Wed. Nov 20th, 2019

More than a little color

The history of art is made of hierarchies, in themes and materials, but also and like any other subject in which human beings, prejudices and jealousy intervene. When Maurice Quentin de La Tour (1704-1788) achieved glory using the colored bars, a material that in the previous centuries had been used only to add a little color to the drawings, a good number of academics in France got to create numerous works in pastel, to show that "all skilled painters can do them easily, and you want to convince the public that this type of painting is easier than oil", according to a testimony of the time collected by Philippe Saunier , curator of the exhibition Touch the color, the renewal of the cake, in your sample catalog text.

Jealousy and prejudice, the rivalry between pastel and oil, which would continue and be accentuated in the nineteenth century. Prejudices, because the cake was adopted by numerous women artists, which placed it at a lower level and of course less prestigious than the works made by male artists, also because, when access to academies was forbidden, women artists specialized in portraits, children, flowers, all seen as much inferior to the history, religious or mythological painting.

Prejudices that were already present in the eighteenth century, the golden age of the cake because the bars allowed to enhance the colors, especially the silks, velvets, the oropeles of the court of the French king Louis XV, so that Pastel tones are identified today with soft, delicate and light colors. A "relative" golden age, as Saunier states, since its use was basically restricted to the portrait, which did not occupy the first places in the esteem of academics. It was necessary to wait until 1831 so that, with the cake present in the Paris Painting and Sculpture Hall, a certain splendor would come back to life, and we say true because, despite having a section for drawings, it was confined to the less visited rooms, and their choice as a technique by the artists was more linked to the cheaper price of the bars in front of the oil,

The success of the cake in the eighteenth century has caused the word to be associated with delicate, soft and light colors

Actually, Jean-François Millet and, above all, the Impressionists should wait first for the cake to return to a privileged place. In the 1870s, Manet, Berthe Morisot or Renoir hung the cakes next to the paintings in the exhibitions, alien to the hierarchies. But it would be Edgar Degas who would make the cake a favorite medium, although it must be admitted that partly for crematistic reasons; Degas, effectively renewed the theme of the cake with female nudes, scenes of cabarets, dancers, seduced by the brightness of their colors, and their qualities, which reminded him of the fresco, but it is also true that the important debts he had contracted forced him to to look for a product that is easier to sell than his paintings: “I had to earn the damn life to be able to take care of you; In spite of my fear every day when I saw it appear, I had to make small cakes, ”he wrote to a client to whom he owed works.

All of them show works in the exhibition, also by Odilon Redon, the symbolists, Picasso, Miró, already in a twentieth century that touches all genres and materials, also the cake.

Touch the color, the renewal of the cake

The Impressionists, and especially Degas, advanced the cake incorporating new themes

Curator: Philip Saunier. mapfre foundation. Until January 5

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