The Frick Collection
Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702-1789): Swiss Master
Special Exhibition: Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702-1789): Swiss Master

Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702-1789): Swiss Master
June 13 through September 17, 2006

  Hans Memling
  Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702-1789), Liotard Laughing, c. 1770, oil on canvas, 84 x 74 (33 1/16 x 29 1/8), Musée d’art et d’histoire, Département des Beaux-Arts

A peripatetic pastelist, painter, and miniaturist, Jean-Étienne Liotard is one of the most fascinating and idiosyncratic artists of the eighteenth century. Born in Geneva in 1702, Liotard began his training as a miniaturist, studying first in his birthplace, then in Paris. After an unsuccessful bid to enter the French Royal Academy in 1735, Liotard traveled to Italy and, in 1738, to Constantinople, where he remained until 1742. While in the Levant, Liotard adopted the Turkish costume and long beard that caused a sensation on his return to Europe. During his repeated sojourns in Vienna, Paris, London, and in many other cities, Liotard’s astonishing persona as the “Turkish painter” and his equally astonishing art captivated patrons and ensured him a highly successful career as an artist despite his lack of any academic affiliation.

To his admirers, Liotard was the “painter of truth.” The artist was unsparing in his depiction of his sitters, including himself, avoiding the flattery and embellishment that characterized the art of his colleagues. He also avoided the painterly touches and visible brushstrokes favored by his contemporaries, railing in his Treatise on the Principles and Rules of Painting, published in 1781, that since one did not see such flourishes in nature, they had no place in art. Although the artist’s scrupulous realism put him at odds with the artistic establishment and did not please all of his sitters, it was the startling veracity of his likenesses that attracted the attention of noble and non-noble elites and secured his international reputation.

Unless otherwise noted, all works are from the Musées d’art et d’histoire, Geneva.

Presentation of the exhibition is made possible, in part, through the generous support of Margot and Jerry Bogert; Melvin R. Seiden in honor of Jean A. Bonna and Inez and Yves Oltramare, with additional support from Inez and Yves Oltramare; Jean A. Bonna; Pro Helvetia, Arts Council of Switzerland; The Helen Clay Frick Foundation; and the Fellows of The Frick Collection. Transportation costs have been generously underwritten by Swiss International Air Lines. The catalogue is made possible, in part, by Lawrence and Julie Salander.