François Boucher (1703-1770), was a masterful French painter of the rococo age,
extremely popular then and ever since. He began his artistic career working as
an engraver and at the age of 17 entered the art studio of
François Le Moyne,
who in 1736 became First Painter to King Louis XV.
Much of Boucher's early works show the influence of his teacher, but he was also greatly impressed
by the delicate style of his contemporary Antoine Watteau. In 1723 Boucher won the Prix de Rome
and studied in Rome from 1727 to 1731. Unlike many artistis of the day, he turned what he studied
into a uniquely personal style, suitable for large-scale decorations as well as small intimate,
so-called cabinet pictures (such as his famous Leda and the Swan.)
Boucher was enormously successful, and well patronized, so his output was prodigious.
A recent catalog documents more than 100 major works in museums in the United States alone.
And these form only a small portion of his artistic activity. He designed stage sets, provided
models for the Sévres porcelain factory, and designs for the Beauvais and Goebelins tapestry
factories. He held a near monopoly in producing the imagery of the mid-century. In 1755, he
became director of the Gobelins tapestries and in 1765 he was made first painter to the king,
director of the Royal Academy, and designer for the Royal Porcelain Works. His success was greatly facilitated by his patron, the Marquise de Pompadour, mistress to Louis XV. Boucher was her
favorite, and he painted her portrait several times, one of his most delicate and lovely portraits
of Madam de Pompadour hangs in the Fogg Museum at Harvard.
His lovely paintings and decorations, usually portray an idyllic and pastoral world, with little attempt to confront "reality." His delicate, lighthearted depictions of classical divinities and unusually well-dressed French shepherdesses delighted the public, who made him the most fashionable painter of mid-century Europe. By the early 1770's, his sentimental and, some said, facile style was too widely imitated and fell out of favor during the rise of neoclassicism. He died in Paris on 30 May 1770. .
For information on individual works, and enlargement of picture, click on thumbnail.
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