OPENING OF "18TH CENTURY FRENCH PRINTS"
Chicago (IL), le 4 mars 2011. Discours prononcé par le Consul général de France à l’occasion de l’ouverture de l’exhibition « 18th Century French Prints » au R. S. Johnson Fine Art Gallery.
Chicago (IL), March 4, 2011. Speech given by the Consul General of France on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition "18th Century French Prints" at the R. S. Johnson Fine Art Gallery.
I would like to thank you all for being present this evening for this exceptional exhibition of 18th century French Prints. I would also like to commend our hosts, Mr and Mrs Johnson, for their dedication and passion for the Arts, in particular French fine Arts.
After the death of Louis the XIV in 1715, France, despite its recurring budgetary difficulties, is at the height of its power. France’s wide-spread influence flourishes throughout the 18th Century, le siècle des lumières, the century of the Enlightenment. Several great minds emerged during that time, such as Montesquieu, Diderot or Voltaire, dominating the intellectual sphere and paving the way for new schools of thought.
In the Artistic world, the 18th Century is also very innovative. A good example is the art of printmaking. Within a matter of decades, thousands of images were produced, including some of the most complex and beautiful prints ever made. You will have the privilege of discovering some of those remarkable pieces tonight.
The 18th century French prints depict a world of light heartedness and abundance (insouciance) from Watteau and his “fêtes galantes” to the more and more frivolous Boucher and Fragonard. The best example being “les hazards heureux de l’escarpolette”, “lucky chances of the swing”, which you will notice has certainly nothing to do with luck.
Behind this charming façade, many social changes are at work : agriculture is expanding thanks to new technologies, life expectancy is progressing, population is rapidly growing, literacy is increasing, and the social role of religion is fading.
In many ways, the 18th century marks the end of an era which started with the Renaissance. However, it is also the beginning of our modern world. That is why, beyond the extraordinary technical works, the mysterious smile of Flora, the young lady on the cover of the beautiful catalogue published by Mr and Mrs Johnson, is so intriguing. Behind this image of perfect serenity and happiness, there is a feeling that times are changing, and the dawn of a new era is approaching. I wish this exhibition a lot of success and thank you again to Mr and Mrs Johnson.