France • 1684−1721
Jean Antoine Vatto (fr. Jean Antoine Watteau, October 10 (christening day) 1684, Valenciennes - July 10, 1721, Nogent-sur-Marne) - an outstanding French painter and draftsman of the beginning of the XVIII century, the ancestor of the new genre of “gallant festivities” (fetes galantes), which became the prologue for the emergence of rococo style in European art.

Features of the artist Antoine Watteau. He became the first (both in meaning and chronology) the artist of the time, who is called "Gallant century" or, according to the apt expression from a poem by Valery Bryusov, "The age of vanity marquis". Frivolous ladies and their absent-minded gentlemen, melancholic musicians, street vendors and actors - these are the heroes of Watteau, whom he portrays with every possible grace and subtle psychologism, but without a shadow of coarse expose typical of genre painting. The paintings of Watteau are not so much narrative as atmospheric - the mood in them is more important than the plot, the subtext is more important than intrigue, emotion is more important than action. The feeling of the fleeting and short duration of happiness, the hidden sadness makes us talk about "Melancholic realism vatto". Watteau's drawing is always light, dynamic, his lines are whimsical and melodic. Watte was the first to identify the rococo colors: avoiding contrasting combinations and local colors, he preferred rich, complex and subtlely refined harmonies of shades, made multi-layered glazes, and created a special shimmering texture. Despite rejection and misunderstanding on the part of many contemporaries and closest descendants (Diderot declared that "I am ready to give a dozen watts for one Teniers"and French students of the end of the century who preferred heroic painting Jacques-Louis David, once they threw the canvas of Watteau with bread balls), now the work of Antoine Watteau is recognized as one of the peaks of art of the XVIII century; as a draftsman and colorist, he outstripped his time - the influence of Vatto is noticeable not only in the painting of his compatriots Boucher and Fragonarabut also Hogarth, Reynolds, GojiRomantic artists.

Famous paintings by Antoine Watteau: "Gilles", "Metzceten", "Capricious", "Departure to the island of Citer", "Gerssen Shop".

In mid-July 1721, a 36-year-old consumptive died in one of the houses of the Paris suburb of Nogent-sur-Marne. He was lying on a bed in the country house of a certain Mr. Lefebvre, a dark personality known in the circles of the Parisian nobility as "the organizer of the king's little pleasures." Mutual friends brought the patient the night before, and the burnt-out Lefebvre immediately realized: not a tenant! On the pale, with a green face, there was a characteristic, unnaturally bright blush. “It's like a theatrical make-up!” Thought Lefebvre unwittingly, recalling Colombin, Metzcetenov and Pierrot from the paintings of his resident, known to all of Paris.

Between the bouts of an exhausting tuberculous cough, my friends implored the dying person to partake. The village priest brought a crucifix to his lips. “Remove! - Antoine Vatto shouted hysterically (it was he). - Your crucifix hurts me! How can you depict the Lord so flat and rude! .. ”

Nervous, unsteady, sometimes hilarious, but still strange - this is how Paris remembered Antoine Watteau. It is surprising that this madcap and misanthrope had so many influential friends, and his paintings were particularly light and idle and elegant. To determine their unprecedented genre, they even had to invent a special name - "Gallant festivities". But only descendants will be able to fully appreciate the innovation of Antoine Watteau as an artist. His genius will literally dream romantics and symbolists, Charles Baudelaire and Paul Welen. And Marcel Proust will say that Watteau and La Tour have done more for the glory of France than all the revolutionaries put together.

Jean Antoine Vatto was born in 1684 in the provincial town of Valenciennes, famous for its amazing lace. His father, Jean Philippe, had nothing to do with art or lace: he was a roofer, worked conscientiously, earned good money and, sometimes, getting drunk at the end of the working week, beat his wife Michelle, who bore him four children. It is all the more incredible that his father, a rude and absurd man, was the first to discern Antoine's talent.

The teenage wattett's favorite pastime was to sit in the town square with a pencil and draw stray actors who made fun of the crowd. In Valenciennes was the municipality, and when the municipality was registered full-time artist, Jacques Guerin. To him, Father Watteau gave his son to study. No good came of this: the apprentice was trusted only to plant paints, but Guerin did not become soon. Watteau intended to find a more suitable teacher for himself. But here my father resisted: how much can idlely hang around in the square and stare at comedians? Is it time to learn the real male profession? Roofer, for example.

But Jean Philippe Watteau did not know that his son was no less self-righteous and stubborn than himself. One day, without warning anyone, Antoine went to Paris. He walked there on foot, and the wind whistled in his pockets. Looks like Watteau was expecting the life of a street tramp. And indeed, in his first capital year, the next founder of the "royal style" rococo spent almost all the time in the open air, and hid from the bad weather under the arches of Notre Dame de Paris.

Around the Cathedral crowded shops mediocre bogomasov. For a modest fee, superstitious pilgrims bought up images of the saints there. Desperate to find a decent job, Antoine Vatto engaged in one of these shops. He got the hang of writing Nicholas, the most commercially sought after saint, and then he joked: “I studied his face so much that I could write Nicholas with my eyes closed - for this I don’t even need the original”.

Three francs a week plus a daily bowl of soup — that was the income of the artist, and there was no laughing matter. But the case intervened.

By some miracle, the sketches of a 20-year-old Watteau fell into the hands of a famous French decorator. Claude Gillo. They were not so similar to the daubing of artisans from the bridge of Notre Dame, that Gillot immediately suggested to Vatto the place of his assistant. And Antoine, without hesitation, agreed: to paint theatrical scenery and decorate the city carnivals was to his liking. An experienced and successful Gillo brought him to the people, provided customers and acquaintances. But the day came when the teacher and the student quarreled. The reason for the gap is still unknown. Throughout their lives, both of them tried not to even mention each other's names in conversations.

Probably, the artist noticed that Gillo began to feel jealous of him and criticize what he wrote. Watteau was extremely demanding of himself, but did not tolerate someone else’s intervention in what he was doing. They say that once he presented his miniaturist friend with a job. And when he began to argue that, from his point of view, he should have been corrected in the picture for maximum perfection, Watto grabbed a rag with oil and in an instant he erased the entire paint layer from the picture.

And yet Watteau was incredibly lucky with his friends. After Gillot, his patron became the hereditary painter and curator of the collection of the Luxembourg Palace, Claude Audran. He attracted Watteau to the design of the royal residences at Versailles and Fontainebleau. And in the Luxembourg Palace, the artist met with a rare Rubens series dedicated to Marie de Medici. Watteau had loved the Flemish before, but Rubens shook him and “plowed”. When another of his friends, Abbot Noarter, presented the original Rubens as a gift to the artist, Vatto experienced almost religious ecstasy: “I lost peace. My eyes are constantly looking for a picture that I erected on an easel, as on a lectern ... "

And Antoine Vatto passionately dreamed of getting to Rome. To do this, he even 25 years old, stepping over the pride and complexes, announced to participate in the competition for aspiring artists, announced by the Academy. Alas, he was awarded only a gold medal. And Antoine Grisons went to Rome, who took the grand prix. He will no longer be glorified by anything - history has preserved his name only because he once walked around the great Watteau.
Antoine was in Paris in an era that would later be called timelessness and decline of style. The royal court was rapidly losing credibility and influence. Classicism of the XVII century breathed its last. But what did this mean for artists?

Only that it was necessary to build a new coordinate system, look for those ideas that could truly inspire. Heroism and pathos no one else attracted. The royal court ceased to be a trendsetter. None of the artists did not want to become the epigon of classicism. Nobody believed in "big ideas."

The shallowed cultural life has shifted from the palaces to the nobility estates, with their lovely amusements such as home performances and flirting interspersed with the playing of music. "The unbearable lightness of being" became a symbol of the era. And yet - it became the main theme of the work of Watteau. "Seducer", "Yoke", "Capricious" - these are his heroes. In the paintings of Antoine Watteau, someone is courting ("A challenging offer"), someone is jealous ("Two cousins"), someone tingles the strings of a guitar and stares at the neckline ("Love Song"), and someone is a big company rushes to the search for love ("Departure to the island of Citer"). All this in aggregate was called the “gallant festivities” - a new genre that opened the doors to a new style - Rococo.

When, after thirty, Watteau becomes very rich, he will no longer think about Rome. Contrary to common sense and the expectations of friends, having grown rich, he went not to Italy, but to England. It was in Bohemian London Watte that the taste of recognition was fully felt. However, society turned out to be more favorable to it than nature. Dank British climate sharpened consumption. The disease has progressed. Deadly sick Watteau returned to Paris.

Biographers are silent on the personal life of the master. About her almost nothing is known. In 2007, the French made an exquisite and boring film “The Secret of Antoine Watteau” about the artist’s alleged love for actress Comedie Francaise Charlotte Demar, a mysterious woman present on many Watteau paintings and always depicted from the back.

But all his life, even being famous and rich, Watteau preferred to live "on the edge of another's nest." Arriving from England a year before his death, he stops at an art dealer, a certain Gersen. He had a shop with a loud name "The Great Monarch". Watteau himself volunteered to write a sign for the shop. He worked in the morning, and after dinner, exhausted by coughing, collapsed exhausted. And yet, only a famous one appeared in the week. "Gerssen Shop" - her picky Watteau considered the best of all his paintings.
Germain will be the first (and very tactful!) Biographer of his early deceased friend. However, we have already said that Antoine Watteau had surprisingly been lucky with his friends throughout his short life.

Author: Anna Yesterday
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