Anecdotes of Painting in England: With Some Account of the Principal Artists - Vol. 2

By Horace Walpole | Go to book overview
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[ANTOINE] WATTEAU.

(1684—1721,)

England has very slender pretensions to this original and engaging painter, he having come hither only to consult Dr. Meade, for whom he painted two pictures, that were sold in the doctor's collection. 1 The genius of Watteau resembled that of his countryman, D'Urfé: the one drew and the other wrote of imaginary nymphs and swains, and described a kind of impossible pastoral, a rural life led by those opposites of rural simplicity, people of fashion and rank. Watteau's shepherdesses, nay, his very sheep, are coquet ; yet he avoided the glare and clinquant of his countrymen; and though he fell short of the dignified grace of the Italians, there is an easy air in his figures, and that more familiar species of the graceful which we call genteel.

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1
The subjects of these pictures, a "Pastoral Conversation" (2 feet by 2 feet 6 inches), and "a Company of Comedians," of the same size. The first mentioned was sold for 40, and the other for 50 guineas. Dr. Meade, who had paid him for them, even still more liberally, received him into his house, and restored him to temporary health, There are two of his best performances in the Dulwich Gallery. His genius, likewise, led him to caricature. The late Mr. C. Rogers had two coloured drawings, of a painter and a sculptor personified by monkeys. These have been twice engraved—D.

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