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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Chardin: The Attentive Nurse

Chardin: The Attentive Nurse
oil on canvas, 1747
Washington DC National Gallery of Art
no copyright infringement intended

Through the simple action depicted here, Chardin reveals dignity and beauty in everyday life. The woman's expression as she concentrates on her task suggests that her thoughts are elsewhere, perhaps with the invalid whose meal she is preparing (Chardin lost his first wife and young daughter to illness). Each object receives careful treatment from the artist's brush. The table setting is a harmony of white tones: jug, tablecloth, egg, and plate, each subtly different. Every pot, each piece of crockery is palpably present. As Diderot wrote of Chardin, it is not white, red, or black pigment that you mix on your palette, it is the very substance of objects. Chardin's modest subjects—like this and that of the Kitchen Maid—were extremely popular with all classes of society, including the aristocracy. Perhaps their appeal rested in their sense of order, of things in their proper place. Chardin anticipated the popularity of paintings of sensibility, which increased from the 1740s on, telling a colleague that one uses color, but one paints with sentiment.



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