Almost 200 years ago William Hunter (1718-1783), founder of the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow, was one of a number of British art collectors to acquire works by his contemprary Jean-Siméon Chardin. Among these, Lady taking Tea of 1735 has become something of an ifcon in French art from this period and makes a fascinating pairing with a near-contemporary Woman on a Daybed, dated 1743 (The Frick Collection, New York), by François Boucher.
This book accompanies an exhibition examining the relationships between these two works. When seen within the context of contemporary depictions of modish women and fashionable interiors, Boucher and Chardin's paintings acquire a new resonance, showing the rise of a new manner in French genre painting. As tea features prominently in Lady taking tea and the interior in Woman on a Daybed points to the contemporary frashion for anything Oriental, these themes are further explored through French and British paintings, drawings, prints, books and decorative art of that period. This provides an opportunity to address undercurrent themes of social history such as the artists' attitudes to fashion, interior decoration and the consumption of tea - a pastime influenced by new trade links with China. It was in this period that the English predilection for tea was established - particularly, it seems, among woman.