Jean-Antoine Houdon

Sculptor of the Enlightenment

Anne L. Poulet

Jean-Antoine Houdon
See images from the book.

Anne L. Poulet

With contributions by Guilhem Scherf, Ulrike D. Mathies, Christoph Frank, Claude Vandalle, Dean Walker, and Monique Barbier
400 pages | 144 color plates, 225 halftones | 9 x 11 | © 2003
Paper $69.00 ISBN: 9780226676494 Published June 2005
Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1826) has long been recognized as the greatest European portrait sculptor of the late eighteenth century, flourishing during both the American and French Revolutions as well as during the Directoire and Empire in France. Whether sculpting a head of state, an intellectual, or a young child, Houdon had an uncanny ability to capture the essence of his subject with a characteristic pose or expression. Yet until now, Houdon’s exquisite sculptures have never been the subject of a major exhibition.

This lavish exhibition catalogue will immediately take its rightful place as the definitive work on Houdon. With more than one hundred color plates and two hundred black and white halftones, Jean-Antoine Houdon: Sculptor of the Enlightenment illustrates every stage of the sculptor’s fascinating career, from his early portrayals of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to his stunning portraits of American patriots such as George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, John Paul Jones, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. Indeed the images we hold dear of legendary Enlightenment figures like Diderot, Rousseau, d’Alembert, and Voltaire are based on works by Houdon. More than mere representations, these sculptures provide us fascinating, intimate glimpses into the very core of who these figures were. Houdon’s genius animated even his less illustrious subjects, like his portraits of his family and friends, and filled his sculptures of children with delicacy and freshness. Accompanying the images of Houdon’s masterworks are four insightful essays that discuss Houdon’s views on art (based in part on a newly discovered manuscript written by the artist) as well as his prominence in the highly varied cultures of eighteenth-century France, Germany, and Russia.

From aristocrats to revolutionaries, actors to philosophers, Houdon’s amazingly vivid portraits constitute the visual record of the Enlightenment and capture the true spirit of a remarkable age. Jean-Antoine Houdon finally gives these gorgeous works their due.
Directors’ Foreword

Lenders to the Exhibition

Preface and Acknowledgments

Note to the Reader

Houdon, "Above All Modern Artists"

Etat des Choses:
A Recently Discovered Document by Houdon

Houdon and the German Courts:
Serving the Francophile Princes

"A Man More Jealous of Glory than of Wealth":
Houdon’s Dealings with Russia

Early Works
Figures in the Arts
Family and Friends
Enlightenment Figures
Decorative Sculpture
American Patriots
The Courts of Europe
Late Works
Boilly’s Paintings

Abbreviated Chronology of Houdon’s Life and Work

Appendix: Etat des choses renfermées dans les caisses envoyées à son Altesses Monseigneur le Duc de Saxe Gotha

Select Bibliography
Photographic Credits
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