Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Young Draughtsman, c1738
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779) was a prominent French painter. Although he is often classified a Rococo painter due to his time period, Chardin's work had little in common with the ornate style and grand paintings of the movement. Born in Paris, his father was a cabinetmaker. He became an apprentice to a number of established history painters and in 1724 he became a master at the Académie de Saint-Luc. In 1728 Chardin was admitted to the Académie Royale up the presentation of The Ray. Still-life became one of Chardin's primary genres, particularly scenes of hunted animals. Chardin is best known for his intimate domestic interiors, often depicting the activities of young men. Chardin elevated these drawings to the highest level and was considered one of the preeminent painters in France during his lifetime. This depiction of a young draughtsman is one of Chardin's most famous subjects, and he returned to it twelve times over a twenty year period. Chardin was somewhat impatient with the arduous training young artists underwent, which this piece shows. This artist, representative of Chardin himself (at least thematically), sits hunched over his sketch board in threadbare clothing and the warm coat suggests the studio is very cold. The young man is learning to draw figures, first by copying a study by a master before eventually moving on to live models. Notice the delicacy of Chardin's brushwork in the rendering of the coat, which is repeated in the texture of the canvas and wall. The piece also demonstrates masterful use of light and shadows to create the picture space. Some of the interest of the piece lies in the status of artwork. This painting contains two or three other artworks within it: the original study being copied, the sketch the boy is producing, and the blank canvas to the right which will eventually become an artwork as well.
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