Jean-Baptiste Chardin: Master Of The Silent Life
Depicting the humble, everyday scenes, and vignettes of domestic life and constructing a simple world of truth, humility, and calm played out in a few square inches on the wall, the French painter, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, is celebrated as one of the most important artists of the 18th century as well as one of the greatest masters of Still Life in the history of French art.
Venerated as the master of genre painting, Chardin was born in Paris on November 2, 1699, the son of a cabinetmaker, and rarely left his native quarter of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. He studied painting with Jacques Cazes, Nöel Nicholas Coypel, and Jean Baptiste Van Loo. In 1724, he was admitted to the Academy of Saint Luc, and in 1728 he became a member of the Royal Academy of Painting, to which he offered “The Skate” and “The Buffet”.
After about 1730 Chardin began to paint the genre subjects. In these paintings, simple scenes of ordinary domestic events were presented without drama and without emotional flourishes, but Chardin invests them with dignity and humanity. They are remarkable for their intimate realism and tranquil atmosphere and the luminous quality of paint. Good examples of his genre paintings are “The Grace” (1740), “Child with Top” (1738), and “Back from the Market” (1739).
In 1757, Chardin was granted an apartment in the Louvre, which housed the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. In 1768 King Louis XV gave him a pension and paid 1,500 livres for “Lady with a Bird Organ”. Chardin continued to rise steadily on the rungs of traditional academic career. Since 1737 he had been regularly participated in the Salon with his genre and still life paintings.
After 1770, Chardin began to lose his eyesight, but still progressed as an artist with his adoption of pastel painting. In his eulogy, he was remembered for having once said, “One uses colors, but one paints with feelings”, and for him still-life subjects had a life of their own. As the French novelist, Marcel Proust wrote of the artist, “Everyday life will charm you once you have absorbed Chardin's paintings for a few days like a lesson. Then, having understood the life of his painting, you will have discovered the beauty of life.
At the age of 80, Chardin died in Paris on December 6, 1779.