François Boucher (1703-1770) – Proponent of the Rococo Movement

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Portrait of Francois Boucher by Gustaf Lundberg

Portrait of Francois Boucher by Gustaf Lundberg

After the Baroque style flourished in Europe in 17th century, there came the style of Rococo following the Baroque. That’s why Rococo is sometimes called as the Late Baroque. The main difference between both styles was that Baroque style still had some influence of religious subjects in it and was a grand depiction of scenes, whereas the rococo was the freedom from those rules. Rococo artists started to draw apart from the regular stuff which was drawn at the time. They started to draw themselves, the surroundings and the general life in more ornamental and stylized manner than the baroque’s somewhat stick-to-the-fact style.

This freedom attracted many artists during the time and at the top of that list we consider François Boucher from France, who has been considered as very early supporters of the new cult.

Born to a lace designer, Francois got his first artistic training under from his father, Nicolas Boucher. The early admirer of his arts was Francois Lemoyne, who was a rococo artist. Maybe that could be the point from where the artist gained the interest in Rococo style. Boucher and Lemoyne both became Premier peintre du Roi in later lives.

Due to his artist skills, he won the grand Prix de Rome in 1723. It was a big scholarship for art-students and also a big respect. Though, due to the financial problems in the academy itself, Boucher could not take the advantages of his scholarship. After five years, he took admission in Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. There he focused on historical painting. In 1734, he gained the position of faculty member in the academy. Over the years, due to his good work, he got promotion from a professor to the rector of the academy.

Consolidating rococo under the patronage of Madam Pompadour

Louis XV or more commonly known as Louis the Well Beloved’s head mistress Marquise de Pompadour was a great lover of Boucher’s art-pieces. She liked them so much that she took him under her patronage and commissioned him different works for a long time. It is believed that it was this time when Boucher got the liberty to flourish his artistic skills without any pressure and attained the adherence towards rococo more firmly, which had impacted his mind at the early stage of his learning times.

For her he executed many commissions promptly. There was also a series of Madam Pompadour’s portraits and paintings. His renowned work The Four Seasons which also depicted Pompadour posing delicately in different seasons.

The Four Seasons by Francois Boucher

Other than that, his many other paintings also contained feminine elements and women as a central subject emphasizing the voluptuous side. These bold depictions were more gallant than the other artists who depicted nudity. Because of this the contemporary writer Denis Diderot had to write about him as ‘prostituting his own wife’. These condemnations couldn’t be justified but the fact that Boucher’s paintings portrayed women in more voluptuous ways than the contemporaries were true. The main series which brought such notoriety was the series of Odalisque. It was a totally different approach on general life than his depictions of intimate family scenes like The Breakfast.

Apart from the paintings, his endeavors to understand art in different forms reached in the realms of designing tapestries and porcelains. His mastery in grasping the art quickly also got known by his fantastic works.

Names of his major works are Halt at the spring, Rinaldo and Armida, Triumph of Venus, Saint Peter attempting to walk on Water, Diana Leaving the Bath, etc.

Dazzled by his excellent works, the famous sibling authors said for him:

“Boucher is one of those men who represent the taste of a century, who express, personify and embody it.”

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