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Jean-Etienne
Liotard
Switzerland 
1702−1789
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Jean-Étienne Lyotard (Jean-Etienne Liotard, December 22, 1702 — June 12, 1789) — one of the most sought-after European portrait painters of his era, an outstanding pastelist.

Features of the work of Jean-Etienne Lyotard. The artist owned all the materials, including enamel and oil, but he achieved the greatest virtuosity in pastel work. He beautifully conveyed the texture of fabrics, details and cut of clothes, and therefore his paintings are an excellent report on the fashion of that time. On the portraits of Liotar, the models are depicted on a simple background with characteristic lighting and surprisingly truthful. Many works made on vellum paper look smooth, like porcelain ones. The paper processing recipe found in the artist’s notes included pumice and fish glue. In several cases, the master worked on a specially prepared canvas.

Famous paintings by Jean-Étienne Leotard: "Beautiful chocolate", "Dutch girl at breakfast", "Portrait of Marie Farg, the artist’s wife","Marie-Frederike van Ried-Atlone at the age of seven","Still Life with Tea Service"

Self-taught and failure Avimelech

Jean-Étienne Lyotard was the youngest son of a merchant from Montelimar who settled in Geneva. He began training with miniatures and enamel painting, and at the age of 21 he went to Paris, where he entered the engraver’s workshop for three years. Jean-Baptiste Masse. Perhaps it was there that he saw the worksRosalba Carriera and Jean-Marc Nattier, but, apparently, he was not attracted by the fate of a copyist.

It seems that Lyotard did not complete the traditional French studies and by 1726 worked independently. In 1732 he put his painting "The High Priest Abimelech Giving David the Goliath Sword" to the competition at the Academy of Painting and Sculpture. At that time, the 30-year-old Swiss was already much older than most of the laureates: Francois Boucher,Charles-Joseph Natoire andCharles-André van Loo became winners before reaching the age of 21. But, in any case, a rather wooden (judging by the surviving old photograph) work on a religious theme did not bring a prize to its author.

From that period, little has come down to our days. There are much more enamel and oil works than pastels, and the undated portrait of Jean Dacier.

A pound of sequins

After failures in Paris in 1735, Lyotard went to Rome, Naples and Florence. In Italy, he attracted the attention of Viscount Duncannon, who invited the artist on a trip to the Levant, as the Middle Eastern countries were then called. During his four-year stay in Constantinople, the painter adapted to local customs and began to dress "in Turkish." Many art critics subsequently tried to find the Eastern influence on the work and character of the master. It can be said that this distracted attention from his true genius, whose roots were firmly rooted in the portrait traditions of Western Europe.

In addition, the "image of the Turk" played a big role in the development of Lyotard’s popularity in Europe, whose inhabitants were susceptible to such exotic things.

In 1743, after a trip to Moldova, Lyotard went to Vienna, where he had tremendous success at the court and wrote the imperial family. In the same place, as most art critics believe, the famous "Beautiful Chocolate Woman" was created, which the artist brought to Venice. The picture is so impressed Francesco Algarotti, agent of the kings of Prussia Frederick II and Poland August III of Saxon, that he bought pastels for 120 workshops (gold coins, the total weight of which was almost half a pound).

"Turk" and kings

From Venice, Lyotard returned to Vienna, then went to Bayreuth, from there to Darmstadt, and then to Geneva and Lyon. By 1747, his fame was such that the treatise on international trade noted: "In Europe, there are not many artists who can defeat Lyotard in the art of portraiture".

In 1748, the master returned to Paris, this time with a long beard. Soon he was introduced to the court by the chief marshal of France Moritz Saxon. Most likely, Lyotard adapted his technique to French tastes. For portraits of members of the royal family he was paid from 300 to 360 livres (for one, however, 800). This was the usual rate for Parisian portrait painters of the time, although the rates of another popular pastelist,Maurice Canten de Latourwere much higher. From 1750, Liotard signed as "peintre du roi," that is, the royal artist. He was admitted to the Academy of St. Luke, and one of his works was kept there until the dissolution of the organization in 1774.

In 1753, Lyotard went to London, where he stayed for two years. He was almost immediately presented to a member of the royal family, as evidenced by a note in the Old England daily newspaper of March 3, 1753: "This week a Turkish gentleman who recently came here, very famous in portraiture and known in Turkey with Sir Everard Faulkner, was introduced to His Royal Highness to the Duke (To William Augustus, the third son of King George II, — approx. the author) and received kindly. This gentleman was dressed according to the customs of his country and is notable for his long beard, an interesting shape and curled ".

Augustus, Princess of WalesLyotara ordered a series of pastel portraits of members of the royal family (they are still kept in the Royal Assembly). Four of them (including frames and glass) cost 108 guineas. And the already mentioned Lord Duncannon (later the 2nd Earl of Besborough) paid 200 guineas for"Breakfast" (Le Déjeuner Lavergne) — this is the highest price that Lyotard received during his life for his work (about 60 thousand US dollars in 2015, four times more than the price of "Perfect Chocolate").

Pedant without imagination

According to some estimates, in London the artist earned 6−7 thousand pounds per year (which is somewhat unlikely, since it implies a couple of hundred portraits). Naturally, this provoked the indignation of his English competitors. One of them, unnamed, was indignant in the press: "At the same time, we have Francis Cotswhich in pastel infinitely surpasses it ". Political satirist John Shebbear made a similar comparison (without naming Lyotard directly), but at the same time he condemned the British for measuring "The value of his work is the length of his beard". "Its prices are twice as high as those of others; and yet, if it weren’t for the beard, he wouldn’t be the best artist, not as good as many living in London. "— counted Shebbear.

One of Lyotard’s contemporaries noted: his resemblance is too accurate to be liked by the models. "Without imagination, he could not portray what was not before his eyes […]. Freckles, smallpox traces — everything remained on the ground not so much for the sake of fidelity, but because he could not imagine the absence of something that he saw before him. "— wrote the critic. In the end, according to him, the artist "Earned a lot in the first year and very little in the next".

Lyotard’s own style was undoubtedly partly the result of incomplete traditional learning. For example, this can be seen in the portrait of Wilhelmina von Brandenburg-Bayreuth, where the unlit half of the face is placed on a dark background, which violates the basic rule requiring that this part of the background be the lightest. SirJoshua reynolds said: "His paintings are what women get when they paint for fun.". But behind these words lies the fear of the exceptional thoroughness and truthfulness of the works of the self-taught, which Reynolds has derogatoryly called "accurate".

Beard in a box

In 1755, Liotar returned to Holland, where a year later he married Marie Farg, the daughter of a French Protestant merchant who lived in Amsterdam. To this end, the artist sacrificed his beard, and on the initiative of Mrs. Lyotard, this fact was widely reported. Even in Voltaire’s correspondence with Austrian Count Carl von Zinzendorf, the exactingness of the painter’s wife was discussed, and The European magazine was embellished with a report by writing that during the marriage ceremony the beard was packed in a special box.

During his stay in Holland, Lyotard made a large number of portraits, and then again went on a trip to Geneva, Vienna, Paris, the Netherlands, London, Birmingham, and again to Vienna.

Being in Geneva around 1765, the artist took the 14-year-old Louis-Ami Arlo — the only officially known student. Two years later, the boy went to Paris. There are testimonies about another student whom Lyotard attracted to writing a portrait of Rousseau in 1764. But after the death of his father, the young man left the master, and failed to identify him.

Among other things, Liotar collected and sold works of old masters. In 1761 his agent was visited by agent Margravine Caroline Louise of Baden and made a list of 17 paintings for her patroness, mostly Dutch masters. Of these, the aristocrat chose five. Ten years later, Lyotard exhibited 126 paintings in Paris, both his own and his predecessors. Most of them remained unsold. In 1773, another sale was organized at his home in London.

Pastel or … pastel?

Lyotard worked with different materials, including enamel and oil, but his talent was most fully revealed precisely in pastels. We know of 15 of his self portraits.One of them — created in 1744 — hung in the Uffizi Gallery during the life of the artist. Another, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1773, was described by critics as "very brave".

In his "Treatise on the Principles and Rules of Painting," he declared about the rejection of pastel strokes, arguing that "they are not found in nature." To achieve the "enamel effect", Lyotard rubbed pastels deep into the surface using the wand itself, rather than a special rod. This changed the reflectivity of the material compared to a lighter application, and — especially in combination with the luminance of parchment — gave his work a special appearance.

It is assumed that the artist himself made pastels. In some of his early works (for example, images of members of the French royal family or a picture "Writing") there are glares made by gouache, and on others there are short strokes put, apparently, with the wet end of a pastel stick. However, chemical analysis can show that gouache is actually crushed pastel mixed with liquid. In some cases, tiny dry highlights may have been painted with lead white.

Green blue uniform

The vellum paper is particularly prone to mold, and Lyotard’s self-study and, possibly, home-made pastels have caused other problems that arise today with many of his works. Krapovye (bright red) fragments, in particular, sometimes seem to be incomplete. However, this pigment is famous for its poor light resistance. The most famous example is portrait of George IIIwhose once red camisole has lost its color. In addition, on both versionsMoritz Saxon portrait the yellow pigment fades to varying degrees, which explains why the green uniform of the dragoon regiment turns blue.

Unlike Maurice Canten de Latour, Lyotard did not create a school or movement. Other artists may have responded to his work, but rarely followed him (except for countless copyists).

Author: Vlad Maslov

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Jean-Etienne Liotard. Self-Portrait
Self-Portrait
Jean-Etienne Liotard
1780, 48.3×40 cm
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Jean-Etienne Liotard. Selbstbildnis in türkischer Tracht
Selbstbildnis in türkischer Tracht
Jean-Etienne Liotard
1746, 60.5×46.5 cm
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1757, 46×40 cm
1745, 82.5×52.5 cm
1782, 38×33 cm
1750, 58×45 cm
1773, 52×63 cm
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