François Boucher

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This article is about the French painter. For the Canadian violinist, see François Boucher (violinist).
François Boucher
Boucher par Gustav Lundberg 1741.jpg
Portrait of François Boucher by Gustaf Lundberg (1741)
Born (1703-09-29)29 September 1703
Paris, Kingdom of France
Died 30 May 1770(1770-05-30) (aged 66)
Paris, Kingdom of France
Nationality French
Known for Painting
Movement Rococo

François Boucher (French: [fʁɑ̃swa buʃe]; 29 September 1703 – 30 May 1770) was a French painter 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.


Portrait of Marie-Jeanne Buzeau (1716-1796) by Alexander Roslin. Boucher married Buzeau in 1733 and they had three children together.
François Boucher, Portrait of Marie-Louise O'Murphy c. 1752, oil on canvas, 59 x 73 cm., (23.23 × 28.74 in), Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne

A native of Paris, Boucher was the son of a minor painter Nicolas Boucher, who gave him his first artistic training. At the age of seventeen, a painting by Boucher was admired by the painter François Lemoyne. Lemoyne later appointed Boucher as his apprentice, but after only three months, he went to work for the engraver Jean-François Cars.[1] In 1720, he won the elite Grand Prix de Rome for painting, but did not take up the consequential opportunity to study in Italy until five years later, due to financial problems at the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture.[1] On his return from studying in Italy he was admitted to the refounded Académie de peinture et de sculpture on 24 November 1731.[2] His morceau de réception (reception piece) was his Rinaldo and Armida of 1734.[2]

Boucher became a faculty member in 1734 and his career accelerated from this point as he was promoted Professor then Rector of the Academy, becoming inspector at the Royal Gobelins Manufactory and finally Premier Peintre du Roi (First Painter of the King) in 1765.

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, 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."

Boucher is famous for saying that nature is "trop verte et mal éclairée" (too green and badly lit).[3]

Boucher was associated with the gemstone engraver Jacques Guay, whom he taught to draw. Later Boucher made a series of drawings of works by Guay which Madame de Pompadour then engraved and distributed as a handsomely bound volume to favored courtiers.[4] The neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David began his painting instruction under Boucher.


The Secret Message

Boucher gained inspiration from such artists as Peter Paul Rubens and Antoine Watteau.[5] Boucher's early works celebrate the idyllic and tranquil portrayal of nature and landscape with great elan.[6] However, his art typically forgoes traditional rural innocence to portray scenes with a definitive style of eroticism as 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 admirer of his work.[7] Marquise de Pompadour is often referred to as the "godmother of Rococo." [7]

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.

Theatrical and tapestry designs[edit]

Diana and Callisto, 1759

Along with his painting, Boucher also designed theater costumes and sets, and the ardent intrigues of the comic operas of Charles Simon Favart closely paralleled 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.[8] During two decades' involvement with the Beauvais tapestry workshops Boucher produced designs for six series of hangings in all, like the tapestry showing Psyche and the Basketmaker from 1741–1742.

Boucher 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 death of Oudry in 1755 put an end to its contribution to Beauvais but his collaboration with the Gobelins lasted until 1765, when he stepped down from his position as an inspector.


Works by François Boucher[edit]

The Mill, 1751

This is an incomplete list of works by François Boucher.

  • Death of Meleager (c. 1727), Los Angeles County Museum of Art[9]
  • Project for a Cartouche (c. 1727), Los Angeles County Museum of Art[10]
  • Imaginary Landscape with the Palatine Hill from Campo Vaccino (1734), Metropolitan Museum of Art[11]
  • Monument to Mignard (c. 1735), Los Angeles County Museum of Art[12]
  • Venus and Mercury Instructing Cupid (1738), Los Angeles County Museum of Art[13]
  • Cupid Wounding Psyche (1741), Los Angeles County Museum of Art[14]
  • Les Confidences Pastorales (c. 1745), Los Angeles County Museum of Art[15]
  • Arion on the Dolphin (1748), Princeton University Art Museum[16]
  • Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour (1750), Harvard Art Museums[17]
  • The Interrupted Sleep (1750), Metropolitan Museum of Art[18]
  • The Toilette of Venus (1751), Metropolitan Museum of Art[19]
  • Shepherd Boy Playing Bagpipes (c. 1754), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston[20]
  • Landscape with a Watermill (1755), National Gallery[21]
  • Venus in the Workshop of Vulcan (1757), Yale University Art Gallery[22]
  • Pan and Syrinx (1759), National Gallery,[23]
  • Angelica and Medoro (1763), Metropolitan Museum of Art[24]
  • Jupiter, in the Guise of Diana, and Callisto (1763), Metropolitan Museum of Art[25]
  • Virgin and Child with the Young Saint John the Baptist and Angels (1765), Metropolitan Museum of Art[26]
  • Halt at the Spring (1765), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston[27]
  • Return from Market (1767), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston[28]
  • Shepherd's Idyll (1768), Metropolitan Museum of Art[29]
  • Washerwomen (1768), Metropolitan Museum of Art[30]


  1. ^ a b "François Boucher", Oxford Art Online
  2. ^ a b Levey, Michael. (1993) Painting and sculpture in France 1700-1789. New Haven: Yale University Press, p. 164. ISBN 0300064942
  3. ^ 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).
  4. ^ Leturcq, Jean François (1873). Notice sur Jacques Guay, graveur sur pierres fines du roi Louis xv. Documents émanant de Guay, et notes sur les œuvres de gravure en taille-douce et en pierres fines de la marquise de Pompadour. pp. 10–12. Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  5. ^ Hoskin, Dawn (September 30, 2014). "Born on this Day: Francois Boucher". Victoria and Albert Museum. 
  6. ^ Voss, Hermann; Barea, Ilse (March 1953). "Francois Boucher's Early Development". The Burlington Magazine (Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd.) 95: 82. 
  7. ^ a b Hyde, Melissa (September 2000). "The "Makeup" of the Marquise: Boucher's Portrait of Pompadour at her Toilette". Art Bulletin 82 (3): 455. doi:10.2307/3051397. ISSN 0004-3079. 
  8. ^ Kathryn B. Hiesinger, "The Sources of François Boucher's 'Psyche' Tapestries" Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 72 No. 314 (November 1976), pp. 7-23.
  9. ^ "Death of Meleager | LACMA Collections". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  10. ^ "Project for a Cartouche: An Allegory of Minerva, Fame, History and Faith Overcoming Ignorance and Time | LACMA Collections". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  11. ^ "The Metropolitan Museum of Art - Imaginary Landscape with the Palatine Hill from Campo Vaccino". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  12. ^ "Monument to Mignard | LACMA Collections". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  13. ^ "Venus and Mercury Instructing Cupid | LACMA Collections". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  14. ^ "Cupid Wounding Psyche | LACMA Collections". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  15. ^ "Les Confidences Pastorales | LACMA Collections". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  16. ^ "Arion on the Dolphin (y1980-2)". Princeton University Art Museum. Princeton University. 
  17. ^ "Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour". Harvard Art Museums. Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  18. ^ "The Metropolitan Museum of Art - The Interrupted Sleep". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  19. ^ "The Metropolitan Museum of Art - The Toilette of Venus". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  20. ^ "Shepherd Boy Playing Bagpipes -François Boucher, French, 1703–1770 | Museum of Fine Arts, Boston". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  21. ^ "François Boucher | Landscape with a Watermill | NG6374 | The National Gallery, London". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  22. ^ "Venus in the Workshop of Vulcan". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  23. ^ "François Boucher | Pan and Syrinx | NG1090 | The National Gallery, London". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  24. ^ "The Metropolitan Museum of Art - Angelica and Medoro". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  25. ^ "The Metropolitan Museum of Art - Jupiter, in the Guise of Diana, and Callisto". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  26. ^ Virgin and Child with the Young Saint John the Baptist and Angels
  27. ^ "Halt at the Spring -François Boucher, French, 1703–1770 | Museum of Fine Arts, Boston". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  28. ^ "Return from Market -François Boucher, French, 1703–1770 | Museum of Fine Arts, Boston". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  29. ^ "The Metropolitan Museum of Art - Shepherd's Idyll". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  30. ^ "The Metropolitan Museum of Art - Washerwomen". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 

External links[edit]

External video
François Boucher 002.jpg
Boucher's Madame de Pompadour at Smarthistory.
Boucher's Venus Consoling Love at Smarthistory