AFTER the Rneneco age had burnt itself out in flames of ecstasy that grew ever wilder and wilder. the ashes of religious inspiration that remained to warm the eighteenth century were very grey indeed, and gave out no heat at all.
Artists of the time preceding the French revolution. including Watteau, leragonard and Chardin in France; Hogarth, Reynolds and Gainsborough in England: Luiz Melendez, Luis Paret and Joaquin Inn in Spain: Longle Canaletto and Bellotto in Venice. and Pompeo Batoni in Rome. belonged to an era where charm, make-believe and good taste counted for more than anything else.
Those who felt deeply and were impelled to re-act against the frivolity and the cult of elegance did so without consciously invoking any religious motive.
Against the escapism of Arcadia inhabited by shepherds and shepherdesses always dressed in faultlessly sparkling satin, they set their moralities. as in the case of Hogarthes Rake's Progress which showed the logical end of excesses, or their simple life studies, as in the case of Chardin who delighted in the discovery of real poetry in the ordinary actions of a housewife. Neither the harsh and healthy moral lessons of a Hogarth, nor the sweet and gentle portrayal of the domestic scenes of Chardin could be described as religious it is unlikely that (harsh!' even considered his work in the light of a rebuke to the flippant emptiness of the day; he simply admired the ordinary man and woman of his time. had no aristocratic pipe dreams, liked the Dutch viewpoint and technique and sat down to paint the scenes at home that he knew and loved.
But Chardin, more than most genre painters seems to belong to this series. When one looks at a typical Chardin figure one is reminded of the lines in the chorus of Murder in the Cathedral:
"They affirm Thee in living: all things affirm Thee in living ...therefore man, whom Thou hart made to be conscious of Thee, ,,rust conscious!) Praise Thee. in thought and in word and in deed.
"Even wish the hand to the broom, the back bent in laying the fire, the knee bent in cleaning tire hearth, we the .scrubbers and %weepers of Canterbury, "The back bent under toil. the knee bent under sin, the hands to the face under fear, tire head bent under grief, ",Even in us ..."