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Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1770s, The Complain of the Watch

From the Web Gallery of Art: In contrast with Chardin Greuze increased his popularity by taking his scenes out into villages and emphasizing the humble rank of his actors. The rustic fallacy was only one chord of falseness played on by Greuze. Anything that might have been a hint in Chardin becomes in Greuze an over-stated illustration: we must now witness those countless anecdotes with doves and broken mirrors in all of which there is a confused appeal to sentimentality and a lack of confidence in art that is unsupported by narrative. Greuze made the naive mistake that a moving anecdote will make a moving work of art. He begot a fearful progeny of nineteenth-century academic work throughout Europe from which came nothing except the problem picture. That he was quite capable of apprehending and conveying reality is shown by his often excellent portraits, but he wished to make some more striking contribution to art. He did indeed succeed in expressing something of the spirit of his age; he spoke the new language, as foreign to Chardin as to Boucher, of the heart.

Posted on 25 September, 2012

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