Intimate Encounters: Love and Domesticity in 18th Century France | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: Intimate Encounters: Love and Domesticity in 18th Century France

January 17, 2011

Intimate Encounters: Love and Domesticity in 18th Century France

 Francois Boucher, La Toilette (A Lady Fastening Her Garter). 1742, oil on canvas.  Fundacion Coleccion Thyssen-Bornemisza.

I am so excited to tell you about this exhibition catalog, because the minute I opened it I saw a painting by Nicolas Lancret I had never seen before! It did not take long before I found several unknown treasures; the beautifully illustrated catalog was put together to accompany the exhibition Intimate Encounters: Love and Domesticity in 18th Century France.

Although the show is over, you can visit it through more than 75 works of art by 39 artists.  The book contains five short essays that walk you through the history of genre painting, the artists, women of fashion and scholars that influenced it and opposed it, while making connections between various forms of art.

Intimate Encounters encourages us to consider the role of genre painting in France. In the 18th century it existed in stark contrast to the more traditional historical style that dominated the Royal Academy.  The soft colors and intimate subjects of genre paintings challenged the tastes of the period and they challenged the artists that tried to present them.

They remain popular even today. This genre reflects the world of various classes, particularly the bourgeois. They even made witty remarks on society during a time when privacy became increasingly more important to many classes.

The genre painting existed as a window to a private setting, where a viewer probably should not be.  Even in scenes of public frivolity the viewer may gaze unseen, spying all the details and scandalous ones at that which occur before them.  Intimate Encounters is wonderfully presented and offers many fascinating approaches to understanding the demand for, popularity and beauty of intimate encounters in art.

The five sections include:
"Love, Domesticity, and the Evolution of Genre Painting In Eighteenth-Century France" by Richard Rand discusses the style and subject of genre painting as a comparable and even challenging style in a society when the highest valued art was traditional and historic painting.

"Hidden from View: French Women Authors and the Language of Rights, 1727-1792" by Virginia E. Swain is a wonderful piece on French women of letters and novelists, including Madame Riccoboni, Madame de Tencin and Madame de Lambert.

"The "Bourgeois" Family Revisited: Sentimentalism and Social Class in Prerevolutionary French Culture" by Sarah Maza discusses the changes in society at various levels; a new desire for privacy in the home is demonstrated in many genre paintings of the 18th century.

"Intimate Dramas: Genre Painting and New Theater in Eighteenth-Century France""Genre Prints in Eighteenth-Century France: Production, Market, and Audience" by Mark Ledbury introduces some of the connections between 18th century genre painting and the 18th century stage; not always obvious, the two art forms share more than you might expect!

"Genre Prints in Eighteenth-Century France: Production, Market, and Audience," by Anne L. Schroder is the last essay in the book.  It focuses on the genre prints of the 18th century, which were more easy to afford as well as create than paintings, yet appealed to members from all ranks of society.

The second half of the book contains the catalog of works from the exhibition.  Several prints accompany the many full color images of works by artists such as Boucher, Chardin, Watteau, Lancret, Greuze and Fragonard.  The works are accompanied with a description and discussion of the work in context.

Rand, Richard, and Juliette M. Bianco. 1997. Intimate encounters: love and domesticity in eighteenth-century France. [Hanover, N.H.]: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College. ISBN 9780691016634

Intimate encounters is available from:


  1. Sounds awesome! Maybe the fine arts library here has it.

  2. @heidenkind you will definitely like it! I am sure your library has it! If not you should ask them to get it :o)

  3. Some lovely pictures. Why don't people paint like that anymore?

    Thanks for sharing. I love art.

  4. That sounds like a wonderful book. I need to look into getting it to give to my daughter, after I read through it first.

  5. @Renate & @Jane Charles I really think the treasure of the book is the many beautiful color images (many are full page) that make up the catalog. The descriptions and write ups on each one are really absorbing!

    I am always happy to find a book I really enjoy!

  6. Wow thanks for letting me know about this. I have always loved French 18th century Genre Paintings. I own a nice collection of hand colored French 18th century engravings.

  7. @Frank Zweegers glad you stopped by!

    @andrew1860 I think you would particularly like this one!