François Boucher
François Boucher (29 September 1703 – 30 May 1770) was a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

, a proponent of Rococo
Rococo , also referred to as "Late Baroque", is an 18th-century style which developed as Baroque artists gave up their symmetry and became increasingly ornate, florid, and playful...

 taste, known for his idyllic and voluptuous paintings on classical themes, decorative allegories representing the arts or pastoral
The adjective pastoral refers to the lifestyle of pastoralists, such as shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasturage. It also refers to a genre in literature, art or music that depicts such shepherd life in an...

 occupations, intended as a sort of two-dimensional furniture. He also painted several portraits of his illustrious patroness, Madame de Pompadour
Madame de Pompadour
Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, also known as Madame de Pompadour was a member of the French court, and was the official chief mistress of Louis XV from 1745 to her death.-Biography:...



Born in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, the son of a lace designer Nicolas Boucher, François Boucher was perhaps the most celebrated decorative artist of the 18th century, with most of his work reflecting the Rococo style. At the young age of 17, Boucher was apprenticed by his father to François Lemoyne
François Lemoyne
François Lemoyne or François Le Moine was a French rococo painter.He was born in Paris. In 1701, when he was 13 years old, he entered the Académie de peinture et de sculpture. He studied under Louis Galloche and stayed until 1713. In 1711, Lemoyne won the Prix de Rome...

, but after only three months he went to work for the engraver Jean-François Cars
Jean-François Cars
Jean-François Cars was a French engraver, born at Lyons in 1670. His father, François Cars, was an engraver of no great repute, to whom we owe a portrait of Joseph Tobias Franc, drawn in 1681. Jean François worked at Lyons for some years, but eventually repaired to Paris, where he died in 1739...

. Within three years Boucher had already won the elite Grand Prix de Rome, although he did not take up the consequential opportunity to study in Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 until four years later. On his return from studying in Italy in 1731, he was admitted to the Académie de peinture et de sculpture
Académie de peinture et de sculpture
The Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture , Paris, was founded in 1648, modelled on Italian examples, such as the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. Paris already had the Académie de Saint-Luc, which was a city artist guild like any other Guild of Saint Luke...

 as a historical painter, and became a faculty member in 1734.

His career accelerated from this point, as he advanced from professor to Rector of the Academy, becoming head of the Royal Gobelins Manufactory
Gobelins manufactory
The Manufacture des Gobelins is a tapestry factory located in Paris, France, at 42 avenue des Gobelins, near the Les Gobelins métro station in the XIIIe arrondissement...

 in 1755 and finally Premier Peintre du Roi
Premier peintre du Roi
The Premier peintre du Roi was a post within the administration of the Bâtiments du Roi of the département de la Maison du Roi in France under the Ancien Régime, just below the post of directeur général des Bâtiments, Arts et Manufactures de France...

(First Painter of the King) in 1765.

Reflecting inspiration gained from the artists Watteau
Antoine Watteau
Jean-Antoine Watteau was a French painter whose brief career spurred the revival of interest in colour and movement...

 and Rubens, Boucher's early work celebrates the idyllic and tranquil, portraying nature and landscape with great élan. However, his art typically forgoes traditional rural innocence to portray scenes with a definitive style of eroticism, and his mythological scenes are passionate and intimately amorous rather than traditionally epic. Marquise de Pompadour
Madame de Pompadour
Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, also known as Madame de Pompadour was a member of the French court, and was the official chief mistress of Louis XV from 1745 to her death.-Biography:...

 (mistress of King Louis XV
Louis XV of France
Louis XV was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and of Navarre from 1 September 1715 until his death. He succeeded his great-grandfather at the age of five, his first cousin Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, served as Regent of the kingdom until Louis's majority in 1723...

), whose name became synonymous with Rococo art, was a great fan of Boucher's, and had the painter under her protection: it is particularly in his portraits of her that this style is clearly exemplified.
Paintings such as The Breakfast of 1739, a family scene, also show Boucher as a master of the genre scene, as he regularly used his own wife and family as models. These intimate family scenes are, however, in contrast to the 'licentious' style, as seen in his Odalisque
An odalisque was a female slave in an Ottoman seraglio. She was an assistant or apprentice to the concubines and wives, and she might rise in status to become one of them...

portraits. The dark-haired version of the Odalisque portraits prompted claims by Diderot
Denis Diderot
Denis Diderot was a French philosopher, art critic, and writer. He was a prominent person during the Enlightenment and is best known for serving as co-founder and chief editor of and contributor to the Encyclopédie....

 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 the ever-moral Diderot expressed his disapproval, his reputation came under increasing critical attack during the last of his creative years.

Along with his painting, Boucher also designed theatre costumes and sets, and the ardent intrigues of the comic operas of Favart
Charles Simon Favart
Charles Simon Favart was a French dramatist.Born in Paris, the son of a pastry-cook, he was educated at the college of Louis-le-Grand, and after his father's death he carried on the business for a time...

 (1710–1792) closely parallel his own style of painting. Tapestry
Tapestry is a form of textile art, traditionally woven on a vertical loom, however it can also be woven on a floor loom as well. It is composed of two sets of interlaced threads, those running parallel to the length and those parallel to the width ; the warp threads are set up under tension on a...

 design was also a concern. For the Beauvais
Beauvais is a city approximately by highway north of central Paris, in the northern French region of Picardie. It currently has a population of over 60,000 inhabitants.- History :...

 tapestry workshops he first designed a series of Fêtes italiennes ("Italian festivals") in 1736, which proved to be very successful and often rewoven over the years, and then, commissioned in 1737, a suite of the story of Cupid and Psyche
Cupid and Psyche
Cupid and Psyche , is a legend that first appeared as a digressionary story told by an old woman in Lucius Apuleius' novel, The Golden Ass, written in the 2nd century CE. Apuleius likely used an earlier tale as the basis for his story, modifying it to suit the thematic needs of his novel.It has...

. During two decades' involvement with the Beauvais tapestry workshops Boucher produced designs for six series of hangings in all. Only his appointment in 1755 as director of the rival Gobelins terminated the association. He was also called upon for designs for court festivities organized by that section of the King's household called the Menus-Plaisirs du Roi
Menus-Plaisirs du Roi
The Menus-Plaisirs du Roi was, in the organisation of the French royal household under the Ancien Régime, the department of the Maison du Roi responsible for the "lesser pleasures of the King", which meant in practice that it was in charge of all the preparations for ceremonies, events and...

 and for the opera and for royal châteaux Versailles
Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles , or simply Versailles, is a royal château in Versailles in the Île-de-France region of France. In French it is the Château de Versailles....

, Fontainebleau
Château de Fontainebleau
The Palace of Fontainebleau, located 55 kilometres from the centre of Paris, is one of the largest French royal châteaux. The palace as it is today is the work of many French monarchs, building on an early 16th century structure of Francis I. The building is arranged around a series of courtyards...

 and Choisy
Choisy-le-Roi is a commune in the southeastern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located from the center of Paris.-Geography:Crossed by the Seine river, it is located from the center of Paris....

. His designs for all of the aforementioned augmented his earlier reputation, resulting in many engravings from his work and even reproduction of his designs on porcelain
Porcelain is a ceramic material made by heating raw materials, generally including clay in the form of kaolin, in a kiln to temperatures between and...

 and biscuit-ware at the Vincennes
Vincennes porcelain
The Vincennes porcelain manufactory was established in 1740 in the disused royal Château de Vincennes, in Vincennes, east of Paris, which was from the start the main market for its wares.-History:...

 and Sèvres
Manufacture nationale de Sèvres
The manufacture nationale de Sèvres is a Frit porcelain porcelain tendre factory at Sèvres, France. Formerly a royal, then an imperial factory, the facility is now run by the Ministry of Culture.-Brief history:...


The neoclassicist Jacques-Louis David
Jacques-Louis David
Jacques-Louis David was an influential French painter in the Neoclassical style, considered to be the preeminent painter of the era...

 began his painting instruction under Boucher.

Boucher is famous for saying that nature is "trop verte et mal éclairée" (too green and badly lit).

Francois Boucher died on 30 May 1770 in Paris. His name, along with that of his patron Madame de Pompadour, had become synonymous with the French Rococo style, leading the Goncourt brothers
Goncourt brothers
The Goncourt brothers were Edmond de Goncourt and Jules de Goncourt , both French naturalist writers. They formed a partnership that "is possibly unique in literary history...

 to write: "Boucher is one of those men who represent the taste of a century, who express, personify and embody it."

Works include

  • Halt at the Spring (1765) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
    Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
    The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, is one of the largest museums in the United States, attracting over one million visitors a year. It contains over 450,000 works of art, making it one of the most comprehensive collections in the Americas...

  • Return From Market (1767) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Arabesques, vases etc. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Diana and Callisto (c. 1760) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Figures chinoises Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Four Amorini in a Cloud (1760) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Landscape with Watermill (1750s) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Nymphs and river gods (Pirene mourning her son) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Reclining Female Nude (1763) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Shepherd Boy Playing Bagpipes (1754) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Shepherdess and Child (1765-7) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Young Woman with Flowers in Her Hair Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Young Woman with Two Amorini (c. 1768) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

  • Web Gallery of Art
  • Rinaldo and Armida
    Rinaldo (opera)
    Rinaldo is an opera by George Frideric Handel composed in 1711. It is the first Italian language opera written specifically for the London stage. The libretto was prepared by Giacomo Rossi from a scenario provided by Aaron Hill. The work was first performed at the Queen's Theatre in London's...

    (Louvre Museum)
  • The Rest on the Flight to Egypt
  • Diana Resting after her Bath
  • Portrait of Marie-Louise O'Murphy
    Marie-Louise O'Murphy
    Marie-Louise O'Murphy de Boisfaily was one of the younger mistresses of King Louis XV of France. Her original surname is also given in sources as Murphy, Morphy, or O'Morphy, and she is sometimes referred to as "La Morphise" or "La Belle Morphise"...

    (Wallraf-Richartz Museum
    Wallraf-Richartz Museum
    The Wallraf-Richartz-Museum is one of the three major museums in Cologne, Germany. It houses an art gallery with a collection of fine art from the medieval period to the early twentieth century...

    , Cologne)
  • Autumn
  • Putti with Birds (L'Amour Oiseleur), ca. 1731-33 Honolulu Academy of Arts
    Honolulu Academy of Arts
    The Honolulu Academy of Arts is an art museum in Honolulu in the state of Hawaii. Since its founding in 1922 by Anna Rice Cooke and opening April 8, 1927, its collections have grown to over 40,000 works of art.-Description:...

  • The Visit of Venus to Vulcan
  • Christ and John the Baptist as Children
  • Pastorale
  • Naiads and Triton
  • Triumph of Venus
  • Venus Consoling Love or The Bath of Venus National Gallery of Art
    National Gallery of Art
    The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden is a national art museum, located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW, in Washington, DC...

  • Exchange of Produce / Gifts
  • Cupid a Captive

Further reading

  • Hyde, Melissa Lee. (2006). Making up the Rococo : François Boucher and His Critics. Los Angeles, CA: Getty Research Institute.
  • Hyde, Melisssa and Mark Ledbury. (2006). Rethinking Boucher : Issues & Debates. Los Angeles, CA: Getty Research Institute.
  • Bolton, Roy. (2004). A Brief History of Painting. 2000BC - AD2000. London, UK : Robinson.

External links

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