The Frick Collection
The West Gallery of The Frick Collection
Exhibitions: Gabriel de Saint-Aubin

Gabriel de Saint-Aubin (1724–1780)
October 30, 2007, through January 27, 2008

  Saint-Aubin, The Flirtatious Conversation, 1760, watercolor and gouache, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  Saint-Aubin, The Flirtatious Conversation, 1760, watercolor and gouache, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

About the time he made The Flirtatious Conversation, the artist was, in fact, producing a variety of genre scenes that targeted the ever-thriving market for reproductive prints in eighteenth-century France. His most successful efforts were updated versions of the fêtes galantes of Watteau, in which Saint-Aubin adapted this more idyllic pictorial tradition to highly specific places and circumstances of contemporary Parisian life. The Society Promenade (below, left) is a particularly fine example of a finished drawing that may be considered tantamount to a painting. It was engraved in 1760 by A. J. Duclos (1742–1795), an associate of the artist’s brother Augustin. Among the most beautiful and effective of Saint-Aubin’s own (and quite rare) paintings in oil on canvas is A Street Show in Paris (below, right), also engraved by Duclos to be paired with the Society Promenade. Here we see a somewhat humbler aspect of Parisian social life, with locals and urchins gathered to watch mock sword play between outdoor performers at one of the unofficial theaters then lining the boulevards.

Saint-Aubin, Society Promenade, 1760, pen and brown and black ink, brush and gray wash, watercolor, and gouache, State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg   Saint-Aubin, A Street Show in Paris, 1760, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London

Saint-Aubin’s most original contribution was to capture in paintings, finished drawings, and thumbnail sketches the art exhibitions and sales of his day, both as great events in the life of Paris and in all their fascinating documentary detail. Saint-Aubin was, in fact, the first artist ever to produce panoramic representations of the exhibitions of the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, held every other year in the Salon carré of the Louvre. In his unfinished view of the Salon of 1765 (below), we witness his inaugural attempt to encompass an entire exhibition in a single image. This exquisite sheet is the immediate forerunner to Saint-Aubin’s celebrated View of the Salon of 1767 (below).

  Saint-Aubin, The "Salon du Louvre" in 1765, 1765, pencil, watercolor, pen, and ink, Musée du Louvre, Département des Arts Graphiques, Paris
  Saint-Aubin, View of the Salon of 1767, Private Collection, Paris

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The accompanying catalogue is available, in both English and French, in the Museum Shop and on our Web site, at

Gabriel de Saint-Aubin (1724–1780) was organized for The Frick Collection by Colin B. Bailey, Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator, and Kim de Beaumont, Guest Curator; the curators at the Musée du Louvre are Pierre Rosenberg, President-Director Emeritus, and Christophe Leribault, Chief Curator in the Department of Drawings.

Major funding for Gabriel de Saint-Aubin (1724–1780) has been provided by The Florence Gould Foundation. Additional generous support has been provided by The Christian Humann Foundation, the Michel David-Weill Foundation, and The Grand Marnier Foundation.

NEA (National Endowment for the Arts   The project is also supported, in part, by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.