Claude Gillot: Satire in the Age of Reason

February 24 through May 28, 2023
Two rickshaw drivers face off in argument while their passengers make gestures, with buildings in the background.

Around 1700, as an increasingly pious Louis XIV withdrew to Versailles, Paris flourished. The dynamic artistic scene included specialists such as Claude Gillot (1673–1722) who forged a career largely outside of the Royal Academy, designing everything from opera costumes to tapestries. Known primarily as a draftsman, Gillot specialized in scenes of satire. He found his subjects among the irreverent commedia dell’arte performances at fairground theaters, in the writings of satirists who waged the Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns, and in the antics of vice-ridden satyrs whose bacchanals exposed human folly. Gillot’s amusing critiques and rational perspective heralded the advent of the Age of Reason while his innovative approach attracted the most talented artists of the next generation, Antoine Watteau and Nicolas Lancret, to his studio.

With over seventy drawings, prints, and paintings, including an exceptional contingent from the Louvre, Claude Gillot: Satire in the Age of Reason explores the artist’s inventive and highly original draftsmanship and places his work in the context of the artistic and intellectual activity in Paris at the dawn of a new century.

Claude Gillot: Satire in the Age of Reason is made possible by The Florence Gould Foundation, and by generous support from the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust and the Alex Gordon Fund for Exhibitions. Additional support is provided by Diane A. Nixon, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, Lionel Sauvage, Dr. Joan Taub Ades, Hubert and Mireille Goldschmidt, and Janet Mavec.

Claude Gillot, Scene of the Two Carriages, ca. 1710-12. Oil on canvas. Département des peintures, Musée du Louvre, Paris; RF2405.