Virtuosity and delight.

Those who knew Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) agree on two matters: his orginality and the greatness of his drawings. Toward the end of the seventeenth century the dispute among members of the French Academy of Arts reached another height, focused on the old conflict: drawing versus colour, the Poussinistes (named after Nicolas Poussin, 1594-1665) versus the Rubenistes (named after Peter Paul Rubens, 1577-1640). This dispute dates from the time of the Italian Renaissance when exact drawing (for example Michelangelo, 1475-1564)) competed with the use of colours (for example Giorgione, 1478-1510), the competition between disegno and colore, exact drawing or the value of light and colour. Watteau’s paintings have a novelty and subtility that make him appear modern to us today. He is known for his invention of a new genre: the fêtes galantes, small pictures depicting elegant people engaged in leisurely and amorous pursuits in parkland settings. His use of colour, the creation of art about human relationships and his creativity as draftsman (the Poussiniste status) combined both colour and drawing, although the use of colour planted him more in the Rubeniste camp. The forthcoming exhibition in the Royal Academy of Arts in London exhibits the works of this modern draughtsman and painter.