Jul 7, 2018

Cheerful looks

Rmn-Grand Palais

Until the 16th century, there were very few smiles and laughs in Western artworks. They only appeared in grotesque scenes bordering on the satirical, like the one showing the mighty Hercules being dressed as a woman by a gaggle of females to general amusement.

In the 17th century, painters like Hals, Velázquez, and Ribera dared to include characters with broad smiles and sparkling eyes in works inspired by joyful musicians and beggars.

However, derision is often the bedfellow of laughter. That said, few artists make fun of themselves. One rare example is Joseph Ducreux, who took self-mockery and provocation to the limit in an astonishing self-portrait where he depicted himself in fits of laughter and pointing directly out at the onlooker.

Renoir was a painter of joyful occasions and believed that "a picture should be pleasant, cheerful, and pretty, yes pretty!" The eyes of the women in love shine with a simple, genuine happiness and a communicative joie de vivre.

As if transported by the dance, one of them pauses with laughing eyes in the embrace of the man whispering in her ear.

Perched on the shoulders of his adored wife, a wine-drunk Chagall raises a toast and laughs at his own hilarity.

Rmn-Grand Palais
Credits: Story

We would like to thank:
- For design, illustrations, writing, and coordination of the RMN-Grand Palais project: Cécile Maisonneuve (Doctor of Art History, Policy Officer, Scientific Council), Nathalie Gathelier (National Museums Speaker), Annie Madec (Iconographer), Françoise Lombardi-Peissel (Project Manager) at RMN-Grand Palais.
- For reproductions: French museum collections represented by the Photo Agency of the Réunion des musées nationaux-Grand Palais:
Montpellier, Musée Fabre; Versailles, Musée Lambinet; Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts; Paris, The Louvre; Paris, Centre Pompidou (Musée National d'Art Moderne - Centre de Création Industrielle).

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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