daughter of Jan (Velvet) Brueghel the Elder and granddaughter of the Master himself, Pieter Bruegel the Elder. His initial art training came from his father whose artistic talent would soon be eclipsed by his son, who would become the most famous, most revered and most prolific of the Teniers’ family of artists.  Adriaen Brouwer, who at the time was well known and well loved for his everyday scenes,  greatly influenced Teniers during his early career as did Rubens who was his wife-to-be’s guardian.  At the age of twenty-two he was registered in the Antwerp Guild of St Luke and would later become deacon of that painter’s association.

In 1637 he married Anna Brueghel.   The major part of Anna’s dowry was made up of pictures and drawings completed by her grandfather, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and her father, Jan Brueghel.  Teniers spent much time studying these beautifully crafted works of art and they proved to be significant in the development of Teniers’s genre painting.  In the year of his marriage to Anna Breughel, Teniers painted his first genre work entitled Peasant Wedding, which hangs in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.  It was the period between 1640 and 1650 that art historians believe Teniers produced his finest works.  His expertise at depicting village scenes with large crowds of people, often in an open landscape was breathtaking.  There was often an element of humour in his paintings and warmth in the way his characters were depicted on his canvases.  In many of his works one could recognise the influence of the Bruegel family.

In 1651, David Teniers and his family moved to Brussels and besides carrying on his own art business he took up the post of court painter and the director of the art gallery of the Spanish governor-general, Archduke Leopold-Wilhelm.  If you look back to My Daily Art Display of January 18th you will see a painting Teniers completed entitled Archduke Leopold William in his Gallery at Brusselswhich precisely documented some of the famous works from the Archduke’s collection. Whilst looking after this vast collection Teniers made many small-scale individual copies of paintings in the Duke’s collection by foreign artists, especially the paintings of the Italian Masters. Of these, two hundred and forty-four were engraved in 1660 under the title Theatrum Pictorium. 

On the death of the Archduke Leopold-Wilhelm his successor, Don Jon of Austria continued to employ Teniers as court painter and in 1663 Teniers founded the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp which still exists and is one of the oldest of its kind in Europe.  David Teniers the Younger was a highly productive artist and when he died in 1690, he left more than two thousand works.  Most of the major galleries of the world exhibit a number of his works.  He was an extremely good businessman and was highly liked by the aristocracy.  Teniers knew the type of art the people liked and was very astute when it came to following the latest fashions and whims of his clients.   His art work covered numerous subjects from portraits and religious scenes to genre pictures and still-life paintings.  Teniers died at the age of seventy-nine in Brussels, five years after the death of his eldest son, David Teniers III.

The featured work for My Daily Art Display today is a painting David Teniers the Younger completed around 1650 and is entitled A Winter Scene with a Man Killing a Pig.  The painting is amazing.  It just glows in front of your eyes.  An art historian and contemporary of Teniers summed up the beauty of this painting when he wrote:

“…For the richness of his golden and silvery light, for the delicacy of his vivid colours there is only one word, and that word is ‘magical…”

Before us we see a winter landscape and in some ways reminiscent of Teniers’ wife’s grandfather, Pieter Brueghel’s work, Hunters in the Snow another winter landscape painting completed almost a hundred years earlier.  As well as being a landscape painting it is also a genre picture which does not offer us an idealized landscape, but instead provides us with a window for us to see real people getting on with their daily lives in a real setting.  Snow lies deep on the ground and by the looks of the dark clouds there is more snow to come.  Look how the artist depicts the rays of weak sunlight forcing their way through the clouds to light up the frosty winter scene.

Work on the farms almost came to a halt at wintertime giving time to the peasants to take the break from working the fields and well-earned time to sleigh and skate.  To the left of the painting we see some houses.  In front of the nearest house, a pig is about to be slaughtered.  Although we may cringe at the depiction of the killing it should be remembered that in Teniers time this would be a common practice.  It marked a time of celebration and we see emerging from the end house, a woman carrying a baby and an old man, dressed in black, leading out a young child so they could witness the scene.  The butcher kneels on the animal while a woman holds out a pan to collect the blood. Every part of the carcass will be used.  The children would be given the pig’s bladder so that they could blow it up and use it as a ball.  The skin, once the hair had been singed off it, would be used as a kind of leather, maybe for shoes.  The flesh from the large animal would provide meat for their meals all the way to Lent, at which time, the staple food would switch to fish until the end of the “fast” and the arrival of Easter.

So now you have seen an early twentieth century Canadian winter scene and a mid-seventeenth Dutch winter scene and I will let you choose which you prefer

Archduke Leopold William in his Gallery at Brussels by David Teniers the Younger

Archduke Leopold William in his Gallery at Brussels by David Teniers the Younger (1651)

The other day whilst researching the family tree of the Bruegels I came across the Teniers, an artistic family who had a connection with Peter Bruegel as David Teniers the Younger was married to Anna Brueghel, the daughter of Jan Brueghel the Elder and granddaughter of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. 

David Teniers the Younger, a Flemish artist of the Baroque period, was born in Antwerp in 1610.  His father David Teniers the Elder, his son and his grandson were also celebrated artists.   However he has always been looked upon as the most accomplished painter of the Teniers’s dynasty.   He was a prolific painter with over two thousand pictures attributed to him.  He was influenced by the Flemish painter Adriaen Brouwer.   Many of his greatest works were completed between 1640 and 1650.  He painted almost every genre of picture but his favourite appears to be that of peasant life.  A century later a number of these paintings were made into designs for tapestries.  Like his wife’s grandfather, Pieter Bruegel the Elder David Teniers the Younger was a master of portraying crowd scenes with each of his figures displayed with a tender, human and often amusing touch.   A good example of that would be a painting he completed in 1646 entitled The Village Fête

David Teniers married Anna Brueghel in 1637.  In 1647 he and his family moved to Brussels and became the court painter and the keeper of the art collections of the then regent of the Netherlands, the archduke Leopold William,  who was a great art lover and who spent an immense fortune in acquiring paintings.  He was by far the most important collector of paintings among the Habsburgs.  Whilst curator of the royal art gallery he took time to make small-scale paintings of some of the works in the gallery by the foreign artists, especially those of Italian artists, for use by engravers who produced the illustrations.  He painted many views of Leopold William’s picture gallery and today’s offering for My Daily Art Display is one he painted in 1651 entitled Archduke Leopold William in his Gallery in Brussels, which portrays  the archduke along with his paintings in a fictionalized gallery setting and which now hangs in the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna.

Leopold William is portrayed on a visit to his own gallery accompanied by his courtiers and Teniers himself.  These “gallery interiors”, a traditional genre in the Netherlands, were sent as gifts to other princely collections.   Today’s painting was owned by Leopold William’s brother, Emperor Ferdinand III, in Prague.  There are fifty one Italian paintings depicted in this picture, some of which have had their proportions altered to achieve an impression of decorative profusion.  They are from the collection of the Duke of Hamilton, from whom Leopold William had purchased them, shortly before this painting was commissioned.    Most of the paintings are now housed in the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna.

I wonder how many you can recognise.