Jean Siméon Chardin
“How many attempts, now happy, now unhappy!… He who has not felt the difficulties of his art does nothing that counts. “
By general consent, Jean Siméon Chardin was one of the supreme artists of the eighteenth century and probably the greatest master of still life in the history of painting. Yet there has never been a full dress retrospective of his work, and to mark the 200th anniversary of his death, at the age of eighty in 1779, a huge Chardin show has opened in Paris [review dates from 1979]. Organized by Pierre Rosenberg of the Louvre, it is the kind of exhibit that assigns the Tuts and Pompeiis to the category of show biz trivia where they belong.
To see Chardin’s work en masse, in the midst of a period stuffed with every kind of jerky innovation, narcissistic blurting and trashy “relevance,” is to be reminded that lucidity, deliberation, probity and calm are still the chief virtues of the art of painting. Chardin has long been a painter’s painter, studied and when his work was cheap, coIlected by other artists. He deeply affected at least three of the founders of modern art, Cezanne, Matisse and Braque. Van Gogh compared his depth to Rembrandt’s. What seized them in his work was not the humility of his subject matter so much as its ambition as pure painting. The mediation between the eye and the world that Chardin’s canvases propose is inexhaustible.Robert Hughes, "Nothing if not Critical"