François Boucher, was a French painter, draughtsman and etcher, who worked 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.
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 career.
Boucher was a very prolific and varied draftsman. His drawings served not only as preparatory studies for his paintings and as designs for printmakers but also as finished works of art for which there was a great demand by collectors. Boucher followed standard studio practices of the time, by first working out the overall composition of his major canvases, and then making chalk studies for individual figures, or groups of figures. He also relied on oil and gouache sketches in the preparation of major commissions.
Gradually he made more and more sketches as independent works for the market. The Adoration of the Shepherds (Metropolitan Museum of Art), a free and painterly sketch in gouache, was long considered a preparatory sketch for Madame de Pompadour’s private altarpiece La lumière du monde.
Boucher was also called upon for designs for court festivities organized by that section of the King’s household, and for the opera and for royal châteaux Versailles, Fontainebleau and Choisy.
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.
Boucher is famous for saying that nature is “trop verte et mal éclairée” (too green and badly lit).