Painting the bourgeois life

COMMON TOUCH The Silver Goblet, a still life painting by the 18th Century artist Jean-Baptiste-Sim�on Chardin

COMMON TOUCH The Silver Goblet, a still life painting by the 18th Century artist Jean-Baptiste-Sim�on Chardin  

Jean-Baptiste-Sim�on Chardin, son of a cabinetmaker, celebrated everyday life in his paintings

While France was caught up in the ornate twirls of historic themes and aristocrats gambolling in the frames of rococo painting, there was an artist, Jean-Baptiste-Sim�on Chardin (1699-1779), who celebrated everyday life in bourgeois Paris. Born on November 2, 1699, in Paris, Chardin was the son of a cabinetmaker.

Though he studied under Pierre Cazes and Nicolas Coypel, it was the 17th Century Dutch masters who influenced him the most and he devoted himself to the study of simple subjects and common themes. Chardin was admitted to the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1728.

His paintings are characterised by subdued colours and mellow lighting. He used thick, layered brush strokes and luminous glazes to create a realistic texture. His subjects have a feel of being captured in time. In Pierre Rosenberg's words: "The world that Chardin imposes on his figures is a closed world, a stopped world... a world at rest, a world of infinite duration."

He had many patrons, including King Louis XV, who gave him an apartment in Louvre and a pension. From 1734 to 1751, he painted scenes from everyday life before turning his attention to still life paintings.

Between 1771 and 1775, due to failing eyesight he drew portraits in pastel crayons, which though not very popular then, are now considered the finest of their kind.

He died in Paris on December 6, 1779 and has influenced founders of modern art like C�zanne, Matisse and Braque. Vincent Van Gogh even compared Chardin to Rembrandt.

Chardin's passion for honesty in the face of the opulence of the time drew admiration from thinkers like Denis Diderot who wrote: "Welcome back, great magician, with your mute compositions! How eloquently they speak to the artist! How much they tell him about the representation of nature, the science of colour and harmony! How freely the air flows around these objects!"


Recommended for you