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In Praise of Emotion and In Praise of Sensibility: 18th Century French Paintings from Breton Collections

Nantes Arts Museum: In Praise of Sensibility, February 15 – May 13, 2019
Fine Arts Museum of Rennes: In Praise of Emotion, 16 February – 13 May 2019
Curators: Anne Dary and Sophie Lévy
Scholarly Curators: Adeline Collange-Perugi and Guillaume Kazerouni

In Praise of Emotion and In Praise of Sensibility is the result of an exemplary cooperation between the Nantes Arts Museum and the Rennes Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition is set up as a diptych (an exhibition at each museum) that establishes a perfect dialogue between the works from these complementary collections. Many of these paintings echo other works held within the FRAME network and show the universal cultural heritage that constitutes the collections of historical Brittany.

The Nantes Arts Museum and the Rennes Museum of Fine Arts present In Praise of Emotion and In Praise of Sensibility: 18th Century French paintings from Breton collections from February to May 2019. This original show is organized simultaneously by both institutions with a shared catalog.

The exhibition’s main purpose is to provide a discovery of the entire pictorial production in the Age of Enlightenment through the prism of emotion and sensibility. In the second half of the Age of Enlightenment, literature and painting reflect a new vision of Man and his environment. Emotion and sensibility become new qualities of the soul, allowing an unprecedented freedom to experience the world. Diderot wonders about sentiment in painting and theater, Rousseau praises sensibility in Nouvelle Héloïse and theorizes a new form of education in Émile, Voltaire is mesmerized by the impact of nature on his senses and soul. Painting offers an enthusiastic and inspired echo to these new concerns.

The works on view were mainly selected from the rich collections from the museums of Brest, Nantes, Quimper and Rennes with additions from public collections (museums, churches, municipal buildings) of Morlaix and Lamballe. The exhibition features great artists of the 18th century such as Antoine Watteau, Francois Boucher, Carle Vanloo, Charles Joseph Natoire, Jean Simeon Chardin, Hubert Robert, Jean-Baptiste Greuze or Jean Honoré Fragonard.

Rennes’ exhibition features great, ancient, religious and mythological History, while Nantes features the different genres, from great formal portraits to delicate still-lifes. This division of works is based on a well-known classification of paintings that interestingly coincidences with the collections in Rennes (historic paintings) and Nantes (genre paintings.)

A first set of about 70 paintings organized around the notion of feeling will evoke the evolution of historical subject painting (biblical, mythology, ancient and contemporary history) in 4 sections in Rennes. A second set of about 70 works will present sensitivity through genre painting (portraits, gallant scenes, landscape, still-lifes) in 7 sections at the Nantes Arts Museum. Research and restoration bring a fresh and sometimes new light to certain works.

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Jeune fille au ruban bleu, Rennes, musée des Beaux-Arts © Jean-Manuel Salingue/MBA Rennes - 18e
In Praise of Emotion and in Praise of Sensibility, Nicolas Lancret, La Camargo dansant, vers 1730-1731, Nantes, Musée d’arts ©Musée d’arts de Nantes – Photo C. Clos