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Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin

French Painter

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin Photo
Movement: The Rococo

Born: November 2, 1699 - Paris, France

Died: December 6, 1779 - Paris, France

"I must forget everything I have seen, and even forget the way such objects have been treated by others."

Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin Signature

Summary of Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin

Few artists in history have painted inanimate objects with such intricacy or luminosity so as to incite emotional reactions. With a less than straightforward trajectory to fame and success, and his name all but forgotten by the time of his death, Chardin's later rediscovery cemented his reputation as one of the most celebrated of all still life painters. At the time he was working, still life painting was one of the least-acclaimed disciplines: genre and history painting were seen as the ultimate demonstration of artistic ability and anything else was frequently dismissed as merely 'craft'. Persisting in his modern, realist style throughout his career, Chardin's subversive attitude has since awarded him the status of an icon for many modern and contemporary artists.

Key Ideas

Throughout his life Chardin suffered a great deal of personal loss, and this often permeates his paintings in the use of known visual tropes such as blown bubbles and precariously balanced objects, as with knives hanging on the edges of tables. His juxtaposition of such sombre themes with scenes from everyday life is what separates Chardin from other painters of the time.
Because of their often visceral detail, especially in illustrating dead fish and flayed animals, Chardin's paintings were revisited by modern artists especially in the age of Surrealism, with some considering Chardin as a Proto-Surrealist painter. Chardin's work demonstrated a love of beauty in previously unacknowledged places, to the extent that his objects would take on a magical quality previously unforeseen in the history of painting.
Chardin's genre paintings share a lot of similarities with his still lifes. Unlike his contemporaries who were consumed with the allegorical and figurative aspects typical of Rococo painting, Chardin gave as much attention to the objects in his paintings as he did the people. More typically in portraiture, objects appear only as 'accessories' to the person portrayed. But pictured in moments of quiet reflection, Chardin’s sitters often seem to be the accessories themselves.
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin Photo

Not much is known about the early years of the life of Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin. Born on the Rue de Seine in Paris, Chardin spent his childhood accompanying his father, a maker of billiard tables, at his workshop. Successful but humble, Chardin's family was part of a class of bourgeois artisans, which would come to influence the subjects of many of his later genre paintings. The young Chardin first joined the studio of the painter Pierre-Jacques Cazes, where he learned the techniques of academic drawing, and then that of Noël-Nicolas Coypel, a celebrated history painter. Though Chardin would go on to have little interest in history painting, an assignment from Coypel, of copying a musket from life for inclusion in one of the master's hunting paintings, led him to the style of meticulous observation with which his name would become synonymous. He received further training at the Académie de Saint-Luc, a guild akin to that of the Guild of St Luke, the patron saint of painters. Chardin's work in these early years included a number of genre scenes, as well as a signboard commissioned for a Parisian surgeon's office.

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