Wednesday, October 10, 2012
October 10 is the birthdate of Jean-Antoine Watteau, one of the most brilliant and original painters of the 18th century. He lived only 36 years but affected the development of Rococo art in France and all of Europe, even sowing seeds of what became Impressionism. Rising from the provinces to fame in Paris during the Régence of the duc d'Orléans, he often painted aristocratic figures in lush, idyllic scenes (the term “fête galante” was coined to describe them) that betrayed a modern sense of sober melancholy and the ultimate futility of life. Curiously, Watteau’s art appears prominently in Stanley Kubrick's “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Barry Lyndon.” Pictured: detail, “Mezzetin” (1718-20), a commedia dell'arte character. This painting was once owned by Catherine the Great.