Posted in Traditional Art

A little bit of Chardin

When I first started getting back into painting some years ago now, I joined an online art community where challenges would be set to do your own version of one of the “Masters”.

One of my favourites was Chardin, even though in actual fact I am not a huge fan of still life.

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin was born in Paris on 2 November 1699.

Chardin - Self Portrait 1775
Chardin – Self Portrait 1775

He was not a very prolific painter, only producing  200 paintings in his lifetime.  Little is known about his training with some reports stating that he was mostly self taught.  He was admitted to the Academy of Saint Lucas in 1724 and by 1740 he had been presented to Louis XV.  He remained at the same address in Paris until 1757 when Louis XV granted him a studio and living quarters in the Louvre.

Chardin entered into a marriage contract with Marguerite Saintard in 1723, whom he did not marry until 1731. In November of 1731 his son Jean-Pierre was baptized, and a daughter, Marguerite-Agnes, was baptized in 1733. In 1735 his wife Marguerite died, and within two years Marguerite-Agnes had died as well.

In 1744 he entered his second marriage, this time to Françoise-Marguerite Pouget. The following year a daughter, Angèlique-Françoise, was born, but she died in 1746.

He is much admired for his still life work and portraiture in pastels, which are now highly valued. His self-portrait (left) was produced in the latter medium. Chardin painted humble scenes that deal with simple, everyday activities. He used blocky simple forms perfectly organized in space, and few colors, mostly earth tones. He was a master of textures, shapes, and the soft diffusion of light.

In 1752 Chardin was granted a pension of 500 livres by Louis XV. At the Salon of 1759 he exhibited nine paintings; it was the first Salon to be commented upon by Denis Diderot, who would prove to be a great admirer and public champion of Chardin’s work. Beginning in 1761, his responsibilities on behalf of the Salon, simultaneously arranging the exhibitions and acting as treasurer, resulted in a diminution of productivity in painting, and the showing of ‘replicas’ of previous works.

Mme Chardin - Pastel - 1775
Mme Chardin – Pastel – 1775

In 1763 his services to the Acadèmie were acknowledged with an extra 200 livres in pension. In 1765 he was unanimously elected associate member of the Acadèmie des Sciences, Belles-Lettres et Arts of Rouen, but there is no evidence that he left Paris to accept the honor. By 1770 Chardin was the ‘Premiere peintre du roi’, and his pension of 1,400 livres was the highest in the Academy.

In 1772 Chardin’s son, also a painter, drowned in Venice, a probable suicide.

The artist’s last known oil painting was dated 1776; his final Salon participation was in 1779, and featured several pastel studies. Gravely ill by November of that year, he died in Paris on December 6, at the age of 80.

Today his paintings hang in the Louvre and other major museums. His work became popular with the general public after low-cost engravings of his paintings became available.


The painting I chose, back in 2006 to try to paint, was called The Copper Drinking Fountain, painted in 1731. Chardin’s is on the left, and my attempt is on the right. This was around the time that I was happily doing my own thing with the “Masters”, so they aren’t exactly perfect replicas, including this one.   Mine is oils on canvas board – 16 x 20 inches.


Cooper Drinking Fountain - Chardin's original on the left - my study on the right.
Cooper Drinking Fountain – Chardin’s original on the left – my study on the right.


Self taught artist back living in New Zealand after more than a decade of living in Canada. Starting over in more ways than one but always up for the challenge!

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