America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting

When Joseph Bonaparte, elder brother of Napoleon I, fled to America in 1815, he packed his collection of 18th-century French painting. In an effort to spread his native country’s culture across the United States, he put his works on public display, causing a sensation and inspiring a new American fascination with French art. From then on, such works made their way into museums and private collections from coast to coast. America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting, on view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, 21 May-20 August, 2017, is the first survey of American taste for French painting of the period.

Here we share some of our favourite examples of the rococo and neoclassical masterpieces featured in our accompanying book, available here.

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Noël Nicolas Coypel, The Abduction of Europa, 1726-1727, (detail), Philadelphia Museum of Art, Acquired with the kind assistance of John Cadwalader, Jr., through the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Orville Bullitt (by exchange), the Edith H. Bell Fund, and other Museum funds, 1978




François Hubert Drouais, Children of the Marquis de Béthune Playing with  Dog(detail), collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art, Eugenia Woodward Hitt Collection



Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Corner of Monsieur de la Bruyère’s garden (detail), 1744, Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, John N. and Rhoda Lord Family Fund, General Endowment Fund.



François Boucher, The Toilette of Venus (detail), 1751, Lent by The Metropolitan Museum if Art, Bequest of William K. Vanderbilt, 1920.


Nicolas de Largillierre, Portrait of Marguerite de Sève, wife of Barthelemy Jean Claude Pupil, 1729 (detail), Timken Museum of Art, San Diego


Jean Bernard Restout, Sleep, c.1771, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 


America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting is edited by Yuriko Jackall and published in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Available now from our website in hardback (£50 + Free UK postage).