Jean-Antoine Watteau, Woman Wearing a Mantle over her Head and Shoulders, c.1718-19, Royal Academy
Jean-Antoine Watteau, Woman Wearing a Mantle over her Head and Shoulders, c.1718-19, Royal Academy

In March 2011, the Royal Academy of Arts will present the first retrospective exhibition of the drawings of Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684–1721) to be held in the UK.

The display will contain over 80 works on paper produced by the French artist. Watteau is perhaps best known for his invention of a new genre: the fêtes galantes, small pictures of social gatherings of elegant people in parkland settings. He was also an exceptional draughtsman. His drawings were praised for their subtlety, freedom of execution, lightness of touch and grace, and remain widely admired today.

Watteau is particularly renowned for his mastery of the ‘three chalks’ or trois crayons technique, the subtle manipulation and expert balancing of red, black and white. The drawings on display will be presented chronologically to give a sense of the artist’s stylistic development. Together they will demonstrate the full range of his subject-matter, from theatre pieces, portraits, and shop interiors to fêtes galantes.

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