By Denis Diderot

Chance ordained that Denis Diderot (1713-1784) was once not just a thinker, playwright and author, but additionally a salonnier. In different phrases, an paintings critic. In 1759, his buddy Grimm entrusted him with a venture that compelled him to obtain "thoughtful notions referring to portray and sculpture" and to refine "art phrases, so standard in his phrases but so obscure in his mind".

Diderot wrote inventive experiences of exhibitions – Salons – that have been prepared bi-annually on the Louvre through the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. those studies, released within the Correspondence Littéraire, have been Diderot’s precise contribution to paintings feedback in France. He fulfilled his job of salonnier on 9 events, regardless of occasional dips in his enthusiasm and self-confidence.

Compiled and awarded by means of Jean Szenec, this anthology is helping the modern reader to familiarize himself with Diderot’s aesthetic concept in all its greatness. It contains 8 illustrations and is by means of texts from Jean Starobinski, Michel Delon, and Arthur Cohen.

‘On paintings and Artists’ is translated through John Glaus, professor of French and an beginner specialist of the XVIIIth century.

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Sample text

The cities are losing people. We leave a daughter to become an old maid. One would have to sacrifice a horse and carriage or a feast studded table for her dowry. One is alienated from one’s inheritance; to double one’s income one forgets those closest. Have we announced through the streets an edict which promises to double one’s interest for some capital, therein the child of the house pales; the next-of-kin shivers or cries; this mass of gold which were his will now be lost for the public good and with it the hope of an opulent future.

What a ridiculous thing an affected statue can be! Is the sculptor thus condemned to a more rigorous imitation of nature than is the painter? Add to that he only provides us with one or two figures of the same color and eyeless, onto which all of our attention and all of the criticism of ours is focused. We walk around his work and we seek out the weak point. The material that he uses appears due to its solidity and because of its durability seems to exclude any fine or delicate ideas; the thought must be simple, noble, strong and great.

I will agree, insofar as neither I nor anyone else will admit to any precise notion and that we join in the spirit of observation. When I say as in the spirit of an observer, I am not talking about the little daily exchange of words, of actions and moods, this ploy so familiar to women who possess it to a degree so much superior to the hardest heads, to the greatest souls, to the most vigorous genius. This is the subtlety that I compare to the art of passing kernels of corn through the eye of a needle; it is a miserable little daily task for which all utility is domesticated and driven by minutiae in which a servant cheats his master and his master cheats those whom 26 Definitions he is a servant by escaping from them.

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