Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702–1789) was born on the 22nd of December 1702 into a refugee French Protestant family living in Geneva. His father, Jean-Antoine Liotard, was from Montelimar and a merchant tailor by trade. In Geneva, Liotard trained with Gardelle and Petitot, skilfully copying their enamels and miniatures. In France, he was an apprentice to Massé and Lemoyne, on whose recommendation he was taken to Naples by the Marquis Puysieux. He painted Pope Clement XII and several cardinals in Rome and in 1738 he accompanied Lord Duncannon to Constantinople, eccentrically adopting oriental costume, which got him the nickname ‘Turkish painter’ upon his return to Paris. In Vienna, he portrayed the imperial family and in England, the princess of Wales. One of the most cosmopolitan artists of his time, Liotard gained significant reputation, as well as fortune: “after fruitful visits to Italy, the Middle East and Austria, Liotard succeeded in becoming an important portrait painter at the French court, as is attested by his invitation in 1749 to produce portraits of Louis XV and the royal family. In part, these important commissions formed the basis of the fortune that Jean-Etienne Liotard began to accumulate from this date on.” (François Marandet, ‘The Formative Years of Jean-Etienne Liotard’, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 145, No. 1201, Apr., 2003). In 1781, Liotard published his Traité des principes et des règles de la peinture (Treatise of the principles and rules of the Art of Painting).
Jean-Étienne Liotard: Marie-Rose de Larlan de Kercadio de Rochefort, Marquise des Nétumières, 1750, Pastel on blue-grey laid paper mounted onto thin paper, 60.3 × 50.2 cm (23.7 × 19.8 in), Detroit Institute of Arts
His style was unusual for the 18th century, when staged oil portraits tended to focus on highlighting status and refined poise. His Parisian contemporaries were scandalised when they “encountered Liotard’s pastels and oils; the lack of any touche, the absence of pose, the quasi-magical illusionism, the hyper-realism: all these ran counter to….
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