François Boucher ((29 September 1703 – 30 May
1770) was a French painter in the Rococo style. Boucher is known for his
idyllic and voluptuous paintings on classical themes, decorative allegories,
and pastoral scenes. He was perhaps the most celebrated painter and decorative
artist of the 18th century. He also painted several portraits of his
patroness, Madame de Pompadour.
A native of Paris, Boucher was the son of a minor painter Nicolas Boucher, who
gave him his first artistic training. At the age of seventeen, a painting by
Boucher was admired by the painter François Lemoyne. Lemoyne later appointed
Boucher as his apprentice, but after only three months, he went to work for the
engraver Jean-François Cars. In 1720, he won the elite Grand Prix de Rome for
painting, but did not take up the consequential opportunity to study in Italy until
five years later, due to financial problems at the Académie royale de peinture et
de sculpture. On his return from studying in Italy he was admitted to the refounded
Académie de peinture et de sculpture on 24 November 1731. His morceau de réception
(reception piece) was his Rinaldo and Armida of 1734.
Boucher became a faculty member in 1734 and his career accelerated from this
point as he was promoted Professor then Rector of the Academy, becoming inspector
at the Royal Gobelins Manufactory and finally Premier Peintre du Roi (First Painter
of the King) in 1765.
Boucher died on 30 May 1770 in his native Paris. His name, along with that of
his patron Madame de Pompadour, had become synonymous with the French Rococo style,
leading the Goncourt brothers to write: "Boucher is one of those men who represent
the taste of a century, who express, personify and embody it."
Boucher is famous for saying that nature is "trop verte et mal éclairée" (too
green and badly lit).
Boucher was associated with the gemstone engraver Jacques Guay, whom he taught
to draw. Later Boucher made a series of drawings of works by Guay which Madame de
Pompadour then engraved and distributed as a handsomely bound volume to favored
courtiers.The neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David began his painting
instruction under Boucher.
Reflecting inspiration gained from such artists as Peter Paul Rubens and Antoine
Watteau, Boucher's early works celebrate the idyllic and tranquil portrayal of
nature and landscape with great elan. However, his art typically forgoes
traditional rural innocence to portray scenes with a definitive style of eroticism
as his mythological scenes are passionate and intimately amorous rather than
traditionally epic. Marquise de Pompadour (mistress of King Louis XV), whose name
became synonymous with Rococo art, was a great admirer of his work.
Boucher's paintings such as The Breakfast (1739), a familial scene,
show how he was as a master of the genre scene, where he regularly used his own
wife and children as models. These intimate family scenes are contrasting to the
licentious style seen in his Odalisque portraits.
The dark-haired version of the Odalisque portraits prompted claims by
the art critic Denis Diderot that Boucher was "prostituting his own wife", and the
Blonde Odalisque was a portrait that illustrated the extramarital
relationships of the King. Boucher gained lasting notoriety through such private
commissions for wealthy collectors and, after Diderot expressed his disapproval,
his reputation came under increasing critical attack during the last years of his