THE ARTISTS: Jean Etienne Liotard


22 December. This is the date of birth of the twins Jean Etienne and Jean Michel Liotard, in Geneva; they are the youngest sons of Antoine Liotard (Montélimar en Dauphiné 1661 - Geneva 1740) a shopkeeper and Anne Sauvage (Montélimar 1659 - Geneva 1731).
Liotard spends his childhood in Geneva, where he attends school. His first drawing is a portrait of his father, made in 1714; the first pastel is made in 1721. Around the year 1721 he begins four months of apprenticeship by the miniaturist Daniel Gardelle (1673 - 1753).

1721 Date of birth of Madame de Pompadour


The first stay in Paris. He begins three years of a poor apprenticeship by Jean-Baptiste Massé (1687 - 1767).


“David and Abimelech” ( on catalogue n° 15), the only one religious painting of Liotard doesn’t pass the competition at the Académie. The artist goes to Naples with the Marquess of Puysieux, the new French Ambassador in Italy. Then goes to Rome.


The first four months of the year Liotard is in Naples, then in Rome. He paints the portraits of Clement XII (on catalogue, n° 18), of the cardinal Biancheri (n° 17), of James Stuart (n° 19) and his family (n° 20). In a cafè he meets William Ponsonby (1704-93), in 1758 Earl of Bessborough).


Liotard goes to Rome and then in Florence.


The journey to Constantinople. He takes a ship from Naples the 3 April, with Lord Ponsonby and the Earl of Sandwich; goes to Malta, Milos, Paros, Chios (in May), Smirne, Constantinople (from August 1738 to September 1742). In this city Liotard begins to wear in Turkish style.


He has an invitation by the prince of Moldavia and goes to Romania, where he arrives the 15 of October to spend ten months there. There aren’t portraits of this period, save for a few drawings.
Following the local aristocracy, Liotard grows a long beard and wears a bonnet made of fur.


The stay in Vienna. Liotard arrives the 2 September wearing a Turkish costume. He is introduced by the Duke (Emperor in 1745) Francis and his wife, The Empress Marie Therese. She will remain a good friend of him.
Liotard has a great success as painter of the aristocracy.

1745 The arrival of Madame de Pompadour at the court


From February 1745 Liotard stays in Venice, where he increases his income with a few paintings. He makes the portrait of the Earl Algarotti, meets Rosalba Carriera and his twin, and has a lover. He maybe goes to Milan.


The second stay in Paris, where he lives a luxurious life in Rue de la Corderie in the Marais district. Has a daughter, Marie Nicolle, from his partner, Mlle Raymond; later he will adopte the child, who will grow up in Geneva with his legitimate children. She dies in 1780-82.
Liotard has a big success and a good income - more than 30.000 livres a year -, despite the contrast with the Acadèmie that doesn’t accept him, because of his “true” style.
Liotard paints the portraits of the whole royal family (1749), the Marshal of Saxony and of Madame de Pompadour.


As “Peintre ordinaire du Roy”, he has an exhibition of six of his paintings at the Académie de Saint Luc; among these works there is the “Belle liseuse”.
The “Journal économique” publishes this review:
“The pastels were the most admired, two in particular, a nice Liseuse and a Sultana: perfect works, very expressive and refined”.


Another exhibition at the Académie de Saint Luc, with 15 paintings, 3 miniatures and 10 drawings. Liotard becomes “Peintre du Roy et Conseifer de l’Académie de saint Luc”. The envious members of the Académie forced him to buy a professional qualification (maitrise).


In London. Horace Walpole writes a letter about the artist (4 March 1753): “Mr. Liotard, the painter, has just arrived...he comes from Geneva but, due to his stay in Constantinople, wears in Turkish style and his beard is so long that touches his belt”.


The Netherlands. Liotard visits his nephews in Delft and then goes in The Hague, to portraits the local aristocracy.


After a short stay in Paris, he goes to live in Geneva. He begins a friendship with Francois Tronchin, and portraits his family.


The 11 October he buys a house in rue St. Antoine des Chaudronniers. The 18 November is the date of birth of Jean-Etienne (Liotard-Crommelin, who dies in Amsterdam in 1822).


The 11 June his daughter Marie Antoinette dies after a few hours from her birth.


In summer he has the visit of the Baron of Reiffenstein.


In spring he takes a journey to Vienna and returns in December. He paints the portraits of the royal couple and, “aux trios crayons”, of their eleven children.


The 12 January is the date of birth of Marìe Therese (who dies in 1793) who is the god-daughter of the empress. In august the artist spends 18.000 livres to buy a house in Confignon, a village south-west of Geneva, to live there with his own family and two of his elder brothers.

1764 The death of Madame de Pompadour


The 10 June is the date of birth of Jean Daniel (who dies in the XIX century).


the 2 September he writes a letter to Rousseau (see catalogue, n° 275).


A short journey to Turin.


The 3 August is the date of birth of Marie Anne Françoise (who dies in the XIX century).


In Lion, Liotard portraits Rousseau who, dissatisfied, refuses it.
At the end of the year the Empress Marie Therese asked him to portrait her daughter, Marie Antoinette, the Dauphin of France.


At the beginning of the year, Liotard is in Paris to portrait Marie Antoinette.


London, great Marlborough Street. His exhibition at the Royal Academy lasts for two years, with a remarkable success. He keeps on wearing in Turkish style, with a long beard.


The visit of the Margrave of Baden.


The Earl of Bristol invites him (A. J. Hervey) in Nice.


The 14 July the Emperor Joseph II visits Liotard who, the 4 September, goes to Vienna with him and his elder son. In Zurich the artist visits Lavater and Gessner. The 5 November he arrives in Vienna where, thanks to the Empress, he and his son stays at the castle.


Liotard is in Vienna. Apart from the royal portraits he doesn’t have work orders so tries to sell his paintings, without success. In April he visits Roslin, his rival. In June he returns to Geneva. Claude-Joseph Vernet goes to visit him.


Not having many work orders, he makes a few engravings and writes the Traité.BR>


Because of political reasons he stays in Lion from May until September and publishes the Traité.


Fearing of being arrested he goes to Confignon. His wife dies. Liotard paints still lives. The 10 September his elder daughter writes a letter to him, saying: “It is a lot of money and didn’t yield anything”. She marries François de Bassompierre.


The visit of the prince of Ligne. He paints still lives.


In January Liotard is named Member of the Great Council of Geneva. In June he sells his estate in Confignon for 16.000 livres. The prince of Prussia goes to see him.


In spring he goes to live with his daughter in Begnins sur Nyon, where he takes up painting on enamel and on big porcelain plates. He even paints flowers (see catalogue, n° 361-364).


His staying in Nyon.


He returns in Geneva.


12 June: the artist dies. His collection is divided among the five sons; later most of it will be inherited by the descendants of his elder son.


“The beautiful chocolate maker”.
Oil on canvas
Dresden, The Staatliche Kunstsammlungen.
cm. 82,5 x 52,5