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The Painter's Touch

A new interpretation of the development of artistic modernity in eighteenth-century France The Painter's Touch is a radical reinterpretation of three paradigmatic French painters of the eighteenth century. In this beautifully illustrated book, Ewa Lajer-Burcharth provides close readings of the works of Francois Boucher, Jean-Simeon Chardin, and Jean-Honore Fragonard, entirely recasting our understanding of these painters' practice. Using the notion of touch, she examines the implications of their strategic investment in materiality and sheds light on the distinct contribution of painting to the culture of the Enlightenment. Lajer-Burcharth traces how the distinct logic of these painters' work--the operation of surface in Boucher, the deep materiality of Chardin, and the dynamic morphological structure in Fragonard--contributed to the formation of artistic identity. Through the notion of touch, she repositions these painters in the artistic culture of their time, shifting attention from institutions such as the academy and the Salon to the realms of the market, the medium, and the body. Lajer-Burcharth analyzes Boucher's commercial tact, Chardin's interiorized craft, and Fragonard's materialization of eros. Foregrounding the question of experience--that of the painters and of the people they represent--she shows how painting as a medium contributed to the Enlightenment's discourse on the self in both its individual and social functions. By examining what paintings actually "say" in brushstrokes, texture, and paint, The Painter's Touch transforms our understanding of the role of painting in the emergence of modernity and provides new readings of some of the most important and beloved works of art of the era.
Product Details

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xiiIntroduction 31 BOUCHER'S TACT 8Materiality and Personality 9Touch and Tact 13The Commercial Imagination 22Personal Mythologies 33The Promiscuous Self 47The Artist as Consumer 73Pompadour's Painter 802 CHARDIN'S CRAFT 86Deep Materiality 87The Object (Inside/Out) 95The Blind Touch 111Underneath the Visible 123The Subject 139The Return to the Object 155The Painter 1653 FRAGONARD'S SEDUCTION 176Eros and Individuality 177The Unseen 186Being and Becoming 191Pictorial Seduction 199The Erotic Mother 203The Artist's Pleasure 208The Painter's Touch 212Love and Life 223Ars Erotica 236Notes 238Bibliography 271Index 287Image Credits 297

About the Author

Ewa Lajer-Burcharth is the William Dorr Boardman Professor of Fine Arts at Harvard University. Her books include Chardin Material and Necklines: The Art of Jacques-Louis David after the Terror.

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