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"The Sweetness of Life" at Norton Simon

François Boucher (French, 1703-1770), “A Lady on Her Day Bed” (1743), oil on canvas, 22 1/2 x 26 7/8 in. (57.2x68.3 cm). The Frick Collection, Photo: Michael Bodycomb

The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA presents The Sweetness of Life: Three 18th-Century French Painting from The Frick Collection on June 14 though September 9, 2019. The collection will include paintings by French artists François Boucher, Lady on Her Day Bed, Jean-Siméon Chardin, Lady with a Bird-Organ, and Jean-Baptiste Greuze, The Wood Winder

As part of an ongoing reciprocal exchange program, these three paintings which depict 18th century contemporary life and fashion will be brought to Los Angeles, marking the first time that the three paintings have been on loan together. It will also be the first time that François Boucher and Jean-Siméon Chardin’s paintings have ever been to California.  

The collection on display at Norton Simon will exemplify the intimate lives of middle-class French women of the 1740s and 1750s. Despite women’s increasing presence in the sciences, literature, and arts, throughout the 18th-century they continued to be portrayed in genre scenes as pursuing leisurely, quotidian pleasures and tasks. Due to the immense interest in capturing such images, the 1700s became to be referred to as “the century of women” by Jules and Edmond de Goncourt, eminent 19th-century historians of French art and society. 

Genre paintings remove recognizable scenes from specific identities and places. As such, the paintings in this exhibition depart from other paintings by the same artists. These paintings should be viewed without the imposition of moral messages or simple narratives and were most certainly not meant as recognizable portraits. 

The Sweetness of Life: Three 18th-Century French Painting from The Frick Collection will be installed in Norton Simon’s 18th-century Rococo gallery, which features works by Jean-Antoine Watteau and Jean-Honoré Fragonard. As part of the exhibition, there will be special tours, lectures, talks, and screenings. Be sure to visit the Norton Simon Museum, one of the world’s most remarkable private art collections, while these French paintings are on loan in California!