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Antoine Watteau

The sign of Gersaint


Match content and form

This large-format canvas - more than 3 m wide by 1.63 m high - is the latest masterpiece  by Frenchman Antoine Watteau, then a member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. We see the interior of an art dealer's shop, with customers chatting among the paintings for sale. And if the work  offers a rare testimony to urban life in the  Paris of the 18th century - a time when the reality of daily life was rarely considered worthy of being represented in painting - it is also remarkable  for the conditions and the purpose of its creation.  


In 1720, Watteau wanted to help his friend

Parisian art dealer Edmé-François Gersaint, whose shop has just moved following a devastating fire.  But instead of just giving her  a painting intended for sale, he proposes to create a work  which would serve as a billboard. In a few days, he paints  this canvas depicting the interior of Gersaint's shop .  The sign, displayed for a fortnight in front of the store,  on the Pont Notre Dame,  is admired by passers-by and caused a sensation among painting enthusiasts. Mission accomplished, therefore, for Watteau who understood that there is nothing more effective in promoting an art gallery... than a work of art.

What we can take away:

A message, it seems, is defined by two distinct dimensions: substance and form. And our first instinct is usually to  work on the content, then think about the form. But for  promote a project or share an idea,  the best solution is to think of content and form together, as one and the same characteristic.  "Form, said Victor Hugo, is the bottom that rises to the surface."

Related topic: Communication
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