Given the lack of physical exhibitions at the moment I’ve been looking back through my archives and found this genre artist whose work I saw a while ago at the National Gallery .
Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761 – 1845) lived through turbulent times and was one of the first artists to take life on the streets of Paris (where he lived from 1785) as his subject. His paintings and engravings were small and destined for the emerging middle class. With a sharp eye for the social structures of the time much of his work is injected with ambiguity and humour with nothing taken at face value.
The smug look on the charitable lady’s face above may well have as much to do with the man’s knee pressed between her skirts as her cash donation.
Could this be the first painting of a passionate kiss between women? It certainly looks like a stolen moment between clandestine lovers.
He was an excellent draughtsman, able to capture likenesses with apparent ease. Look at these gorgeous little portrait studies below
Here is the man himself in a set of five self-portraits.