Frick to Present First Show on Jean-Antoine Watteau’s Military Works

Painting of Soldiers

It would be difficult to think of an artist further removed from the muck and misery of the battlefield than Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684–1721), who is known as a painter of amorous aristocrats and melancholy actors, a dreamer of exquisite parklands and impossibly refined fêtes. And yet, early in his career, Watteau painted a number of scenes of military life, remarkable for their deeply felt humanity and intimacy. These pictures were produced during one of the darkest chapters of France’s history, the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14). But the martial glory on which most military painters of the time trained their gaze—the fearsome arms, snarling horses, and splendid uniforms of generals glittering amid the smoke of cannon fire—held no interest for Watteau, who focused instead on the most prosaic aspects of war: the marches, halts, encampments, and bivouacs that defined the larger part of military life. Inspired by seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish genre scenes, the resulting works show the quiet moments between the fighting, when soldiers could rest and daydream, smoke pipes and play cards.

Watteau produced about a dozen of these military scenes, but only seven survive. Though known primarily only to specialists, they were once counted among the artist’s most admired works and owned by such prominent figures as Catherine the Great and the Prince of Conti. Presented exclusively at The Frick Collection in the summer of 2016, Watteau’s Soldiers is the first exhibition devoted solely to these captivating pictures, introducing the artist’s engagement with military life to a larger audience while offering a fresh perspective on the subject. Among the paintings, drawings, and prints are four of the seven known paintings—with the Frick’s own Portal of Valenciennes as the centerpiece—as well as the recently rediscovered Supply Train, which has never before been exhibited publicly in a museum. Also featured are about twelve studies of soldiers in red chalk, many directly related to the paintings on view.

Tags: Artist:

Basic Information

General Information Phone:
212.288.0700
Web Site: Building project: E-mail: App: Museum Entrance:
1 East 70th Street, near Fifth Avenue
Museum Hours:

Open six days a week: 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays; 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. Closed Mondays, New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Limited hours (11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) on Lincoln’s Birthday, Election Day, and Veterans Day.

PLEASE NOTE TO YOUR READERS: Children under ten are not admitted to the Collection.

Museum Admission:

$22; senior citizens $17; students $12; “pay what you wish” on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Subway:

#6 local (on Lexington Avenue) to 68th Street station; Bus: M1, M2, M3, and M4 southbound on Fifth Avenue to 72nd Street and northbound on Madison Avenue to 70th Street.

Tour Information:

Included in the price of admission is an Acoustiguide Audio Tour of the permanent collection. The tour is offered in six languages: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.

Shop:

The shop is open the same days as the Museum, closing fifteen minutes before the institution.

Group Museum Visits:

Please call 212.288.0700 for details and to make reservations.

Public Programs:

A calendar of events is published regularly and is available upon request.