Art: Silent Mysteries

The quiet, marvelous paintings of Chardin capture things as they really are, making him the genius of the 18th century bourgeois imagination

The show of 99 works by the French artist Jean-Simeon Chardin, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, falls just 21 years after the last Chardin retrospective in America--which took place at the Cleveland Museum of Art and didn't reach Manhattan. Does the new show add much to our knowledge of Chardin? In a sense no, because not many fresh facts about him have surfaced in the past two decades. But in the sense that really matters, yes, and yes again. Any extended contact with Chardin is invigorating and marvelous.

The show's otherwise excellent catalog frets a...

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