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Photo credit: La Toilette
François Boucher: 1703 – 1770 Rococo
Video: the music is by Haydn

François Boucher (29 September 1703 – 30 May 1770) “was a French painter, a proponent of Rococo taste, known for his idyllic and voluptuous paintings on classical themes, decorative allegories representing the arts or pastoral occupations, intended as a sort of two-dimensional furniture. He also painted several portraits of his illustrious patroness, Louis XV’s official mistress, Madame de Pompadour.” (Wikipedia)

The son of an artist, François Boucher won the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1723.  He was influenced by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Peter Paul Rubens.  On his return from Rome, he did engravings of drawings by Antoine Watteau. Later, “[a]fter illustrating an edition of Molière’s works, he drew cartoons of farmyard scenes and chinoiserie for the Beauvais tapestry factory.”[i]

Madame de Pompadour - Wikipedia

Madame de Pompadour, by François Boucher

News of his talents quickly reached Versailles.  He worked for the queen and for Mme de Pompadour, Louis XV’s chief mistress. “He became a member of the Royal Academy in 1734 and then became the principal producer of designs for the royal porcelain factories, as well as director of the Gobelins tapestry factory. In 1765 he became director of the Royal Academy and held the title of first painter to King Louis XV.”[ii] 

Rococo art, decoration and architecture are characterized by movement. It is a busy and often features a profusion of fabrics.  It followed the baroque, a more restrained style.  Rococo æsthetics is in fact an extreme that called for a return to sober depictions and more serious contents that would reflect the intellectual endeavour of the Encyclopédistes.  For instance, although Jacques-Louis David was a student of François Boucher, he is a neoclassicist.  As for Boucher, his art typifies the lightheartedness that preceded the French Revolution.  We see opulence and hear laughter, but a storm is approaching.  In this regard, Boucher’s art resembles that of Antoine Watteau (1684 – 1721) and Jean-Honoré Fragonard 1732 – 1806).

[i] “François Boucher.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 20 Jul. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/75367/Francois-Boucher>.
[ii] Ibid.

Micheline Walker
21 July 2012