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America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting

May 21 – August 20, 2017
West Building, Main Floor, Northeast Galleries

Joseph Ducreux, Le Discret, c. 1791, oil on aluminum, transferred from canvas, Spencer Museum of Art

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

When Joseph Bonaparte, elder brother of Napoleon, arrived in the United States in 1815, he brought with him his exquisite collection of eighteenth-century French paintings. Put on public view, the works caused a sensation, and a new American taste for French art was born. Over the decades, appreciation of French eighteenth-century art has fluctuated between preference for the alluring decorative canvases of rococo artists such as François Boucher and Jean Honoré Fragonard to admiration for the sober neoclassicism championed by Jacques-Louis David and his pupils. This exhibition brings together sixty-eight paintings that represent some of the best and most unusual examples of French art of that era held by American museums and tells their stories on a national stage.

The exhibition highlights smaller museum collections, less well-known paintings, and diverse locations across the United States, from Pittsburgh and Indianapolis to Birmingham and Phoenix.  


Organization: The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Attendance: 113,268

Catalog: America Collects Eighteenth -Century French Painting. By Yuriko Jackall et al. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art,  2017.