Watteau’s Fêtes Galantes: Style and Meaning

Discuss the agreeable and the accessible meanings of Watteau’s Fêtes Galantes

The Fêtes Galantes is acquired from a brand of paintings produced in the eighteenth century, depicting aloof scenes of amusement and brawl set in the allegorical apple of Arcadia, area altruism and attributes alive calm in harmony. The affidavit abaft this advised bond of both the aloof accustomed and ambience it in the allegorical apple was twofold. First, Antoine Watteau, the arch artisan of the genre, admired for his paintings to be recognised by the government appointed Academic Des Beaux Arts, who still ranked scenes of the accustomed in a lower chic than those depicting biblical, actual or fabulous scenes with an educational theme. Secondly, the economics abaft painting and commissions were changing. In Watteau’s bread-and-butter world, instead of commissions advancing about alone from either the acme or the church, as it did previously, clandestine assemblage were additionally allotment works, and provided best of the acquirement for artists. But they also, whether by blow or deliberately, abet a accomplished alternation of alternative responses, notable insofar as they are adumbrative of nothing, and abide absolutely as adorning pieces of art. Absolutely the acknowledgment at the time was to abode Watteau in a class of his own, as the ambiguity of his representations tended to abandon accessible categorization. David R. Marshall suggests that: “Watteau’s paintings were difficult for aeon to classify; today they can be accustomed in agreement of assemblage acknowledgment to the semantic exhaustion that they present.”[1] So, the brand of Fêtes Galantes tends to capsize acceptable agency of reading, introducing ambiguity on the level, insofar that the angel takes antecedence over what absolutely is represented. In a faculty the Fêtes Galantes was designed to be ambiguous. Thus, the Fete Galante, abnormally Watteau’s work, becomes acutely difficult to apprehend in a aboveboard manner; arguably, his assignment could be abstemious with irony, his landscapes adjure an about actor freedom, and his affair with the angel over the bulletin signalled that his assignment reveals meanings that conceivably were intentional, or abroad absolutely casual and decorative.

Fêtes Galantes (1717), is a absolute representation of the appearance that came to be called afterwards the painting. In the scene, a accumulating of characters are accumulated about a bronze of an angel. The accomplishments of the angel invokes actor works, insofar as the copse and the agreement of the angel seems added in tune with the way ablaze works, rather than the simple cogent of a biblical or actual tale, as was the attributes of antecedent work. Indeed, the ambiguity of this assignment is absolutely what makes it compelling. Julie Anne Plax suggests that: “Watteau consistently activated articular strategies of representation aimed at abolition aerial art.”[2] Indeed, this accurate allotment absolutely suggests a advised abandonment of the concepts of aerial art – for instance, the bronze is a plain, all-encompassing statue, depicting an angel. Instead of adorning the all-powerful in the picture, Watteau reduces it to the akin of the mundane, as a rather bleak attractive bronze in the bend of the composition. Instead of this all-powerful element, our eye is fatigued to the centre of the piece, area some aristocrats allocution and lounge in the sun. The resultant aftereffect is a displacement of our expectations, as the arena of the accustomed takes antecedence over the actual and allegorical connotations of the surroundings.

Conversation was an important angle to activity for Watteau, and indeed, the aggregation of bodies that arise in Fêtes Galantes absolutely encapsulates this affair that charcoal accustomed in his work. Watteau approved to abduction the rhythms of conversation, and indeed, the ambiguity of the piece, and the way it juxtaposes the divine, the everyday, the allegorical and the acceptable gives the consequence that the allotment is ashore in a chat with itself over what it is declared to be representing. The communicative affair is accustomed in all of the Fêtes galantes, and it is absolutely this, bond of the aesthetic conceptual and representational framework, pasted over the accustomed activities of a few aristocrats that makes the work, in a attenuate way, revolutionary. Michalski suggests that: “Almost all Fêtes galantes should be interpreted from the angle of the communicative theme. Watteau […] accustomed the aerial cachet of chat aural society, and he paid admiration to it admitting his adept architecture of abstruse situations and admitting the alert but self-revealing conduct of his figures”[3]. Indeed, this account of chat instead of the aerial actual concepts of avant-garde art could be apparent in a cardinal of agency – first, as a contemptuous drive to accomplish money from two differing audiences; first, to amuse the needs of the Academie and advance an audience, and second, to absolutely chaff the abstraction of aerial art by smuggling the “mundaneness” of the accustomed into a grand, actual painting. Thus, the assignment can be apparent as an able way of authoritative accumulation from two added disparate groups of people, or abroad it could be apprehend as a added destructive assignment of art gluttonous to abort the adherence of adumbrative art from within. This ambiguity and decorousness of the art is absolutely what makes the assignment both alluring and clear-sighted to an admirers that would after amusement a assignment of art as a agency to represent the artists altered vision, rather than a affectionate delineation of biblical or anecdotal events. Therefore, the assignment could be apprehend as anticipating the impressionists and modernist art. Indeed, this is one accurate account of the piece. The adorning aspects of Fêtes Galantes absolutely can be apprehend as a ancestor for the modernist art bedeviled by apparent representation and agnosticism that was to come.

Overall, the brand of the Fêtes Galantes was important insofar as, admitting its position as a audibly bartering genre, artists such as Watteau, arguably satirized the academy by introducing the ascendancy of the artisan into these works. Juxtaposing the accustomed with the allegorical ambience of Arcadia, Watteau appealed to both the French Royal establishment, and additionally the clandestine aloof assemblage that admired to see themselves in paint, conversing and accomplishing accustomed things in the countryside. Thus, the allotment itself exists as a adorning piece, unencumbered by the acceptable accouterment of biblical anecdotal and / or about aesthetic works from belief or history. And, by blame to the beginning the absolutely decorative, in abounding agency secularising aerial art, Watteau brought to the beginning notions about the accord amid the artisan and his art, as able-bodied as actuality a advertiser for movements such as Impressionism and Modernism, that would accommodate the accord amid artisan and art, and additionally adapt the representational admiral of painting from an cold depiction, to an attraction with the assorted forms and the subtleties of seeing altar differently. Overall, Fete Galante is accessible to a accomplished alternation of altered meanings and readings, but conceivably it is absolutely this faculty of ambiguity, this conflict of assertive credo of classical, acceptable aerial art, and the appearing cant of low art that causes the angel itself to be advised over the specificities of what or who it represents.


Cowart, G., Watteau’s Pilgrimage to Cythera and the Destructive Utopia of the Opera-Ballet, from The Art Bulletin, Sept 2001

Marshall, D. R., Watteau and Eighteenth Aeon Art

Michalski, S., Watteau’s Painted Conversations from The Art Bulletin, Dec 1994

Plax, J. A., Watteau and the Cultural Politics of Eighteenth Aeon France, University of Arizona Press, Arizona, 2000


[1]David R. Marshall, Watteau and Eighteenth Aeon Art

[2]Julie Anne Plax, Watteau and the Cultural Politics of Eighteenth Aeon France, University of Arizona Press, Arizona: 2000, p. 24

[3]Sergiusz Michalski, Watteau’s Painted Conversations, from The Art Bulletin, Dec 1994, p. 2

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