State of Nature

Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) French political philosopher, educationist and author, drew an equation between the informality of British dress, the virtues and simplicity of country life and the liberty of the British constitution. He hoped to change the traditional attitude of French aristocrats by having them embrace a ‘State of Nature’ and adopt simplicity of manners and modesty in dress to achieve true happiness. His ideas became a reality 20 years later as France advanced toward Revolution when it was too late for many to change. George Romney left England in 1764 to go to Paris to study. His natural predilection for strong linear forms and austerity of style can be detected in this portrait of his brothers painted in 1766. The cool colours of their clothes and Spartan setting are harbingers of the neoclassical style reflecting the dictum of Rousseau one most of his society had ignored.

 

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