Jean-Etienne Liotard was an artist in great demand at noble courts across Enlightenment Europe. An eccentric and distinctive portraitist, he also made carefully observed scenes of contemporary life in far-flung locales.
Born at the dawning of the 18th century, this idiosyncratic Swiss artist was one of the most accomplished portraitists of his age. He travelled widely, from London to the Orient, applying his unflinching powers of observation to create beautifully crafted portraits, the majority in pastel chalks on parchment.
At the peak of his powers, Liotard was commissioned to paint portraits of members of the British, French and Austrian royal families. A master of self-publicity, he was known as ‘the Turk’ in London, so-called for his adoption of Oriental costume and a long beard, relics of his sojourn in the Near East where he painted British and European residents as well as the indigenous Turkish peoples.
This is the first retrospective exhibition in the UK to be devoted to the artist. It covers Liotard’s time in Paris, Vienna, Geneva and Constantinople, as well as his two voyages to London, the latter of which included the exhibition of work at the Royal Academy. The world that his art shows us is a fascinating one: highly cosmopolitan and increasingly engaged in the cultural interchange between the Near East and Western Europe.
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