National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Fête Champêtre Jean-Baptiste Joseph Pater (artist)
French, 1695 - 1736
Fête Champêtre, c. 1730
oil on canvas
overall: 74.5 x 92.5 cm (29 5/16 x 36 7/16 in.) framed: 98.1 x 117.5 x 11.4 cm (38 5/8 x 46 1/4 x 4 1/2 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1946.7.19
On View
From the Tour: 18th-Century France — The Rococo and Watteau
Object 3 of 9

In this lush park elegant young aristocrats flirt, dance, and engage in intimate conversation, each couple an "episode" in the progress of courtship. Their anecdotal character makes Pater's paintings less ambiguous than Watteau's enigmatic works, which a contemporary criticized as having "no subject."

Pater studied under Watteau—who admitted to being an impatient master—and took over his commissions after he died. Haunted by fear of poverty, Pater worked incessantly but also rather mechanically, reusing figure groups and motifs from one painting to the next. He was received by the Academy as a painter of "modern subjects," and more than six hundred of his fêtes galantes survive today.

Several of the poses in this painting and Pater's unfinished On the Terrace can be traced to seventeenth-century Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens, whose works could be seen in Paris during the 1700s. The dark dress of the woman on the right, fashionable in the preceding century, and the garden sculpture of Venus, which underscores the painting's focus on love, also reflect his influence. But Pater, in keeping with rococo tastes, has refined Rubens' robust figures. They are composed in graceful groups, their fine silks painted with cool, powdery colors, applied in feathery brushstrokes.

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