press release

While eighteenth-century art is often perceived as a progressive move from a taste for the lightness of rococo to the grandeur of classical style, this exhibition sheds light on the different experiments undertaken to regenerate artistic forms and themes.

One hundred and fifty works — paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings, decorative arts — featured in the exhibition illustrate the processes of innovation, emulation and even resistance to the classical in eighteenth-century Europe.

Newly excavated archeological vestiges in the 1720–30s fueled debate in European academies and intellectual circles. All artistic fields were caught up in the dream of renewal through the classical, as shown in paintings by Mengs, Batoni and Greuze, sculptures by Bouchardon, Falconet and Pajou, engravings by Piranesi, architectural projects by Robert Adam and Soufflot, and furniture designed by Petitot and Chambers.

Counter-movements in the 1750–60s tamed this passion. A “neobaroque” trend emerged under the influence of works by Bernini and Pietro da Cortona, Tiepolo and Solimena, illustrated across Europe by Gandolfi and Fragonard, as well as Goya and the architect Wailly. Models of the sixteenth century like Michelangelo, Correggio, Jules Romain and Jean Goujon inspired a “neomannerist” direction. Later on, artists such as Fuseli, Sergel and Desprez cultivated what was known as the “Gothic” or “sublime” movement.

A more universal language was established in the last quarter of the century and radicalized under the aegis of heroic values. From sculptures to architectural projects, colossal canvases to towering marbles, European society made no secret of its new aspirations as revolutionary unrest began to stir.

This exhibition enjoys the patronage of the ENI and the support of DAI NIPPON PRINTING CO., LTD.

"The 18th Century at the Louvre" mini-site Curator(s) : Chief curators: Henri Loyrette; Marc Fumaroli. Guillaume Faroult, Musée du Louvre, Department of Paintings; Christophe Leribault, Musée national Eugène Delacroix; Guilhem Scherf, Musée du Louvre, Department of Sculptures.