In the second of our series of ‘Discover’ exhibitions, which explore well-known paintings through a contemporary lens, we reunite, for the first time in 250 years Swiss painter Jean-Etienne Liotard’s pastel and oil versions of ‘The Lavergne Family Breakfast’. With the pastel and oil works side by side, this exhibition is a rare opportunity to compare the difference in technique and effect between the two.
Long regarded as his masterpiece, The Lavergne Family Breakfast is one of Liotard’s largest and most ambitious works in pastel. Despite the medium’s notorious delicacy, he skilfully reproduces complex textures: the sheen on the metal coffee pot, the shiny ceramic jug, the silky fabrics and reflections, in the black lacquer tray. Liotard was extremely versatile, producing works in pastel, oil, enamel, chalk and even on glass. Highly unusually, he returned to ‘The Lavergne Family Breakfast’ 20 years after he had painted it and made an exact replica in oil.
Liotard worked across the length and breadth of 18th-century Europe. Following four years in Constantinople, he grew a long beard, adopted Turkish dress and nicknamed himself ‘the Turkish painter.’ The exhibition showcases the raw materials used to make pastels as well as drawings, paintings and miniatures that seek to bring this idiosyncratic artist to life.
Last exhibited in 1754, when Liotard brought the pastel from Lyon to London, and hardly been seen in public since, this exhibition seeks to put Liotard and ‘The Lavergne Family Breakfast’ back in the spotlight.