Friday, June 6, 1986
The Michigan Daily
Aristocrats frolic at D.I.A.
By Lisa Leavitt
M ADAME Pompadour, while ele-
gantly resting within her
bedroom, stares with mysterious,
deep green eyes that reflect her
elaborate emerald freen gown. While
she reclines in a seductive feminine
pose amid a lavish array of pink
flowers and frilly ribbons, she never-
theless shields the observer from
seeing her true personality. Her
aristocratic presence, her grace, her
averted eyes all suggest an artificial
woman placed in a make-believe
This quality extends throughout the
art of Francois Boucher. As an 18th
century French court painter, he
chronicles, with some added'
imaginations of his own, the ar-
tificiality, the beauty and sensuality,
and the infinite wealth that was
present with the aristocracy
before the French Revolution.
This new exhibition at The Detroit
Institute of Arts surveys his career,
including a diverse collection of his
paintings, sketches, porcelain
statuettes, and Chinese tapestries.
Within the various media lie different
subject matter including portraits,
landscapes, religious and
mythological compositions, and
genre scenes that take a particular
moment of everyday living and
brings it to life on canvas.
Boucher is most famous for his
pastoral scenes that involve
theatrical views of landscape and
beautiful women. While he can be seen
as an artist who looks through rose- her virginity and can be seen
colored glasses and paints sugary- throughout his works.
sweet fluff, more credit should be A surprising addition to the exhibit
given to him; and this exhibit is a rare is Boucher's sketches and full scale
opportunity to do so. tapestries of Chinese life. At this
The viewer may see perfect lan- time, the aristocracy was fascinated
dscapes with elaborately dressed and by all things Chinese so Boucher im-
aristocratic women sitting elegantly mersed himself in his idea of what
on a rock as if they were sitting in their China was like and recreated it. What
palatian home. There is nothing little was known of Chinese culture
rustic and powerful involved; the and dress he elaborated on to show a
beauty is the focal point. The por- fantasy world of the East.
traits of the court women are very In fact, Boucher took license with
sensual and show their feminine all of his subjects. He elaborated
qualities excessively, making them beauty, he imagined erotic scenes, he
seem unreal or plastic. The fact that idealized women, all in order to make
he is preoccupied with the erotic is reality prettier and to produce a
shown through voluptuous nude ladies desire and an awe in the observer.
frolicking within a perfect landscape Though there is an underlying truth of
of a blue sky and pine green trees. French culture embodied in each of
These excerpts of court life may his works, Boucher distorts this truth
seem a bit too perfect. And they are, and adds his own vision of how the
Boucher deliberately invented a fan- culture should be.
tasy world where goddesses and With the onslaught of the French
biblical heroes, nymphs and shepher- Revolution, Boucher's reputation was
desses are far removed from reality demolished. Art moved to a stage
and depicted as perfect beings where real social issues and reform
existing in the perfection of nature: were depicted. The frilly and super-
The infinite beauty of the landscape. ficial world of the court were unin-
He paints like in the time of Louis XV teresting to the hard-working
by recreating the French culture, bourgeois public. 'The provocative
their morals, their style but with an world of Louis XV's France and the
added touch. He, as part of the privileged aristocracy were unim-
bourgeoisie, adds an ideal quality to portant. Nevertheless, now, an ad-
everything he creates for the court miration for Boucher within the con-
aristrocracy. text of his era and its culture can be
"Diana at the Bath" is one of the found and appreciated.
most celebrated of Boucher's works. This exhibit will be at the
He is said to have invented her sly and Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200
mischievous pose. Pearls dangle at Woodward, through August 17,
her side and in her hair and elegantly 1986. Hours are 9:30-5:30 on
gleam under the sunlight. Her Tues. through Sun,
delicate features and soft fleshy skin
emphasize her grace and her
feminity. The caged animals at her
side are metaphors for questions of
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This Portrait of Mme. Bergert from 1746 displays both the court life of
18th Century France and an ethereal looking aristocratic lady--both
favorite subjects of painter Fiancois Boucher. His paintings are curren-
tly on display at the D.I.A. in Detroit.
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