JEAN ANTOINE WATTEAU EXHIBITION OF DRAWINGS
AT THE ROYAL ACADEMY PICCADILLY LONDON
In the small galleries at the top of Royal Academy building, is a collection of drawings in conté crayon by Jean Antoine Watteau, French artist working mainly in Paris in 18th Century.
Drawings are small, of course, and were used as working sources by the artist who apparently kept them in bound volumes. Interesting to read that he worked on the drawings ‘without any specific painting in mind’. In another part of the galleries I read ‘he rarely made compositional studies’.
There are no paintings in the exhibition but you can see them at the Wallace Collection in London, and of course if you can travel, in other collections in cities such as Paris and Berlin.
Particularly compelling and engaging are the drawings of young women and girls. Heads predominate but there are quite a few full length.
I read that Watteau ‘rarely used drawing to sketch compositional ideas for paintings’ . I tend to believe that most artists do so (sketch a painting out first, I mean, if it is a representational painting).
Also he grouped the figures ‘so as to accord with a landscape background that he had already conceived or prepared”; this suggests that he worked up the background of his painting and then used figures from his drawing collection to people the landscape.
He is renowned for fetes champetres, where the courtly collection of ladies and gentlemen, in silks and satins, desport themselves pleasurably in idyllic surroundings.