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Antoine Watteau


French Rococo Painter

Influences - Rembrandt, Rubens, Piero della Francesca,  Veronese,  Mantegna, Titian, Nicolas Poussin and Raphael

Education -studied with Claude Gillot.

Cause of Death -(White Plague) Tuberculosis

Antoine Watteau painting

  Watteau was born in the town of Valenciennes in 1684. His father was a tiler, who expected his son to become a carpenter or a tiler like himself. The elder Watteau forbid his son permission to visit the workshop of the village painter. Antoine fled his home town with dreams of fame and fortune in Paris.  Watteau  quickly became enchanted with the sophistication of French high society and  was the first to depict Parisian elegance.  His early paintings reveal an influence of the older masters, the dazzling luminosity of Ruben's or the haunting drama of Titian. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, he created his most exquisite work.

 Watteau was enthralled with Parisian life. Before coming to Paris his only experience at love had been a few illicit trysts with the portly village scrubwoman for a few francs and a bag of apples. Historian  Richard Muther describes Watteau's rather tragic life and brilliant work, "In Paris, as the associate of Audran, he lived in the center of the elegant world. As he was a stranger, he was the first to paint what Persian painters had not considered capable of artistic rendition.

Watteau himself was a misshapen, ugly, embittered man. From the time he was a young boy he had received brutal beatings from his drunken father. His nose had been broken countless times and was permanently misshapen, his left ear and been pulled so hard it drooped in an unsightly and odd way. He was also suffered horrific burns to his face when his mother had thrown a boiling pot of water at his father but instead hitting the young Watteau. An incurable malady (Tuberculosis) had made him timid and unsociable. He is described by his biographers as sad and fearful, suspicious and awkward in company, and his portraits confirm this description. His eyes are empty and expressionless as those of a sparrow hawk; his hands are red and bony, and his mouth is drooping. In the portrait in which he is represented without a wig, it seems to mock his own ugliness and sickness. The hair is tangled and disordered, the clothes droop about low shoulders and a small chest. Though surrounded by riches, beauty, coquetry, and elegance, he, the consumptive, had no part of this charmed world.

He to wished to love and be loved. This is shown by the mythological pictures which he painted at the beginning of his career. Only to him, the terminally sick man, love is denied.
With increasing sickness he became more reclusive and disturbed. He locked his door and separated from Crozat because he preferred solitude. After taking refuge with a countryman, the painter Vleughels, where no one would seek him, he left even him, because the thought of being a burden to others distressed him, and wandered aimlessly to London, only that he might be unobserved on foreign soil.

After his return to Paris he painted a sign for his friend the art dealer Gersaint, an ethereal picture which only a consumptive could have created: without substance, the grey rose colors as if breathed upon the wood; the emaciated figures relieved of all that is fleshly; a breath, a nothing. Then he retired to Nogent-sur-Marne. He began an altarpiece which he wished to donate to the church, a Crucifixion of Christ, with an expression of pain which only one sick unto death could give. He died on the 18th of July, 1721, at thirty-six years of age."

Antoine Quotations

 "I create the painting in my mind, color gives me inspiration, passion is very important, so I am looking for radiance, with all my soul." -- Antoine Watteau

"The world is a vile, wretched place, that truly holds no charm." -- Antoine Watteau

Antoine Watteauart

Related Painters

Francois Boucher
Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin
Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Thomas Gainsborough
Francisco de Goya
Joshua Reynolds
Jean Antoine Watteau

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  Refrences - Richard Muther, The History of Modern Painting, Henry and Co., London, 1896