Paintings by one of the most important artists of revolutionary France, never previously displayed or published, go on display in the first UK exhibition devoted to Louis-Léopold Boilly.
Forming the core of the exhibition, these 20 works represent the highlights of Boilly’s long career in Paris, from 1785 to the 1830s, where he witnessed the French Revolution, the rise and fall of Napoleon, and the Restoration of the French Monarchy.
The exhibition shows, through meticulously executed, detail-rich paintings and drawings, Boilly’s daring responses to the changing political environment and art market and his acute powers of observation and wry sense of humour.
Works include street scenes (Boilly became the first French artist to paint views of everyday life on Paris’s streets and boulevards), portraits, and will look at Boilly’s engaging contribution to trompe l’oeil – a term he himself invented for his submission to the Salon of 1800 where he used the art technique to "deceive the eye" through realistic imagery, creating the illusion that depicted objects exist in three dimensions.
These works emphasise the revolutionary aspect of Boilly’s work: that he was not only working in a politically turbulent period, but also that he was actively involved in turning representation – and especially the relationship between different media – on its head.
The exhibition introduces an artist who is little known in Britain, and provides unparalleled context for the one painting by Boilly in the National Gallery’s Collection.