Before Realism: Valentin de Boulogne & the Brothers Le Nain

Valentin de Boulogne, Concert with a Bas-Relief, ca. 1624-26, oil on canvas, 68 1/2 x 84 1/4 inches (Musée du Louvre, Paris)
Valentin de Boulogne, Concert with a Bas-Relief, ca. 1624-26, oil on canvas, 68 1/2 x 84 1/4 inches (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

Richard Neer writes: "Valentin [de Boulogne] ... was ... a leading exponent of a style of painting that Caravaggio had pioneered a generation earlier: shadowy, dramatically lit scenes drawn directly from life that pushed the boundaries of good taste through a commitment to verisimilitude and déclassé subject matter. With his death, that Caravaggesque tradition lost its most eloquent advocate, and Poussin's brand of richly hued classicism moved into the ascendant—particularly in France. No fewer than three major exhibitions are, right now, helping us to reappraise this pivotal moment." Neer refers to Beyond Caravaggio at the National Gallery, London (closed), Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (closed), and The Brothers Le Nain: Painters of Seventeenth-Century France at the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, (through Jan. 29).