Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (French: [ʃaʁdɛ̃]; 2 November 1699 – 6 December 1779) was an 18th-century French painter. He is considered a master of still life, and is also noted for his genre paintings which depict kitchen maids, children, and domestic activities. Carefully balanced composition, soft diffusion of light, and granular impasto characterize his work.
|Jean-Siméon Chardin, Le Faiseur de Châteaux de Cartes (Boy Building a House of Cards), 1735 at Waddesdon Manor|
Chardin's work had little in common with the Rococo painting that dominated French art in the 18th century. At a time when history painting was considered the supreme classification for public art, Chardin's subjects of choice were viewed as minor categories.
Largely self-taught, Chardin was greatly influenced by the realism and subject matter of the 17th-century Low Country masters. Despite his unconventional portrayal of the ascendant bourgeoisie, early support came from patrons in the French aristocracy, including Louis XV. Though his popularity rested initially on paintings of animals and fruit, by the 1730s he introduced kitchen utensils into his work (The Copper Cistern, ca.1735, Louvre). Soon figures populated his scenes as well, supposedly in response to a portrait painter who challenged him to take up the genre. Woman Sealing a Letter (ca. 1733), which may have been his first attempt, was followed by half-length compositions of children saying grace, as in Le Bénédicité, and kitchen maids in moments of reflection. These humble scenes deal with simple, everyday activities, yet they also have functioned as a source of documentary information about a level of French society not hitherto considered a worthy subject for painting. The pictures are noteworthy for their formal structure and pictorial harmony.
Chardin has said about painting, "Who said one paints with colors? One employs colors, but one paints with feeling."
"To see Chardin's work en masse, in the midst of a period stuffed with every kind of jerky innovation, narcissistic blurting and trashy "relevance," is to be reminded that lucidity, deliberation, probity and calm are still the chief virtues of the art of painting." From Robert Hughes, "Nothing If Not Critical”