Friday, 27 April 2012

Chardin at Waddesdon Manor

Today I went to Waddesdon Manor for a day trip. The beautiful residence is at about one hour from London and it was built by the Rothschild family as a place to entertain their guests and to house their collection of precious objects.
Indeed the house it's worth a visit to see the collection and the beautiful grounds, but until the 15th of July even more so as there is a small but stunning show of Chardin's paintings.

Charlotte Rothschild, from the french branch of the family, was a great collector of Chardin, having bought about twenty paintings on the period from 1870 to 1899, and her collection was further enriched by her heirs. Unfortunately most of the paintings were destroyed by german bombs while in storage in UK and others were sold.

 " The House of Cards" was bought by the Rothschild's estate in 2007 and now they have reunited four paintings with the same subject together with other Chardin's masterpieces.
The paintings are all slightly different, one is more of a portrait, the others are more genre scenes, one portrays an older and more dishevelled teen ager, one acknowledges the existence of a world outside the window, all are incredibly intense and beautiful, Chardin at his best.

The Girl with a Shuttlecock is also on display, belonging to the Rothschild family as well, after having been owned by Catherine II, Empress of Russia.

Another "old friend" I had never met in real life was the "Lady Taking Tea", on loan from the Hunterian Art Gallery" in Glasgow.

This painting was the direct source for my two recent still life works of boxes on red cabinets from the Wrap series on show next week in Galleria Elle Arte, Palermo and Chardin's open drawer often makes its appearance in my works. 
   He is one of my favourite painters, and I look very often at his work, still lifes that are extraordinary and relevant. Seeing these pictures in real life, in the intimate room and subdued light of the red ante-room in Waddesdon was an intense emotion.

    Chardin is featured again in Waddesdon in the form of a large etching by Lucien Freud from the painting " The School Mistress"in the National Gallery. Freud painted an intense copy from Chardin and etched this large plate now on display. Freud of course was a friend of the Rothchilds and the collection includes one of his self portraits and a portrait of baron Rothschild, as well as a small sensitive portrait of Serena Rothschild by painter Michael Andrews.

A detailed catalogue of the show, titled "Taking Time", is available here. It seems a very interesting read: while I was looking at the show ( it's all in one small room) the curator was showing a french gentleman round. I obviously eavesdropped and she was mentioning many interesting details and information always reassuring him that they were included in the catalogue.

I cannot recommend visiting Waddesdon enough, but get there before the end of the show ! ( and don't forget to book online as even in today's stormy weather it was very crowded and they have entry time slots) 

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