In her first solo exhibition, Marie Antoinette, at Touchstone Gallery Meg Schaap explores the personality, beauty and power of the last Queen of France. This project began by a reading of Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser and then viewing Sophia Coppola’s 2009 movie Marie Antoinette. Both portrayed the compelling story of an Austrian teen who was forced to enter a political marriage with King Louis XVI, an introvert, pretty much her opposite. Meg’s painterly portrayals explore the quandaries Marie faced as she was swallowed up by the new French Court environment bound by outlandish rules, extravagance, and unbending traditions.
Meg, who has a lifelong love of fashion, paints images that show an appreciation for Marie’s fashion designs invented by Rose Bertin (founder of the first French fashion magazine). Costuming required huge wigs decorated with news objects of the day, such as replicas of a ship Marie funded on behalf of the American colonies getting ready to throw off British rule. Money was no object and Marie took advantage of that. After painting the first major official portrait of Marie Antoinette in 1778, to everybody’s satisfaction, the young woman Vigee Le Brun was regularly asked to portray the queen. So it is this infatuation with portraits that Meg uses as a springboard for her own interpretive portraits.
While portraiture is a major viewpoint in this exhibit, freedom is also a major theme. Meg shows a side of the queen not usually seen. One in which Marie eventually leaves the court with all its masks and falsities behind, residing with her children in a less pretentious house in Versailles. In one mixed media piece, Meg constructs a figure from Vogue magazines and situates it coming from a wall of Gucci inspired images—illustrating the liberation of Marie from the court and all it represented.
Likewise in her own life, Meg who was born in Holland and schooled in Nijmegen and Groningen at the Academy of Art Miner, also experienced a major transformation that led her to Spain. There she learned English and German before moving to London where she became a flight attendant. A yearning for the arts called and enrollment in St. Martin’s College followed. There she met her future husband. Together with their young family they located in Washington DC by way of Naples FL. The one constant in this nomadic life was painting, whether outside museums or with friends in classes and inspired by Frieda Kahlo, Diego Velázquez and Kehindi Wiley.
Meg has a special affinity to Wiley who notes, “We have…received historical ways of viewing portraiture. And I suppose in some way I'm sort of questioning that by toying with the rules of the game....And so in the 21st century, when we're used to clicking and browsing and having constant choice, painting simply sits there silently and begs you to notice the smallest of detail.” Meg is especially interested in these fields of detail, especially those that surround her painted figures -- details that include collaged paper, gold leaf and jeweled elements. Her meticulously painted delicate-yet-free expressive lines are reminiscent of the painter Dufy. And intense color in other works accentuate the narrative. Each painting is filled to the brim with bustling commotion, a “joie de vivre” that demands your attention. –Rosemary Luckett
Meg Schaap invites viewers to visit her exhibit during the month of March and view her take on historical portraits and the intimate complex impressions of Marie Antoinette. Meet the Artist/Artist Talk: Sunday, March 25, 1 - 3pm. Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Avenue NW Washington DC 20001 ● Wed-Fri 11-6 Sat-Sun 12-5 ● 202-347-3787 ● @touchstonewdc www.touchstonegallery.com ● firstname.lastname@example.org