This exhibition explores the theatre as a poetic and pictorial principle for the great French painters – Coypel, de Troy and Van Loo – of the first half of the 18th century. Their tragic heroines and splendid settings vie with those of such illustrious playwrights as Racine and Corneille and men of the opera like Lully and Quinault.
When painting vies with theatre
The exhibition The Theatre of the Passions (1697-1759): Medea, Cleopatra, Iphigenia and others, at the Nantes Museum of Fine Arts (11 February – 8 May 2011) brings together the top international specialists in an exploration of the dramatic as a poetic and pictorial principle for the great French painters of the first half of the 18th century: Antoine and Charles-Antoine Coypel, Jean-François de Troy and Carle Van Loo. Taking their inspiration from the most influential playwrights (Racine, Corneille) and musicians – among them Lully – of their era, these painters opted for theatrical artifice as a creative starting point. Their tragic heroines – Cleopatra, Medea, Esther, Iphigenia – explore the rhetoric of passion against stunning backdrops. The theatrical illusion reaches its apogee in the magnificent Fragments from Opera – which draws directly on the lyrical drama of Philippe Quinault – by Charles-Antoine Coypel, who was both painter and playwright. The exhibition unfolds the creative process from initial sketches through to the enormous tapestries woven in the Gobelins workshops.
Celebrated works brought together for the first time
For the first time since the 18th century, remarkable groups of works have been brought together through generous loans by such major institutions as the Louvre, the museums in Lille, Montpellier and Strasbourg, and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. A programme of exhibition-related events will emphasise interchange between the arts – theatre, opera, ballet – and offer the public new insight into the richness of these works of art.