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CHARDIN ***




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MASTERPIECES
IN COLOUR
EDITED BY
T. LEMAN HARE

CHARDIN




IN THE SAME SERIES

ARTIST. AUTHOR.

VELAZQUEZ. S. L. BENSUSAN.
REYNOLDS. S. L. BENSUSAN.
TURNER. C. LEWIS HIND.
ROMNEY. C. LEWIS HIND.
GREUZE. ALYS EYRE MACKLIN.
BOTTICELLI. HENRY B. BINNS.
ROSSETTI. LUCIEN PISSARRO.
BELLINI. GEORGE HAY.
FRA ANGELICO. JAMES MASON.
REMBRANDT. JOSEF ISRAELS.
LEIGHTON. A. LYS BALDRY.
RAPHAEL. PAUL G. KONODY.
HOLMAN HUNT. MARY E. COLERIDGE.
TITIAN. S. L. BENSUSAN.
MILLAIS. A. LYS BALDRY.
CARLO DOLCI. GEORGE HAY.
GAINSBOROUGH. MAX ROTHSCHILD.
TINTORETTO. S. L. BENSUSAN.
LUINI. JAMES MASON.
FRANZ HALS. EDGCUMBE STALEY.
VAN DYCK. PERCY M. TURNER.
LEONARDO DA VINCI. M. W. BROCKWELL.
RUBENS. S. L. BENSUSAN.
WHISTLER. T. MARTIN WOOD.
HOLBEIN. S. L. BENSUSAN.
BURNE-JONES. A. LYS BALDRY.
VIGÉE LE BRUN. C. HALDANE MACFALL.
J. F. MILLET. PERCY M. TURNER.
CHARDIN. PAUL G. KONODY.

_In Preparation_

MEMLINC. W. H. JAMES WEALE.
ALBERT DÜRER. HERBERT FURST.
FRAGONARD. C. HALDANE MACFALL.
CONSTABLE. C. LEWIS HIND.
RAEBURN. JAMES L. CAW.
BOUCHER. C. HALDANE MACFALL.
WATTEAU. C. LEWIS HIND.
MURILLO. S. L. BENSUSAN.
JOHN S. SARGENT, R.A. T. MARTIN WOOD.

AND OTHERS.


[Illustration: PLATE I. - STILL-LIFE. (Frontispiece)

(In the Louvre)

This "Still-Life," which is among the fine array of Chardin's pictures
at the Louvre, affords a striking illustration of the master's supreme
skill in rendering the surface qualities, textures, plastic properties,
and mutual colour relations of the most varied objects and substances,
such as porcelain, metals, linen, foodstuffs, wood, and so forth. The
composition is somewhat overcrowded, and lacks the sense of order in the
apparent disorder, that is so typical of Chardin's still-life
arrangements.]




CHARDIN

BY PAUL G. KONODY

ILLUSTRATED WITH EIGHT
REPRODUCTIONS IN COLOUR

[Illustration: IN SEMPITERNUM.]

LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK
NEW YORK: FREDERICK A. STOKES CO.




CONTENTS


Page
I. 9

II. 36

III. 46




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


Plate
I. Still-Life Frontispiece
In the Louvre

Page
II. La Fontaine, or the Woman Drawing Water 14
In the National Gallery, London

III. L'Enfant au Toton, or the Child with the Top 24
In the Louvre

IV. Le Bénédicité, or Grace before Meat 34
In the Hermitage Collection at St. Petersburg

V. La Gouvernante, or Mother and Son 40
In the Collection of Prince Liechtenstein in Vienna

VI. La Mère Laborieuse 50
In the Stockholm Museum

VII. Le Panneau de Pêches, or the Basket of Peaches 60
In the Louvre

VIII. La Pourvoyeuse 70
In the Louvre


[Illustration]




I


Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin occupies a curious position among the
artists of his time and country. His art which, neglected and despised
for many decades after his death, is now admitted by those best
competent to judge to be supreme as regards technical excellence, and,
within the narrow limits of its subject matter, to possess merits of far
greater significance than are to be found in the work of any Frenchman,
save Watteau, from the founding of the school of Fontainebleau to modern
days, is apt to be regarded as an isolated phenomenon, un-French, out of
touch, and out of sympathy with the expression of the artistic genius of
eighteenth-century France. A grave misconception of the true inwardness
of things! Rather should it be said that Chardin was the one typically
French painter among a vast crowd of more or less close followers of a
tradition imported from Italy; the one painter of the actual life of his
people among the artificial caterers for an artificial and often
depraved and lascivious taste; a man of the people, of the vast
multitude formed by a homely, simple bourgeoisie; painting for the
people the subjects that appealed to the people.

In order to understand the position of Chardin in the art of his country
it is necessary to bear in mind that the autochthonous painting of
France, the real expression of French genius, was from its early
beginnings closely connected with the art of the North, and not with
that of Italy. The style of the early French miniaturists of the
Burgundian School, of Fouquet and of Clouet, is the style of the North;
their art is interwoven with the art of Flanders. When in the time of
François I. the School of Fontainebleau, headed by Primaticcio and
Rosso, promulgated the gospel that artistic salvation could only be
found in the emulation of Raphael and the masters of the late Italian
Renaissance, and of the Bolognese eclectics; when finally degenerated
painters like Albani were held up as example, official art became
altogether Italianised and stereotyped; and the climax was reached with
the foundation of the School of Rome by Louis XIV. But, though
officially neglected and looked upon with disfavour, the national
element was not to be altogether crushed by the foreign importation.
Poussin remained French in spite of Italian training, and held aloof
from the coterie of Court painters. Jacques Callot carried on the
national tradition, though as a satirist and etcher of scenes from
contemporary life, rather than as a painter. And the Netherlands
continued directly or indirectly to stir up the sluggish stream of
national French art - directly through Watteau, who, born a Netherlander,
became the most typically French of all French painters; indirectly,
half a century earlier, through the brothers Le Nain, who drew their
subjects and inspiration from the North and their sombre colour from
Spain; and afterwards through Chardin, whose style was so closely akin
to that of the Flemings that, when he first submitted some pieces of
still-life to the members of the Academy, Largillière himself took them
to be the work of some excellent unknown Flemish painter.

What are the qualities that raise Chardin's art so high above the showy
productions of the French painters of his generation, placing him on
a pedestal by himself, and gaining for him the respect, the admiration,
the love of all artists and discerning art lovers? Why should this
painter of still-life and of small unpretentious domestic genre pieces
be extolled without reservation and ranked among the world's greatest
masters?

[Illustration: PLATE II. - LA FONTAINE (THE WOMAN DRAWING WATER)

(In the National Gallery, London)

"La Fontaine," or the "Woman Drawing Water," is one of the two examples
of Chardin's art in the National Gallery. It is the subject of which
probably most versions are in existence, and figured among the eight
pictures sent by the master to the Salon of 1737, the first exhibition
held since 1704, and the first in which Chardin appeared as a painter of
genre pictures. The original version, which bears the date 1733, is at
the Stockholm Museum, and other replicas belong to Sir Frederick Cook in
Richmond, M. Marcille in Paris, Baron Schwiter, and to the Louvre. The
picture was engraved by Cochin.]

The question finds its simplest solution in the fact that all great and
lasting art must be based on the study of Nature and of contemporary
life; that erudition and the imitation of the virtues of painters that
belong to a dead period never result in permanent appeal, especially if
they find expression in the repetition of mythological and allegorical
formulas which belong to the past, and have long ceased to be a living
language. Chardin's art is living and sincere, with never a trace of
affectation. In his paintings the most unpromising material, the most
prosaic objects on a humble kitchen table, the uneventful daily routine
of lower middle-class life, are rendered interesting by the warming
flame of human sympathy which moved the master to spend his supreme
skill upon them; by the human interest with which he knew how to invest
even inanimate objects. No painter knew like Chardin how to express in
terms of paint the substance and surface and texture of the most varied
objects; few have ever equalled him in the faultless precision of his
colour values; fewer still have carried the study of reflections to so
fine a point, and observed with such accuracy the most subtle nuances of
the changes wrought in the colour appearance of one object by the
proximity of another - but these are qualities that only an artist can
fully appreciate, and that can only be vaguely felt by the layman. They
belong to the sphere of technique. The strong appeal of Chardin's
still-life is due to the manner in which he invests inanimate objects
with living interest, with a sense of intimacy that enlists our sympathy
for the humble folk with whose existence these objects are connected,
and who, by mere accident as it were, just happen to be without the
frame of the picture. Perhaps they have just left the room, but the
atmosphere is still filled with their presence.

If ever there was a painter to whom the old saying _celare artem est
summa ars_ is applicable, surely it was Chardin! A slow, meticulously
careful worker, who bestowed no end of time and trouble upon every
canvas, and whom nothing but perfection would satisfy, he never
attempted to gain applause by a display of cleverness or by technical
fireworks. The perfection of the result conceals the labour expended
upon it and the art by means of which it is achieved. And so it is with
the composition. His still-life arrangements, where everything is
deliberate selection, have an appearance of accidental grouping as
though the artist, fascinated by the colour of some viands and utensils
on a kitchen table, had yielded to an irresistible impulse, and
forthwith painted the things just as they offered themselves to his
delighted vision. How different it all is to the conception of
still-life of his compatriots of the "grand century" and even of his own
time! It was a sad misconception of the function and range of art that
made the seventeenth century draw the distinction between "noble" and
"ignoble" subjects. When they "stooped" to still-life it had to be
ennobled - that is to say, precious stuffs, elegant furniture, bronzes
and gold or silver goblets, choice specimens of hot-house flowers, and
such like material were piled up in what was considered picturesque
abundance - and the whole thing was as theatrical and tasteless and
sham-heroic as a portrait by Lebrun, the Court favourite. Even the Dutch
and Flemish still-life painters of the period, who had a far keener
appreciation of Nature, catered for the taste that preferred the display
of riches to simple truth. Their flowers and fruit were carefully chosen
faultless specimens, accompanied generally by costly objects and stuffs;
and on the whole these large decorative pieces were painted with
wonderful accuracy in the rendering of each individual blossom or other
detail, but with utter disregard of atmosphere. It has been rightly said
that these Netherlanders gave the same _kind_ of attention to every
object, whilst Chardin bestowed upon the component parts of his
still-life compositions not the same kind, but the same _degree_ of
attention. And above all, whilst suggesting the texture and volume and
material of each individual object with faultless accuracy, Chardin
never lost sight of the ensemble - that is to say, the opposition of
values, the interchange that takes place between the colours of two
different objects placed in close proximity, the reflections which
appear not only where they would naturally be expected, as on shiny
copper or other metals, but even those on comparatively dull surfaces,
which would probably escape the attention of the untrained eye. Chardin
looked upon everything with a true painter's vision; and his brush
expressed not his knowledge of the form of things, but the visual
impression produced by their ensemble. He did not think in outline, but
in colour. If proof were needed, it will be found in the extreme
scarcity of sketches and drawings from his hand. Only very few sketches
by Chardin are known, and these few proclaim the painter rather than the
draughtsman.

Still, having pointed out the gulf that divides our master from the
still-life painters of the _grand siècle_, it is only right to add that
he did not burst upon the world as an isolated phenomenon, and that
painters like Desportes and Oudry form the bridge from Monnoyer, the
best known of the French seventeenth-century compilers of showy
monumental still-life, to Chardin. Monnoyer belongs to a time that knew
neither respect nor genuine love for Nature and her laws. He simply
followed the rules of the grand style, and had no eye for the play of
reflections and the other problems, which are the delight of the
moderns - and Chardin is essentially modern. Monnoyer's son Baptiste, and
his son-in-law Belin de Fontenay did not depart from his artificial
manner. But with Oudry, in spite of much that is still traditional in
his art, we arrive already at a new conception of still-life painting.
In a paper read by this artist to the Academy he relates how, in his
student days, when asked by Largillière to paint some flowers, he placed
a carefully chosen, gaily coloured bouquet in a vase, when his master
stopped him and said: "I have set you this task to train you for colour.
Do you think the choice you have made will do for the purpose? Get a
bunch of flowers all white." Oudry did as he was bid, and was then told
to observe that the flowers are brown on the shadow side, that on a
light ground they appear in half tones, and that the whitest of them are
darker than absolute white. Largillière then pointed out to him the
action of reflections, and made him paint by the side of the flowers
various white objects of different value for comparison. Oudry was not
a little surprised at discovering that the flowers consisted of an
accumulation of broken tones, and were given form and relief by the
magic of shadows. Both Oudry and Desportes did not consider common
objects unworthy of their attention, and in this way led up to the type
of work in which Chardin afterwards achieved his triumphs.

[Illustration: PLATE III. - L'ENFANT AU TOTON (THE CHILD WITH THE TOP)

(In the Louvre)

"L'Enfant au Toton" ("The Child with the Top") is the portrait of
Auguste Gabriel Godefroy, son of the jeweller Godefroy, and is the
companion picture to the "Young Man with the Violin," which represents
the child's elder brother Charles. The two pictures were bought in 1907
for the Louvre, at the high price of 350,000 francs. "L'Enfant au Toton"
was first exhibited at the Salon of 1738, and was engraved by Lépicié in
1742. A replica of the picture was in the collection of the late M.
Groult. It is one of Chardin's most delightful presentments of innocent
childish amusement, and illustrates at the same time the master's
supreme skill in the painting of still-life.]

Chardin's still-life pictures never appear to be grouped to form
balanced arrangements of line and colour. The manner how the objects are
seen in the accidental position in which they were left by the hands
that used them holds more than a suggestion of genre painting. Indeed,
it may be said that all Chardin's still-life partakes of genre as much
as his genre partakes of still-life. A loaf of bread, a knife, and a
black bottle on a crumpled piece of paper; a basket, a few eggs, and a
copper pot, and such like material, suffice for him to create so vivid a
picture of simple home life, that only the presence of the housewife
or serving-maid is needed to raise the painting into the sphere of
domestic genre. Sometimes this scarcely needed touch of actual life is
given by the introduction of some domestic animal; and in these cases we
already find a hint of that unity of conception which in Chardin's genre
pieces links the living creature to the surrounding inanimate objects.
Take the famous "Skate" at the Louvre. On a table you see an earthen
pot, a saucepan, a kettle, and a knife, grouped in accidental disorder
on a negligently spread white napkin on the right; on the left are some
fish and oysters and leeks, and from the wall behind is suspended a huge
skate. A cat is carefully feeling its way among the oyster-shells,
deeply interested in the various victuals which it eyes with eager
longing. Even more pronounced is this attitude of interest in Baron
Henri de Rothschild's "Chat aux Aguets." Here a crouching cat, half
puzzled, half excited, is seen in the extreme left corner, crouching in
readiness to spring at a dead hare that is lying between a partridge and
a magnificent silver tureen, and is obviously the object of the feline's
hesitating attention.

It is this complete absorption of the protagonists of Chardin's
genre scenes in their occupations or thoughts that fills his work
with such profound human interest. Chardin is never anecdotal, never
sentimental - in this respect, as well as in the solidity of his
technique, and in his scientific search for colour values and
atmosphere, he is vastly superior to Greuze, whose genre scenes are
never free from literary flavour and from a certain kind of affectation.
Nor does Chardin ever fancy himself in the rôle of the moralist like our
own Hogarth, with whom he has otherwise so much in common. He looks upon
his simple fellow-creatures with a sympathetic eye, watching them in the
pursuit of their daily avocation, the women conscientiously following
the routine of their housework or tenderly occupied with the education
of their children, the children themselves intent upon work or
play - never posing for artistic effect, but wholly oblivious of the
painter's watching eye. Chardin was by no means the first of his
country's masters to devote himself to contemporary life. Just as Oudry
took the first hesitating steps towards the Chardinesque conception of
still-life, so Jean Raoux busied himself in the closing days of the
seventeenth century with creating records of scenes taken from the daily
life of the people, but he never rid himself of the sugary affected
manner that was the taste of his time. It was left to Chardin to
introduce into the art of genre painting in France the sense of
intimacy, the homogeneous vision, the atmosphere of reality which we
find in such masterpieces as the "Grace before Meat," "The Reading
Lesson," "The Governess," "The Convalescent's Meal," "The Card Castle,"
the "Récureuse," the "Pourvoyeuse," and the famous "Child with the Top,"
which, after having changed hands in 1845, at the time when Chardin was
held in slight esteem, for less than £25, was recently bought for the
Louvre, together with the companion portrait of Charles Godefroy, "The
Young Man with the Violin," for the enormous price of £14,000.

In the case of each of these pictures the first thing that strikes your
attention is the complete absorption of the personages in their
occupation. In the picture of the boy building the card castle you can
literally see him drawing in his breath for fear of upsetting the
fragile structure which he is erecting. You imagine you can hear the
sigh of relief with which the "Pourvoyeuse" - the woman returning from
market - deposits her heavy load of bread on the dresser, whilst the
sudden release of the weight that had been supported by her left arm
seems to increase the strain on her right. How admirable is the
expression of keen attention on the puckered brow of the child who in
"The Reading Lesson" tries to follow with plump finger the line
indicated by the school-mistress; or the solicitude of the governess
who, whilst addressing some final words of advice or admonition to the
neatly dressed boy about to depart for school, has just for the moment
ceased brushing his three-cornered hat. There is no need to give further
instances. In all Chardin's subject pictures he opens a door upon the
home life of the simple bourgeoisie to which he himself belonged by
birth and character, and allows you to watch from some safe hiding-place
the doings of these good folk who are utterly unaware of your presence.

Having devoted his early years to still-life, and his prime to domestic
genre, Chardin lived long enough to weary his public and critics, and to
find himself in the position of a fallen favourite. But though his
eyesight had become affected, and his hands had lost the sureness of
their touch, so that he had practically to give up oil-painting, he
entered in his last years upon a short career of glorious achievement
in an entirely new sphere - he devoted himself to portraiture in pastel,
and gained once more the enthusiastic applause of the people, even
though the critics continued to exercise their severe and prejudiced
judgment, and to blame him for that very verve and violence of technique
which later received the Goncourt brothers' unstinted praise. "What
surprising images. What violent and inspired work; what scrumbling and
modelling; what rapid strokes and scratches!" His pastel portraits of
himself and of his second wife, and his magnificent head of a jockey
have the richness and plastic life of oil-paintings, and have indeed
more boldness and virility than the work even of the most renowned of
all French pastellists, La Tour. In view of their freshness and vigour,
it is difficult to realise that they are the work of a suffering
septuagenarian.

The mention of the hostility shown by Chardin's contemporary critics
towards the system of juxtaposing touches of different colour in his
pastels, opens up a very interesting question with regard to the
master's technique of oil-painting and of the eighteenth-century
critics' attitude towards it. There is no need to dwell upon the comment
of a man like Mariette, who discovers in Chardin's paintings the signs
of too much labour, and deplores the "heavy monotonous touch, the lack
of ease in the brushwork, and the coldness of his work" - the "coldness"
of the master who, alone among all the painters of his time and country,
knew how to fill his canvases with a luscious warm atmosphere, and to
blend his tones in the mellowest of harmonies! "His colour is not true
enough," runs another of Mariette's comments.

[Illustration: PLATE IV. - LE BÉNÉDICITÉ (GRACE BEFORE MEAT)

(In the Louvre)

"Le Bénédicité," or "Grace before Meat," is perhaps the most popular and
best known of all Chardin's domestic genre pieces. It combines the
highest technical and artistic qualities with a touching simplicity of
sentiment that must endear it even to those who cannot appreciate its
artistry. Several replicas of it are known, but the original is probably
the version in the Hermitage Collection at St. Petersburg. The Louvre
owns two examples - one from the collection of Louis XV., another from
the La Caze Collection. This latter version appeared three times in the
Paris sale-rooms, the last time in 1876, when it realised the sum of
£20! Another authentic replica is in the Marcille Collection, and yet
another at Stockholm.]

Let us now listen to Diderot, though in fairness it should be stated


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