Until 31 January, 2016
It turns out that there is more than one must-see portrait show on in London at the moment. Naturally, you must see Goya: The Portraits at the National Gallery if you haven’t already. It’s breathtaking. But you’d also be sorry to miss the work of a quite different artist, Jean-Etienne Liotard, which is on display upstairs at the Royal Academy. (And of course the Ai Weiwei show, also at the Royal Academy, is another exhibition that simply can’t be missed). Liotard was a Swiss artist who became hugely well known in his lifetime, and was regarded as one of the most highly accomplished portraitists of eighteenth century Enlightenment Europe. Liotard was a peripatetic artist who lived in Constantinople for several years as well as working all over Europe, and at several royal courts (including the British), so the portraits, as well as being interesting in their own right, are also a fascinating social history. Liotard was a master at using pastels, and it’s astonishing to see this medium deployed with such total skill and confidence. He was also brilliant at capturing the fashions of his day. We loved this show, which offers a real insight into how certain stratas of society (and not only the rich and mighty; Liotard was also interested in capturing the indigenous people of the places he visited) dressed and behaved.