Jean-Etienne Liotard at the Royal Academy of Arts

The Pastelist

The 18th Century artist Jean-Etienne Liotard from Switzerland is little known today in the UK although he spent two years here and was in contact with Royal Stuart family and Hanoverians whom gave him many commissions. Much of his work is in private collections and in some way part of the reason for his obscurity. He made portraits of rich society people who had either established themselves as business merchants, were in law or were Kings, Queens, and Sultans.

He was one of the most important artists of his time primarily known for his magnificent pastel portraits which he was master of he could also paint in oil, print, do miniatures and work in enamel all to the highest standards. He was usually approached to do portraits in pastel because of the detail, effects and realist feeling one could not get with oil paint. It was fashionable, took less time up for sitters and very useful when it came to travel because it made it possible to make portraits in situ without the need to carry vast amounts of equipment.

Liotard travelled much of Europe following the Grand Tour with some of his patrons, thinkers, writers of his period. He brought with him an eccentric light with beard, Turkish dress. His self promotion had helped to establish his work and it was widely found on the many walls of Europeans who had commissioned him. It was in his latter period when he travelled less that he spent time writing about his thoughts on art theory and practice as well as dealing in art.

The show at the Royal Academy is the first show since 1770 of Jean-Etienne Liotards work. The curatorship is well conceived and one gets a general view of his craftsmanship. In quality one will see the finest art where textures look and almost feel the clothing. The portraits depict a time and a period of wealthy, and famous. If you are keen to learn about portrait art then one can say that Liotard is important an artist as Van Dyke. He was a master of his time which made him a wealthy person. Most importantly one can say he enjoyed what he did with a profound seriousness. The exhibition is on until the end of January at the Royal Academy of Arts.

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