September 30th, 2004 to April 17th, 2005

Are you ready to be seduced by the art of François Boucher at the Wallace Collection?  As the most beguiling of all eighteenth-century French Rococo painters, his gods and goddesses and shepherds and shepherdesses once inhabited a sensual and ethereal world somewhere between Paris and Versailles.  Today they are to be found in the Wallace Collection in London.  But they are about to partake in an entirely new and special venture as they all come together in an exhibition celebrating the centenary of the Entente Cordiale between England and France.

For six months only, this the most important collection of Boucher’s paintings in the world, is to be displayed in one single, vast space upstairs in the Great Gallery of the Wallace Collection, together with a unique and breathtaking range of porcelain, miniatures and goldsmiths’ work influenced by his designs.  It will be the most ambitious exhibition ever staged in the Wallace Collection’s 104 year history and will enable the visitor for the very first time to encounter the full effect of Boucher’s magical canvases and their extraordinary impact on the decorative arts and interiors of the day.  Here, as visitors are totally immersed in his seductive vision of the court under Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour, they will get a fresh glimpse of life in pre-Revolutionary France – a contradictory era of idealism and absolutism, gallantry and libertinism, poverty and excess, when art informed every aspect of life; from science to religion, from courtship to conversation and from food to fashion.  Since the Bouchers will be hung alongside portraits by Gainsborough and Reynolds, they will also be able to compare and contrast him with his British contemporaries, whose sober portraits are so different from the Frenchman's highly decorative and sensual images. 

Boucher: Seductive Visions will also mark the culmination of a year-long international re-evaluation of François Boucher for his 300th birthday.  As London's ultimate expression of eighteenth-century French luxury and sensuality, the Wallace Collection is the ideal setting for such a celebration of Boucher’s work. Once visitors have enjoyed the sumptuous surroundings of the main show, they will be able to visit two successive loan exhibitions on the Lower Ground Floor: firstly Boucher: Landscapes will demonstrate his relationship with nature, and secondly Boucher: Dutch & Flemish Inspirations his debt to earlier northern art.

This will be the first time that the Wallace Collection’s Great Gallery has ever been hung with the works of a single artist.  Usually it is home to such treasures as Hals’s The Laughing Cavalier, Rubens’s The Rainbow Landscape and Rembrandt’s portrait of his son Titus, leading the late Lord Clark to call it ‘the greatest picture gallery in Europe’. 

But for six months the visitor will be able to enjoy a perhaps unexpected benefit of seeing these great masterpieces afresh as they are temporarily re-hung in more focused and intimate groupings in smaller rooms in Hertford House.

During the exhibition the Wallace Collection will host a full range of activities and some new initiatives, designed to entice the visitor to appreciate Boucher as a man of the Enlightenment, and to share his seductive and teasing Rococo world. These will include two debates by the public debating forum, Intelligence Squared, a great costume ball where his paintings will be imaginatively recreated by live models, and special educational activities for, among others, primary schools, homeless artists and post-graduate art students.  A new monograph by Jo Hedley will also reassess Boucher as an artist.  Boucher offers us happiness and humanity, wit and wonder, and it is hoped that his Seductive Visions will enhance the lives of all who visit the exhibition.

A few hundred yards from Oxford Street, the Wallace Collection, with its glorious gilded and furnished State Rooms and its galleries richly hung with many famous masterpieces, is a favourite of Sir Elton John, who is the Patron of the exhibition and a Trustee of the Wallace Collection, of both the fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, who has often been inspired by his designs, and Rowan Pelling, the editor of the Erotic Review.

We are grateful to the Wallace Collection for enabling us to bring this article to our viewers.