The paintings of Antoine Watteau, the early-18th-century French artist, do not reflect his life. The son of a roofer, Watteau grew up in a provincial town, moved to Paris, and took a job mass-producing devotional paintings. He found mentors in the French masters Claude Gillot and Claude Audran III, and began painting theatrical yet ethereal scenes of French aristocrats and dilettantes at play, works for which he is revered. Watteau died young, at age 36. Coinciding with the 300th anniversary of his death, this exhibition highlights Watteau’s penchant for picturing joyous moments: people dancing, courting, strolling, lounging. The show’s title comes from a recent Getty acquisition—Watteau’s La Surprise, a painting that features two lovers kissing in a park at sunset. It is one of a dozen Watteaus on view. —J.D.
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