A Loan Exhibition of French Painting of the Time of Louis XIIIth and Louis XLVth: For the Benefit of the Caen Library Fund. May 9-June 1, 1946, at Wildenstein, New York

A Loan Exhibition of French Painting of the Time of Louis XIIIth and Louis XLVth: For the Benefit of the Caen Library Fund. May 9-June 1, 1946, at Wildenstein, New York

A Loan Exhibition of French Painting of the Time of Louis XIIIth and Louis XLVth: For the Benefit of the Caen Library Fund. May 9-June 1, 1946, at Wildenstein, New York

A Loan Exhibition of French Painting of the Time of Louis XIIIth and Louis XLVth: For the Benefit of the Caen Library Fund. May 9-June 1, 1946, at Wildenstein, New York

Excerpt

Only fifteen years ago our ideas about French painting of the 17th century were entirely different from those we have today. In the textbooks of history of art one found a synthesis such as the following. In that magnificent century which knew in Italy a Caravaggio and the Carracci, Dominechino and Reni, a Feti, a Rosa, a Magnasco; in Spain, Ribera and Velasquez, Murillo and Zurbaran; in Holland, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Ruysdael; in Flanders, Rubens, Jordaens, Van Dyck and Brouwer -- in that Europe passionately devoted to the realistic and lyrical painting which we call baroque, France occupied a special position. Hers was the only school of painting to restrain itself from an art fascinated both by the most crude aspects of life and by ecstatic visions. Her only preoccupation was the rejuvenation of the esthetics of the Italian Renaissance, that subtle equilibrium between respect for nature and its idealization, between life and style, which we call classicism. Later, France codified this artistic attitude in the teachings of the Academy. At the same time, she put this doctrine at the disposal of Louis XIV, modern ruler the most conscious of the use of artistic propaganda, and created the Versailles decorations, the pompous magnificence of which exemplify for the western imagination the very essence of royal art. Briefly speaking, the only painting worthy of historical mention in the France of the 17th century would have been the classic and the official painting, with its masters, Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorrain and Charles Le Brun.

Since the middle of the 19th century, however, it has been observed in France, that in the time of Louis XIII and Louis XIV there were painters of quality whose art did not correspond to this definition. The names and works of the brothers Antoine, Louis and Mathieu Le Nain, who painted peasant scenes comparable to those of the Flemings and the Dutch, were discovered.

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