Friday, March 14, 2014

The Salon Doré to reopen in April

Of of all the museums in the Bay Area, the Legion of Honor gives the strongest sense of being both French and 18th century. Of course it is not; the Legion's beautiful Beaux arts building was build to commemorate Californian soldiers who died in World War I.

But so much in the collection is French and is reminiscent of the arts of living in 18th century France (if you were an aristocrat or/ had lots of money).

There is Francois Boucher's delicious painting of Marie-Louise O’Murphy, one of the many young mistresses of Louis XV.


Their collection of 18th century English and French porcelain

Prints such at Jean-Guillame Moiette's "Sacrafice to Diana." Pen and brown ink with white heightening on blue paper (later 18th century). Below

Or this anonymous drawing of a graceful beauty, red ink on cream laid paper.

Denis-Jean de La Villgueray may have been one of the urbane elite that visited the salon; we will never know.

Jean-Antoine Watteau (French, 1684–1721). The Foursome (La Partie Quarrée), ca. 1713. Oil on canvas. Museum purchase, Mildred Anna Williams Collection. 1977.8 

Ranked among the greatest artists of France, Jean-Antoine Watteau’s enigmatic themes were popular, influential, and widely collected during his lifetime. Born in Valenciennes, then part of Flanders, his intensely personal style was informed by the Venetian masters, whom he studied in Paris, and by a deep affinity for music and theater.

In this painting, known as a fête galantes, the artist evokes an arcadian dreamland of music, conversation and amorous dalliance. Although the work’s title can be defined simply as a party with two couples, the risqué implications of The Foursome remains unchanged from the eighteenth century. This union of observation and fantasy, plus ambiguity of intent and erotic connotations is characteristic of Watteau’s best work.

Dalliance in the salon? Mais bien sûr! As well as politics, witty repartee and all the arts that made this era so delicious for the privileged.

But, lacking Dr. Who's telephone box or a time travel machine,  being at the Legion and walking through the elegant rooms is one of the only ways we have to mentally reconstruct that world at it's most gilded and sumptuous.

2 comments:

Rubye Jack said...

The Legion of Honor is one of my favorite museums. Compared with the DeYoung or MOMA, the Legion is a relaxing look at fine art; whereas the other two always cause a bit of anxiety for me because of all the traffic and sheer size.

Namastenancy said...

I always plan my visits to large museums in advance. It's easy to be exhausted by walking through gallery after gallery. I find that especially true at SFMOMA since so much of their collection is over-sized, modern and ..well, does not speak to me.

But I love the Legion. Since I don't have a car, it's a bit difficult to get to but worth the trip.