Peinture anglaise : l’exposition

The Musée du Luxembourg is honoured
to welcome the masterpieces of Tate Britain from the late 18th
and early 19th centuries. This exhibition,
« The Golden Age of English Painting », looks at a key period
in English history. A period during which British artists expressed a strong desire to raise their country’s arts to the level of the great European
schools of previous centuries and rival them,
notably in portraiture and landscapes. It was an intense period of research and artistic construction. It’s clear that all these painters
were on a quest for a British identity that would be expressed in the arts. Each section of the exhibition
has a corresponding colour, bright in tone, which we selected to echo the colours found at that time in British interiors. But it’s above all the works
seen in the exhibition that give it a British atmosphere, in particular these portraits
that welcome us in and which show the high-society faces of the time. In the 1760s, exhibitions were developing in England thanks to artists’ societies, and especially thanks
to the Royal Academy. The exhibitions stirred up rivalry between painters. This rivalry existed notably between
Gainsborough and Reynolds, the two great portraitists of the time. It’s with this confrontation
between their works that we open the exhibition,
to underline both what they have in common, but also what divides them. You can see straightaway that Reynolds is an intellectual whose work includes
knowledgeable references. Gainsborough is much more instinctive, and his aim is to convey real life. Reynolds is something of
a patriarch in English painting. He was also the first president
of the Royal Academy of Arts. His speeches at the Royal Academy
inspired generations of artists. Reynolds is a painter who harboured great ambitions for English painting. In many respects, Turner
followed in Reynolds’s footsteps. As Reynolds carried out research into portraits, Turner did so into landscapes,
with great historical scenes such as « The Destruction of Sodom »
which can be seen in the last section of the exhibition. Although the exhibition
is mainly devoted to portraits and landscapes, the two major genres in British painting during that period, historical painting is also present in the last section. We wanted to represent
historical painting in its most spectacular form, one that foreshadows Romanticism, with artists like Fuseli,
Turner and Martin. This last section, devoted to this new genre
of historical painting, ends the journey through
the exhibition with fireworks in a completely Romantic atmosphere.

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