RT Book, Whole DB /z-wcorg/ DS http://worldcat.org ID 25631116 LA English T1 Watteau's painted conversations : art, literature, and talk in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France A1 Vidal, Mary., PB Yale University Press PP New Haven YR 1992 SN 0300054807 9780300054804 AB Antoine Watteau painted his engaging and ravishing fetes galantes during a period in which the art of polite conversation flourished in France. In this innovative study, Mary Vidal shows that conversation was central to Watteau's images of sociability and provided the framework for figural and formal relationships even in his military, mythological, theatrical, and religious works. Vidal argues that Watteau's paintings were not mere literal descriptions of social behaviour but represented conversation as part of an aesthetic, linguistic, and ethical system, as an art of living. Vidal shows that Watteau's focus on conversation was related to several developments in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France: the rise and elaboration of an art of conversation, the intimate connection between polite discourse and the redefinition of the nobility, the flourishing of women's salons in Paris, and the development of the literary genre of the written conversation. Watteau, in common with writers such as Moliere, Scudery, Fontenelle, and Marivaux, recognized speech as the central sign system of French society. He identified the witty, improvisational, fluid, and open-ended characteristics of fine conversation with his new manner of painting. Through this analogy, he presented the artistic process itself as the main concern of the elite artist, in contrast to the scholarly, text-dependent images of the Academy. Yet in choosing conversation as his subject, Watteau also associated his art with the subtle rhetoric and self-reflexive, civilizing behavior of polite society. In his conversational artmaking, Watteau set up complex dialogic relationships between spoken words and images, past and present art, art and society, viewer and painting. Often regarded as merely erotic and decorative, his painted conversations are here shown to be also works of substance, ideas, and morals comparable with those of the greatest conversationalists, writers, and artists of his age.