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Culture news, 10.08.2006 13:50

Drawings by Gilles-Marie Oppenord in the Hermitage Collection

gilles-marie 23 June 2006 - 3 September 2006

The exhibition in the Twelve-Column Hall of the Winter Palace displays 50 works by one of the best draftsmen of 18th century France.

Gilles-Marie Oppenord (1672 - 1742) was born into the family of an ebonist in the royal service and from his early years he was introduced to the creation of furniture and ornamental objects in his father's workshop. His talent was shaped in the circles of the most widely recognized artists and craftsmen of his time. Oppenord studied the fundamentals of architecture in the atelier of Jules-Hardouin Mansart and he completed his preparation as an artist and architect in the French Academy in Rome (1692 - 1699).

Oppenord made his most important early works on commission from the Church. One of the first and best known of his creations following his return to Paris was the celebrated Roman baldachin that was erected in the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres (destroyed during the French Revolution of 1789). In 1715 the artist was appointed General Director of the Royal Parks and Gardens and Director of the Royal Manufactories.

Gilles-Marie Oppenord is invariably mentioned as one of the creators of Rococo. In his works he softened the Baroque features of the Louis XIV style and advanced as the main shaping element a softly curving line, a whimsical volute that later was given the name "rocaille."

The Hermitage collection of works by Oppenord reflects the great variety of interests of the maitre and includes nearly all of his favorite themes and most typical examples of his oeuvre. Among them are innumerable variations on themes of fountains and grottos in which one can sense the influence of the Italian Baroque. In Oppenord's drawings there are endless variations on lion masks and the heads of dolphins, profiles in medallions and busts of winged women, mascarons and shells in the form of separate free inserts and treillages.

The exhibition allows visitors to trace the different periods in the artist's career. It reveals the various facets of his talent and demonstrates to us the entire creative range of his works, with the exception of examples of purely architectural graphics in the form of cross-sections and blueprints.

Here we see sheets of graphic art illustrating elements of church and theatre decoration; the plans for staging festivities; designs of tomb monuments, objects of applied art and furniture; drawings for wooden panels and tapestries; and all forms of interior decorating, the decoration of carriages, independent ornamental compositions and elements of book designs.

This exhibition of drawings by Gilles-Marie Oppenord is the first monographic exhibition of the maitre. It will acquaint visitors not only with the undisputed drawings of the artist but also with those works that have raised doubts and even with copies whose publication and reproduction can be useful for further research.

The exhibition also presents collections of engravings done on the basis of Oppenord drawings. The overwhelming majority of these works will be totally new to the visitor.

On the occasion of this exhibition, the State Hermitage Publishing House had prepared a full scholarly catalogue of the Hermitage collection of works by Gilles-Marie Oppenord which comprises 67 works. The author of the catalogue and curator of the exhibition is V.G. Shevchenko, senior researcher in the State Hermitage's Department of Western European art.

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