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Portrait of François Boucher by Gustaf Lundberg (1741)
29 September 1703|
Paris, Kingdom of France
|Died||30 May 1770
Paris, Kingdom of France
François Boucher (French pronunciation: [fʁɑ̃swa buʃe]) (29 September 1703 – 30 May 1770) was a French painter, a proponent of Rococo taste, known for his idyllic and voluptuous paintings on classical themes, decorative allegories representing the arts or pastoral occupations, intended as a sort of two-dimensional furniture. He was perhaps the most celebrated decorative artist of the 18th century. He also painted several portraits of his illustrious patroness, Madame de Pompadour.
He was born in Paris, the son of a lace designer Nicolas Boucher, who gave him his first artistic training. A painting Boucher exhibited at the age of 17 was admired by the painter François Lemoyne, whose apprentice Boucher became, but after only three months he went to work for the engraver Jean-François Cars. In 1723, Boucher won the elite Grand Prix de Rome, although he did not take up the consequential opportunity to study in Italy until five years later, due to financial problems at the Academie Royale. On his return from studying in Italy in 1731, he was admitted to the Académie de peinture et de sculpture 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 in 1755 and finally Premier Peintre du Roi (First Painter of the King) in 1765.
Reflecting inspiration gained from the artists Watteau 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 (mistress of King Louis XV), 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 portraits. The dark-haired version of the Odalisque portraits prompted claims by 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 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 (1710–1792) closely parallel his own style of painting. Tapestry design was also a concern. For the Beauvais 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. 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 and for the opera and for royal châteaux Versailles, Fontainebleau and Choisy. 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 and biscuit-ware at the Vincennes and Sèvres factories.
The neoclassicist Jacques-Louis David 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 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
- 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
- Rinaldo and Armida (Louvre Museum)
- The Rest on the Flight to Egypt
- Diana Resting after her Bath
- Portrait of Marie-Louise O'Murphy (Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne)
- Putti with Birds (L'Amour Oiseleur), ca. 1731-33 Honolulu Museum of Art
- The Visit of Venus to Vulcan
- Christ and John the Baptist as Children
- Naiads and Triton
- Triumph of Venus
- Venus Consoling Love or The Bath of Venus National Gallery of Art
- Exchange of Produce / Gifts
- Cupid a Captive
Selected works 
Putti with Birds, c. 1730-1733, Honolulu Museum of Art
The Bridge, 1751, Louvre
Saint Peter Attempting to Walk on Water, 1766, Cathédrale Saint-Louis, Versailles
See also 
|Venus Consoling Love|
|Boucher's Madame de Pompadour, Smarthistory|
|Boucher's Venus Consoling Love, Smarthistory|
- "François Boucher", Oxford Art Online
- Kathryn B. Hiesinger, "The Sources of François Boucher's 'Psyche' Tapestries" Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 72 No. 314 (November 1976), pp. 7-23.
- Houssaye, Arsène (1843). "Boucher et la peinture sous Louis XV". Revue des deux mondes. n. s. 3: 70–98. p. 86 (citing a letter to Nicolas Lancret).
- "Boucher's Madame de Pompadour". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved January 3, 2013.
- "Boucher's Venus Consoling Love". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved January 3, 2013.
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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: François Boucher|
- Prints & People: A Social History of Printed Pictures, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on Boucher (see index)
- Francoisboucher.org 64 works by François Boucher
- 20 works, discussed at Boston College
- French Engraving
- Boucher collection at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum