Louvre loans rare paintings of landscapes to Seoul showThe history of landscape paintings in various styles is the main theme of a rare exhibition here of 70 paintings from the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.
In celebration of the 120th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and France, the National Museum of Korea is hosting the exhibition titled “Western Landscape Paintings from the 16th Century to the 19th Century,” which will continue until March 18, 2007. The painters featured in the show include Francois Gerard, Francois Boucher, Nicolas Poussin, Paul Bril, Carracci, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Eugene Delacroix, Antoine Watteau, Francois Boucher, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Annibale Carracci, Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes, Joseph Mallord William Turner and Jean-Francois Millet.
As the title of the exhibition indicates, the paintings are arranged in a way that illustrates the development of landscape paintings from the 16th through the 19th centuries. Neoclassical paintings depict human figures in a precise manner, and the baroque and rococo paintings feature intense colors. The Barbison school paintings portray rural life while the romantic paintings illustrate history, war and heroes.
Nature was portrayed as an independent subject of paintings only from the 17th century. Later, in the 19th century, French and British painters began observing and reproducing natural phenomena such as atmosphere and light, which led to the birth of impressionism.
“The works with emphasis on humanism highlighted people’s bodies and movement, and nature was only used as a background,” said Vincent Pomarede, the chief curator of the Louvre Museum’s paintings department.
“If landscape paintings are the ones that realistically depict nature as it is, many works based on history, mythology and religion with nature in the background cannot be called landscape paintings.”
In the exhibition, visitors can see how landscape paintings changed over the centuries, as the humans depicted become smaller and smaller, then disappear completely.
One featured painting, “Napoleon en Costume de Sacre” by Gerard, is one of many portraits of the emperor painted after his coronation in December 1804. To make himself look taller, the diminutive Napoleon had his portrait painted from a perspective below him.
“Psyche et l’Amour,” also by Gerard, shows Eros, the son of Aphrodite, kissing the forehead of Psyche as a butterfly hovers over her head. According to Greek mythology, the kiss woke Psyche, who had been put to sleep by Aphrodite, who was jealous of Psyche’s beauty. Psyche means both soul and butterfly in Greek.
Watteau’s “Diane au bain,” in which the Roman goddess Diana is bathing, is another celebrated piece in the exhibition. In Roman mythology, Diane, or Diana, was the virgin goddess of the hunt, and she is depicted with her arrows. As in other neoclassical paintings, the nature in the background seems to be conjured from the painter’s imagination.
“From ancient times, nature as a motif was used to set the stage for an action and to depict the background of a story vividly,” Mr. Pomarede said. “As nature was used for decoration, there is no need to describe it realistically when it was used for a narration of stories.”
Another piece portraying Diana, “Diane sortant du bain” by Boucher, also has an imaginary background. Curtains are drawn on trees in the middle of the forest while a quiver is placed on the left and animals from the hunt are on the right. The theme of the painting is that Diana and a nymph are surprised by an intruder.
Jean-Honore Fragonard’s “Le Colin-mailard,” depicts a number of aristocrats playing hide-and-seek, a game that was popular in Europe in the late 18th century. In this painting, the people are relatively small and their faces are not clearly visible.
Two paintings by Corot, “Une Soiree, Batelier Amaree” and “Tivoli, les jardins de la Villa d’Este,” depict human figures so small that they seem insignificant. The latter illustrates the beautiful landscape of Tivoli with a small boy sitting on a stone wall. The figure seems to have been added to the painting as an afterthought.
Turner’s painting “Paysage avec une riviere et une baie dans le lointain” (“Country landscape with a river in the distance”) at the end of the exhibition hall contains no human figures. The painting was done during the last years of Turner’s life, and is considered incomplete.
The exhibition is open from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. every day except Mondays. Ticket prices are 5,000 won ($5) to 10,000 won. The National Museum is near Ichon subway station, line No. 4, exit 2. For information, call (02) 2077-9648 or visit www.louvre2006.co.kr.
by Limb Jae-un