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Exhibitions | Past

Rococo and Revolution: Eighteenth-Century French Drawings
October 2, 2009, through January 10, 2010


Antoine Watteau (1684–1721)
Seated Young Woman, ca. 1716
Black, red, and white chalk
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911; I, 278a

See selected images from the exhibition »

Rococo and Revolution: Eighteenth-Century French Drawings features more than eighty exceptional drawings almost exclusively from the Morgan's renowned holdings. The efflorescence of the ancien régime and its eventual downfall provide the backdrop to a century of remarkable artistic vitality and variety that subtly chronicles the many changes taking place in eighteenth-century France. Artists represented in the exhibition include Antoine Watteau, Jacques-Louis David, François Boucher, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Claude Gillot, Nicolas Lancret, Hubert Robert, Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, Anne-Louis Girodet, and Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, among others.

The royal court and wealthy Parisian merchants defined the artistic sensibility of the early decades of the century. This exuberant style, called rococo, eventually assimilated the burgeoning classicism of the Enlightenment. Later, a more formally austere Neo-classicism developed with the triumph of "reason" and the stirrings of the Revolution.

The Rococo initially flourished during the waning years of Louis XIV's reign (r. 1661–1715) and serves as a starting point for the exhibition. Works by artists active at the French Academy in Rome during its greatest years, coinciding with the rule of Louis XV (r. 1715–1774), document the robust role of drawing in artistic practice during mid-century. The exhibition concludes with works executed during the last decades of the ancien régime, under Louis XVI (r. 1774–1792), and the onset of the Revolution, as artists embraced the rigorous Neo-classical style. Contextually, the exhibition also touches on developments and changes in patronage, fashion, theater, and literature in Paris at this time.

This exhibition is made possible by a generous gift from an anonymous donor. Additional support was provided by Nancy Schwartz, Mr. and Mrs. James M. Vaughn, Jr., and Stephen A. Geiger.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.