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Art

September 2000

The splendid Chardin

by Karen Wilkin

On Chardin at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Every time I walked through the splendid Chardin exhibition at the Metropolitan [1] this summer, I was struck by how impossible it was to imagine how this eighteenth-century master’s paintings looked to his contemporaries. Not that there’s a lack of documentation. Quite the contrary. The work of Jean-Siméon Chardin (1699–1779) was thoroughly discussed by the art critics of his day, most famously by Denis Diderot, his friend and perhaps his most illuminating commentator—certainly the best writer among them. The critical literature that survives from Chardin’s lifetime, provoked by his submissions to the Salons from 1737 until 1779 and his widely disseminated prints, contains everything from adulatory poems and over-the-top rhapsodies to clear-eyed descriptions of particular still lifes of musical instruments, baskets of fruit, a ...

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Karen Wilkin is an independent curator and critic.


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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 19 September 2000, on page 40

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