The lecture investigates Jean Siméon Chardin’s extremely successful yet enigmatically brief engagement with genre painting in order to recover the fundamental strangeness of these works. Although genre scenes have been widely recognized to constitute a major aspect of Chardin’s practice, their singularity as individual works and their odd status as a group in the painter’s oeuvre have not been sufficiently accounted for. Focusing on the structure and morphology of these works, especially on the role of the figure and Chardin’s idiosyncratic technique, I address the question of the relation between individuality and materiality as an artistic and cultural problem.
Ewa Lajer-Burcharth is William Dorr Boardman Professor of Fine Arts at Harvard University. While her focus has long been on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European art and critical theory, she has also published essays on contemporary art, including artists such as Mona Hatoum, Cornelia Parker, Pipilotti Rist, Sam Taylor-Wood, Jane and Louise Wilson, Krzysztof Wodiczko and others. She is the author of Necklines: The Art of Jacques Louis David after the Terror (1999) and more recently of essays on Greuze, Fragonard, Chardin, and Boucher. She is currently a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin where she is completing a new book titled Paint and Person in Eighteenth Century Art and is also working on a cultural study of interiors and interiority in the contemporary art.