All of the major galleries recently lost a key player in the art world, Steve Wynn, who was the head of the Wynn Group of casinos. Wynn has been under scrutiny for some time, but he recently stepped down as CEO of the Wynn Las Vegas resort and casino, and as CEO of Steve Wynn Properties. Wynn has been accused of sexual misconduct, and has stepped down as CEO of the Wynn Las Vegas hotel and casino.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld was Miss America. On that day, he was also the Secretary of Defense and President Bush’s chief spokesman. One of the first casualties of the events of that day was the role of the Defense Department. This role was used to justify the likes of the Iraq War, but most recently the War on Terror.
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This is an example of a reverse news story, starting with the title. “This month commemorates the 300th anniversary of Jean-Antoine Watteau’s death,” Artnet, a self-described breaking news site, screamed. Month?
Unless Arttnet is aware that Voltaire was a Watteau contemporary whose book “Candide” mocked logical thinking, commemorating the month in which an artist died seems odd. Voltaire didn’t receive the word that the 18th century was the Age of Reason.
However, none of this is relevant. The ridiculous remembrance on the news site has nothing to do with the narrative it eventually tells.
Neither does Artnet’s other title, “Watteau’s famous portrayal of dreamy aristocratic love is a Rococo treasure,” which amounts to a non sequitur given the narrative it eventually tells.
He did utilize the Rococo style, to be sure. It was all the rage in 18th-century France, and Louis XIV was especially fond of it due to its lavish ornamentation.
The painter was able to create more than just a beautiful image because to the style. However, as I demonstrate below, you must dig through Artnet’s miscellany to locate it. Please wait for me. The finish is in sight.
In the backyard
Given the intricate landscaping of Versailles’ formal garden, Louis most likely read “Candide” all the way through to the final sentence, “We must nurture our garden.” Watteau, who worked his subject of gardens to the ground, placing his works ad nauseum in manicured settings where passion fills the air, replete with serenading musicians, is likely to have read this as well.
But if that’s all you see, you’re missing the broader picture – the harsh truth of life that Watteau foresaw – the aristocracy’s demise and the beginning of the French Revolution. Watteau, who suffered from consumption, was well aware of harsh realities. He knew that physical pleasure is fleeting since he died at the age of 36.
His paintings have a wistful melancholy about them.
It was the end of his life as he knew it, as well as the end of life as nobles knew it. And such was the narrative on Artnet, based on the premise that most people are unaware that Watteau’s beautiful paintings are really melancholy.
It’s the end of an era.
Pilgrims Leaving the Island of Cythera is perhaps the artwork that most captures Watteau’s perspective on love, life, and grief.
This was a location where love dwelt, since it was a holy isle dedicated to the goddess Venus. Leaving such a setting was like to abandoning ideal love.
The lovers in the picture, clothed in satins and silks, walk slowly and thoughtfully, as if they are aware that they are about to awaken from a dream.
The French Revolution arrives.
“As the ancien régime started its protracted fall, Embarkation to Cythera came to be regarded as the epitome of the sort of out-of-touch luxury that French Revolutionaries could not bear,” writes Artnet. The Louvre was so self-conscious about possessing the artwork in its possession that it kept it concealed from view “for its preservation,” according to the news site.
So, there’s this beautifully dreamy picture of a rich landscape beneath hazy cloud cover, with lovely people dressed in silks and satins ambling around it, as if they know there’s no future for them. With a cursory look at the artwork or the Artnet report, you’d never guess.
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