Genius and talent combine to render both brilliant and varied the image of painting and sculpture in France in the last years of the ancien regime. The outpouring of creative activity and of inspired patronage, both public and private was then unparalleled elsewhere. Gifted exponents of sculpture include the Coustou, Michel-Ange Slodtz, and Caffieri, besides the better-known Falconet, Pigalle, and Houdon: their often monumental work provides a salutary reminder of the seriousness of intention in an age often still stereotyped as frivolous and lightweight. In painting, Restout, Vernet, Oudry and others were appreciated at least as much as Boucher, and portraiture, genre, and still life were all well served. The era may have opened with Watteau and the fete galante, but it closed with a revival of history painting, and with an artistic revolutionary in the person of David. Bringing new insights and information to bear on the work of the great French artists and sculptors of the eighteenth century, Levey has created a book that is at once beautiful and instructive.
Some sections of this frequently insightful and always ravishingly beautiful (330 plates, dozens in color, and even the black-and-white reproduced with unusual brilliance) survey of the painting and sculpture in France in the last years of the ancien regime were previously published as Part One of Art and Architecture of the Eighteenth Century in France by Penguin Books, 1972. The author has clearly availed himself of the wealth of new scholarship since the earlier edition, to which some (limited) reference is found in the notes. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)