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Jean-Etienne Liotard: inside the show

Published 12 November 2015

In this video series, curator MaryAnne Stevens takes us inside the Sackler Wing exhibition devoted to the 18th century Swiss master, Jean-Etienne Liotard, and picks out a few highlights.

  • The work of Jean-Etienne Liotard is both subtle and arresting, hinting at the extraordinary life of its creator. Characterised by an impressive realism and technical virtuosity, these works reveal a man who travelled widely and was an acute observer of human life.

    The Swiss artist was one of the greatest portraitists of the Enlightenment period, whose oeuvre includes pastel portraits, oil paintings, still lifes, genre scenes and trompe l’oeil. He was idiosyncratic in his approach to his work: a maverick self-publicist who commanded staggeringly high prices for his portraits of aristocrats and royalty. Mixing with the highest echelons of society, Liotard fuelled the growing vogue for Orientalism in Europe through his portraits of subjects in Turkish garb – which he himself wore throughout his career.

    In this series of videos, the curator MaryAnn Stevens guides us through the exhibition, introducing key works and periods in the life and work of the pastel-portrait master.

  • Part one: Introducing Liotard

    In the first part of our video series, curator MaryAnne Stevens introduces the life and work of Jean-Etienne Liotard via this unusual and arresting self portrait.

  • Part two: Orientalism

    Liotard’s travels took him to Constantinople, where his portrayal of life in the Ottoman Empire, and of his fashionable European sitters in Turkish attire, fuelled the growing vogue for Orientalism in Europe.

  • Part three: Pastel portraits

    Liotard’s handling of the medium of pastel showed great sophistication and technical skill, as these two portraits reveal.

  • Part four: Trompe l'Oeil

    In the final part of our video series, MaryAnne Stevens looks at one of strangest works in Liotard’s oeuvre – an attempt to fool his viewers with his painting virtuosity.


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