Watteau: A unique retrospective

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The Independent Culture

The Royal Academy of Arts in London will host the first ever major retrospective of Jean-Antoine Watteau's sketched work to be exhibited in the UK.

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Watteau: The Drawings will be will be organised chronologically and will examine the development and mastery of his drawing methods with over 80 works on display.

The Royal Academy of Arts notes that: 'Watteau is perhaps best known for his invention of fêtes galantes, a new genre of small pictures of social gatherings of elegant people in parkland settings, examples of these together with theatre pieces, portraits and shop interiors will be on display.'

The exhibition will demonstrate the breadth of his work. Watteau made drawings of figures in poses that were charming, ambiguous and natural. Watteau’s influence has been subtle and profound, pre-empting the spirit of the French Rococo and foreshadowing the work of the Impressionists in execution and treatment of colour.

Within a few years of his death in 1721, over three hundred of his drawings had been published as etchings in two volumes (1726, 1728). His work both as a draughtsman and as a painter are said to have influenced subsequent generations of French artists, notably François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

Watteau: The Drawings, Royal Academy of Arts, 12 March until 5 June 2011, www.royalacademy.org.uk/