Although almost forgotten over the past two centuries, the painter Charles de La Fosse (1636-1716) introduced a great many new ideas during the reign of Louis XIV. His work bears testimony to the artistic development of Charles Le Brun, under whom he studied, as well as that of Antoine Watteau who was a close friend.
Educated in Italy, Charles de La Fosse later returned to France and embarked upon an academic career with his reception piece L’enlèvement de Proserpine (1673) and in 1702 became Rector of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. A friend of Roger de Piles, Le Fosse was a supporter of colourism, mixing Flemmish painting with the Venetian school. Alongside his teacher Charles Le Brun, the painter contibuted to major historic decoration work in the Tuileries and the Palace of Versailles. Upon the request of Lord Montagu (the former English Ambassador in the French court) he went to England, to be later called back to France by Jules Hardouin-Mansart upon the death of Charles Le Brun in 1690, when he received several major royal and private commissions. He is the only painter of his generation to have contibuted to all the painting works of Louis XIV. While painting the gallery of the private mansion of the financier Pierre Crozat, he mixed with a new generation of artists. La Fosse’s body of work is equally exceptional for his numerous drawings, in particular those using the “trois crayons” (black, red and white), learned from Rubens, and adopted by Antoine Watteau.
The exhibition highlights the different aspects of the artist’s talent, inspired by the masters of the Académie (Poussin and Le Brun), and strongly influenced by contact with the Venetian and Flemmish schools to produce light seductive paintings with glowing colours. Prefering colour to lines, La Fosse was amongst the pioneers and forerunners of the 18th century.
This first monographic exhibition dedicated to this major painter from the reign of Louis XIV pays tribute to one of the main contributers to the decoration in the Palace of Versailles and who worked on the Diana and Apollo Rooms, the Grand Trianon and the Royal Chapel. It is an opportunity to showcase his major compositions, especially the ceiling of the Apollo Room, restored in 2014. It displays forty or so paintings and about thirty drawings from French and foreign public and private collections.
The exhibition has been organised in collaboration with the Nantes Musée des Beaux-Arts, which is holding an exhibtion titled Charles de La Fosse, Les amours des dieux from 20th June to 20th September 2015 in the Chapelle de l’Oratoire.
Béatrice Sarrazin, Head curator for Heritage, in charge of 17th century paintings, Musée National des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon
Adeline Collange-Perugi, Curator, in charge of ancient art, Nantes Musée des Beaux-Arts
Clémentine Gustin-Gomez, Doctor in the History of Art