On this Date in History, September 5: Birth of de la Tour and Friedrich

What happened on this date in art history?  September 5 brings us two birthdays of painters born in the 18th century, French Rococo painter Maurice Quentin de la Tour and German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich.

Maurice Quentin de la Tour, Self-Portrait, 1751, Amiens, Musée de Picardie

Maurice Quentin de La Tour (September 5, 1704 – February 17, 788) was a French Rococo painter best known for his pastel portraits.

Pastels were a new art media in the 18th century, they solidified pigments into portable sticks and were useful for quick sketches that could be translated into larger paintings later as well as landscapes and portraits that would allow for shorter lengths of time for the subject to sit.

De la Tour's own self-portrait is one of his best known works, the artist was able to portray a variety of textures quite beautifully from fabrics such as his velvet coat to hair and skin.

He was a popular artist in France and painted portraits of the King, the royal family, the King's mistress, Voltaire and other distinguished people in France.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art writes of de la Tour on their website-

"In the age of Enlightenment when the medium of pastel gained immense popularity, Maurice-Quentin de La Tour was perhaps its most gifted practitioner. He was distinguished from his peers by his ability to capture the inner spirit and intellect of his sitters."

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1817-1818), Hamburg Art Museum

Caspar David Friedrich (September 5, 1774 – May 7, 1840) was a German Romantic painter known for his landscapes.  Friedrich spent much of his life and career in Dresden.  He began his painting career in 1807, but had been drawing for several years beforehand.

Unlike the work of de la Tour during the time of the Enlightenment, a period known for its reason, the era of Romanticism focused on mood and emotion, theatricality, passion and dramatic settings.

There was a new interest in and reverence for nature which is why elements of landscape frequently appear in Romantic art, particularly in the work of Friedrich. Friedrich often combined figures in his landscape work in interesting compositions (he painted himself into the work below on the right)

Caspar David Friedrich, Two Men Contemplating the Moon (1825-30), Metropolitan Museum of Art


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