Discover Liotard & The Lavergne Family Breakfast ★★★★★ The National Gallery | Until March 3, 2024 (Free Entry)

This exquisite, small exhibition will be every art lover's cup of tea. Jean-Etienne Liotard is an 18th century artist more celebrated in his time than he is today, but this delightful look at his work should be an important step in rectifying this situation. Liotard worked in a variety of media from oils to ceramics, but his crowning achievement was in pastels. He was a master of this extremely fragile medium, and the central point of the current exhibition is an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast his representation of the same subject, The Lavergne Family Breakfast, in both pastels and in oil. For the first time in almost 250 years, Liotard's masterpieces come together and are placed side by side. The pastel version was acquired by The National Gallery in 2019 and the oil, which was painted almost twenty years later, has been lent from a private collection. Contrasting the two representations highlights how the two media can be employed to deal with volume, tone and nuances of colouration. This is a fascinating opportunity to compare the qualities of the two formats and to appreciate Liotard's consummate control of them both. The exhibition itself introduces us to a fascinating personality who was noted for dressing in a Turkish style and whose lifestyle was amazingly peripatetic. His ongoing creative audacity is reflected by the 78 year-old's self-portrait in the new technique of mezzotint. The show opens with a brief, but interesting, introduction to the medium of pastels, and is then divided into four sections: The Lavergne Family Breakfast, Liotard's Life and Times, Liotard in London and Liotard's Passion for Porcelain. It all provides a wonderfully concise overview that will definitely whet the appetite to learn more about this versatile artist and his work.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Image: Jean-Etienne Liotard, The Lavergne Family Breakfast (1773) © Courtesy the owner / photo: The National Gallery, London

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