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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Boucher, Francois


Portrait of Madame de Pompadour
1756
oil on canvas
212 × 164 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany

Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, otherwise known as Madame de Pompadour, was the mistress of King Louis XV, as well as a prominent patron of Francois Boucher. Unlike the many other mistresses of the king, Madame de Pompadour continued to be a presence at the court by creating a cordial relationship with the Queen, by accompanying the King on hunting trips and social gatherings, and commissioning paintings of herself, which hid her aging looks. Although she did commission works from other artists, the majority of her portraits were done by Boucher.

Francois Boucher (1703 - 1770) was a extremely popular French painter of the rococo age. He began his artistic career working as an engraver and at the age of 17. He was greatly impressed by the delicate style of his contemporary Antoine Watteau. In 1723 Boucher won the Prix de Rome and studied in Rome from 1727 to 1731. He turned what he studied into a uniquely personal style, suitable for large-scale decorations as well as small intimate, so-called cabinet pictures.

He was enormously successful, and well patronized, so his output was prodigious. He designed stage sets, provided models for the porcelain factory, and designs for the tapestry factories. He held a near monopoly in producing the imagery of the mid-century. In 1755, he became director of the Gobelins tapestries and in 1765 he was made first painter to the king, director of the Royal Academy, and designer for the Royal Porcelain Works. His success was greatly facilitated by his patron, the Marquise de Pompadour, mistress to Louis XV. Boucher was her favorite, and he painted her portrait several times.

His lovely paintings and decorations, usually portray an idyllic and pastoral world, with little attempt to confront reality. His delicate, lighthearted depictions of classical divinities and unusually well-dressed French shepherdesses delighted the public, who made him the most fashionable painter of mid-century Europe. By the early 1770's, his sentimental and, some said, facile style was too widely imitated and fell out of favor during the rise of neoclassicism. He died in Paris on 30 May 1770.