Jean-Antoine Houdon – allegory of winter (Musee Fabre. Montpellier, 1783) say that a book leads to another and is absolutely true. In this case, I can say that a sculpture leads to another. After my experience with love and psyche, by Canova, I could not resist the temptation to continue investigating in that time that experts called neoclassicism. On this trip through the marble, the Canova Italy I have moved to the France of Jean-Antoine Houdon. To bring us a little closer to this artist, I can say that he devoted practically his entire career to portrait while initially he not called this technique.
He came to establish completely new criteria of physical and psychological verisimilitude that reflect enlightened thinking. During his stay in Rome Houdon designed an ecorche (French term for flayed anatomical figure without the skin and muscles to the air) which became part of the basic equipment of almost all Academy of art. As a portraitist, would study to their models as it had done with the corpses for the ecorche, i.e. taking exact measurements of reality. This concern for the accuracy of the features did them not lose vitality, on the contrary, provided them with a new authenticity.
His first major triumph as a portraitist is the bust of Diderot (1771). The praises of critics insist their naturalness, in the form that conveys the personality of the model. What distinguishes it from all previous portrait busts is the apparent absence of recognizable style, as if the sculptor had suppressed its own individuality. He projected a sense of live presence. Here, for the first time, we know ourselves; the Diderot of Houdon is the first image of modern man: skeptic, anti-hero, with its peculiar mix of emotion and rationality. The Houdon Voltaire, who landed weeks before his death, was hailed as his best work. The seated Voltaire is a portrait heroicizado, wrapped the frail old man in a Roman toga with a bit of hair, although it lacked it entirely.