Jean-Antoine Watteau, who died far too early, was one of the most important artists of his time.
He went down in cultural history as the founder of French rococo painting, for which he, as an eternal outsider, was both an impetus and an utmost achievement.
His works are characterized by a sadness that is in apparent contradiction to his chosen objects and that envelops all his works with the appearance of a delicate melancholy.
Perhaps it was the knowledge of his early death that compelled him to show these singing and dancing lovers in all their apparent joy, but always in the knowledge of their end.
One can also discover this sadness in his painting “Fête champêtre”, which was painted in Nogent-sur-Marne.
In the centre of the picture, a young woman in a gallant outfit, almost radiant in her pink satin bodice and white skirt, sits in the centre. On her knees she is holding a music book, in which she seems to be leafing through, and next to her is a man with a guitar, who seems to be waiting for his cue.
But nowhere is there anything like joy, for her mouth is firmly closed and her gaze lowered.
At her side stands a lady in a pink coat, who turns her back to us. The position of her head and the facial expressions of the man facing her show aversion, sadness and surfeit. Perhaps that it is a pair of lovers who have separated. Or perhaps it is just two people who know that they will always remain strangers to each other.
On her right, a young girl defends herself against the caresses of a young man. But it is not a loving dalliance. Rather, it seems to her like an assault from which she wishes to flee.
One senses that there is no casual togetherness here, no joy and lightness, but that the people, although thrown together by social conventions, live their own lonely lives.
Which Watteau shows us in his unmistakable handwriting.