One Within us - Natalie Ayers

Who we are as individuals is a direct correlation of the environment we exist in. This is a collection of early 18th century Fete Galante paintings of subjects interacting with the space and people around them; with critical analysis of the balance and structure of movement within each painting. For your enjoyment and entertainment, like the characters you will meet in the following images. 

On the edge of a body of water within a lush landscape resides a beautiful fountain bustling with life. Those gathered appear well dressed and at ease. There is a healthy balance of color, shadow, and light. The highlights gorgeously lift the pastel hues of the clothing and provide the appearance of a silky texture. The viewers eye has an abundance to look at, yet is easily guided through the movement by following the eye line of the subjects. Each person is looking at another person and as you follow the exchange of gazes, you find yourself in the center of image eye to eye with the woman in blue and suddenly you’re apart of it; the place, the people, the feelings are all at once translated to the viewer.
A man and a woman beginning to dance are the focal point in this classic fete galante painting by Watteau. The background is filled with characters consuming themselves with each other set to the music of Jean-Antoine himself. A soft array of colors with highlights striking in the center of the frame creates balance. The man on the far right with his arms stretched wide guides the movement of the viewer towards the subjects of the scene.
In the recognizable whimsical landscape setting of the fete galante genre are two lovers sitting near a tree. With the use of color and contrast the couple stands out from the confusion of branches in the background. The right third of the frame reveals peaking land in the distance, providing depth and balance in an otherwise flat image. The man gazes at her with fascination as she innocently glances downward to the object in her hand. The way his arm reaches over to fix flowers in her hair connects the lovers through movement in the frame.
A musician stands before a group in a parkland environment. The individuals embrace the consistent themes of fete galante with a romantic carefree existence. The left half of frame is light with blue skies and fluffy white clouds while the right side of frame is blocked of light by the greenery; this contrast creates balance. Being on the left of frame, the guitarist is more striking to the viewer as if in the spotlight; the highlighting or act of putting emphasis on the entertainment is common for the style of painting.
A gathering for a dance performance takes place in a dreamy landscape where patrons bask in all their glory wearing elegant attire. The entertainment aspect of this style of contemporary illustration is met with dancing and musical acts while embraced lovers watch from aside. The use of contrast allows for an appeasing balanced frame with select objects and characters highlighted from background elements. The liveliness of this scene is accomplished with the movements of the characters interacting; some motioning towards each other, some playing instruments, others dancing, and even a woman petting a dog. The essence of fete galante is strong in this painting by Pater.
The painting, L'indiscret, is one of the more emphatic provocative depictions within the fete galante genre. The sexual reference is clear, yet subtle and maintains the stylistic elegance true to the collection of fete galante. A woman sits in the forested area while a man sneakily attempts to peek up her gown. The light peaking in from a sunset sky balances the frame seamlessly with the left third of the image where the woman is highlighted. A small range of light casted upon the man creates a vector between the hot spots of the image and creates movement from the woman to the peeper. The undertones and softness of the middle zone represented as the man prove crucial to perfecting the subtlety of the image.
Fete galante took a stylistic turn after Watteau was commissioned to depict life during war. In these paintings the artist uses more saturated tones with emphasized blues and oranges. Unlike the themes of his original style, this variation shows tiredness and saddened expressions and there seems to be a fog in the air. Most figures are shown sleeping, a few making food, yet still entertainment is present with men in the distant background playing cards. Light tones and highlights in the center draw the eye inward and a gradient like branching of color allows movement through the image.
Children play in a familiar scene of fetes galantes romantic lush landscape. The girls and boys are full of movement, dancing around one another and gesturing. Smaller children are left to the side, with not yet enough maturity to participate. Smooth pastel tones provide an airy feel and warm environment for the activity occurring. The center of the background elements is a release in the leafy greenery with clouded pale skies, serving as a hidden curtain or spotlight for the games. There is an appropriate range of hues and values, which create an aesthetic balance.
The light airy feeling of this painting gives it belonging to fete galante. While wider in aspect then typical for the genre, the romantic and elegant aspect is on par. A whimsical feel is found in the movement of the imagery; a rowboat approaching shore, a flag glimmering in the wind, birds soaring through the sky, and people scattered about. Variations of light through the sun-streaked image provide depth. Light pastel tones provide a lighthearted ambience to the scene. The spread of people throughout the massive space gives a coherent balance of active life.
Entertainment, dance, romance, humor, and class describe the elements of fete galante represented in this painting by Gabriel Jacques de Saint-Aubin. People fill a lush town center where they exhibit the energy of movement. There is balance in the frame where each empty space is filled by another equivalent space, providing just enough information for a pleasing image. There are a few strong pops of color, but otherwise low saturations come through in the shapes of people. This more modern rural depiction is uncommon. With small buildings illustrated and large centers appearing from the background, the environment is not the traditional landscape setting yet the painting still hits crucial themes.
Credits: All media
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