Musée Cognacq-Jay is one of those hidden treasures in the Marais that would remain unknown if it wasn’t for its special exhibitions. These are sometimes cramped in the little 16 th century rooms of Hotel de Donon, where Ernest Cognacq (1839-1928), the founder of La Samaritaine’s, collection of china and antique furniture and paintings is exhibited, but curator Benjamin Couilleaux found the perfect topic this time, and the Jean-Baptiste Huet’s country paintings are a huge pleasure to discover.`
You probably have in mind, like me, the name of Christophe Huet (1700-1759), his uncle, who painted the « Singeries » of Chantilly. This family has painters at every generation and it is sometimes confusing. Subtitled, « Pleasures of Nature », the exhibiton concentrates on rustic farm animals and charming country scenes.
A few large paintings are stunning such as « Un dogue se jetant sur les oies » or « Un loup percé par une lance » but what really struck me were the different drawings, lavis and gouaches describing plants and landscapes.
As official Painter of the King, he had access to all sorts of animals in Versailles but he mostly liked to paint country scenes near his house of Villiers sur Orge, south or Orly, where he drew with ink or red pencil (sanguine) many animals and plants. One drawing, from the British museum, “Nature morte d’objets auricles” is a masterpiece. Two little dog paintings, “Le petit chien au ruban bleu” and “Chien papillon” 1778, are completely charming.
From 1780 onwards, he started painting up to 40 difference fabrics for the manufacture de Jouy (Toiles de Jouy). Some of his paintings can also be found along with Boucher and Fragonard at Musée Carnavalet where the salon of sculptor Gilles Demarteau’s house is exhibited. Other country type paintings are also shown at Musée Nissim de Camondo.
After your visit at Cognacq Jay, don’t hesitate to stop for lunch at Camillle across the street. I once ran into Woody Allen there, who was shooting nearby. It is a lovely local brasserie.
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