Donald Schrader headshot

Love in the art of the ancient régime (or Love in the Art of 18th Century France)

Request Program

Soon after ascending the throne at age 13, King Louis XV of France decided to abandon governance in favor of a life of sensual pleasures, to be enjoyed with his wife, mistresses official and unofficial, and countless encounters with young adventuresses brought to him from many parts of his country.  The formalities and complexities of love, legitimate and otherwise, among the aristocracy were brilliantly reflected in the works of the three greatest painters of the 18th century.  Antoine Watteau, a Fleming whose success caused him to be ‘acclaimed’ to membership in the Royal Academy, portrayed an idealized and lyrical vision is bucolic settings, called the fête gallante; François Boucher, a bourgeois Parisian who had nearly every official honor bestowed upon him, painted the frank and unrestrained hedonism of his time; and Honoré Fragonard, from Grasse in the South, turned his back entirely on the public art establishment, painting risqué scenes of contemporary love exclusively for private clients.  In this lecture we will introduce these great formulators of the rococo style, and investigate the meanings and public reception of their work for a society approaching its doom.