Francois Boucher was a French painter who lived between 29th September 1703 and 30th May 1770. He was also known as a proponent of the Rococo taste and known for voluptuous and idyllic paintings on the standard themes, well decorative allegories which represent the pastoral or arts occupations, aimed as a type of the two-dimensional furniture. Francois has also been able to paint various portraits of his own illustrious patroness named Madame de Pompadour (Hyde & Melissa, 2006).
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Francois was the most celebrated and appreciated decorative artist of 18th century because most of his personal work reflected on the Rococo style. At the age of 17, Francois started to work for Jean-Francois Cars who was an engraver. Within only three years in the business, he was able to win Grand Prix de Rome the elite. He later went to study in Italy and upon return he was taken in to Academie de peinture et de sculpture being a historical painter and thereafter in 1734 he became a full member of faculty. He later advanced from a professor to the Rector of the Academy as he continued to accelerate in his career (Mellissa & Francois, 2006).
He then became the head of Royal Gobelins Manufactory in the year 1755 and later in 1765 he was named the first painter of the King. He was however inspired by the other artists such as Rubens and Watteau and his early works are seen to celebrate the tranquil and idyllic, and also known to portray landscape and nature with much élan. The art used by Francois portrayed scenes of specific styles of eroticism and this shows us that he forewent the conventional rural innocence typically. The mythological scenes that Francois used are known to be intimately amorous and passionate other than being traditionally epic. The mistress of King Louis XV also referred to as Marquise de Pompadour became very synonymous with the Rococo art because she was a major fan of the Boucher’s and this where we find that the theme of passionate being brought out in Francois works (Hyde, 2006).
There was a painting referred to as “The Breakfast” which was designed in 1739 and it was much of a family scene. It was an intimate family scene that earned Francois a lasting notoriety by way of private commissions earned from the wealthy and rich collectors. However during the last days of his creative works, Francois faced very serious attacks and also his own reputation because of the disapproval by Diderot who was an ever-moral person. It was argued that Francois was prostituting his own wife through the way of painting her being dark-haired and also that a painting of Blonde Odalisque was illustrating and showing the extramarital affairs of their own King (Francois, 1986).
Francois was also a designer of theatre sets and costumes and also he was an ardent intrigue of comic operas of Favart in the years between 1710 and 1792. He was also interested in tapestry design. Francois was able to take part in Beauvais tapestry workshops where he designed a sequence of Fetes italiennes, the Italian festivals, in the year 1736. These costumes were widely known and were successful and became famous by being woven again over the years. These were then commissioned in the year 1737 which was a story of the cupid and psyche. Francois got involved with these Beauvais tapestry workshops and was able to produce designs for six different series of the hangings. Francois was later in the year 1755 appointed as the director of rival Gobelins which made him to end the association with tapestry workshop (Hedley, 2004).
Francois was called upon later for designs used for court festivities organized by Menus plaisirs du Roi which was a part of the household of the King. Francois was called for opera and the royal chateaux Choisy, Versailles and Fontainebleau. All the designs that Francois had made gave him a good reputation and this led to many engravings from his good work and also there were reproductions of his own designs on biscuit-ware and porcelain at Sevres and Vincennes factories. Francois helped other artists to realize their talent in painting and a good example is Jacques-Louis David who was a neoclassicist because he began his own painting instruction under the guidance of Francois (Bolton, 2004).
After the death of Francois, the Goncourt brothers recorded that Francois was able to represent the real taste of the century because he could personify, express and embody it. There were much extramarital affairs that were ongoing and these led Francois to produce paintings that showed this characteristic that was so prevalent in that century. Through his work, Francois is greatly associated with the establishment of Rococo style and also the dissemination of the same in the entire Europe (Hyde, 2006).
Francois was able to paint “The Interrupted Sleep” which is a painted overdoor at Bellevue for Madame de Pompadour’s chateau which explains better the idea of pastoral, a type of idealized landscape which is highly populated by shepherdesses and shepherds. These are clothed in silk dresses that enact sentimental and erotic love. The fetching shepherdess in this painting is dressed in an ivory-colored silk which does not have any trace of labor or dirt and is very asleep and therefore susceptible to the naughtiness of a young shepherd boy who tickles her cheek and face with a portion of straw (Kathryn, 1976).
The other painting done by Francois is titled “The Toilet of Venus” which is done for the royal mistress. This painting is the exquisite cabinet type in which the outside side has been shown to a very high state of polish. This sets off the gleaming flesh parts of Venus and also the fabrics that are around her which can be described as sumptuous. The inspiration of this painting has always been thought to be the production of the La Toilette de Venus that was staged in 1750 at Versailles where Madame de Pompadour played a major role. She has been greatly admired as an actress and an amateur dancer (Stein, 2003).
The fertile imagination that was found in Francois and also his unified aesthetic were suitable to the standard of tapestry. The manufactory belonging to Beauvais owed most commercial successes to him because many of them were founded on his own designs and these include Fetes Italiennes. There was also a piece of painting titled “The Companions of Diana”. The subjects of classical antiquity were very central to the western art especially during the early days. The famous stories about the fate and the adventures by Greek goddesses and gods were very popular and during these times they were treated with grandiose style. Therefore we find Francois showing the naturally females who were companions of Diana and also the goddesses of hunt and the moon (Hyde & Mark, 2006).
The painting features them as having posed provocatively although there is no attempt of contact or touching of the heart. It is somehow a kind of witty titillating, eroticism which is void of any meaning. Francois went for this because there was an obsessive emphasis on wit and still with a conventional honoring of artistic traditions and social conventions and therefore almost all painters were asked to make their pieces of work fit into the small private rooms, this would be in the simple atmosphere of the rural chalets, miniature pleasure palaces for the aristocratic leisure and also hunting lodges. This main subject of Diana who was the queen of the hunt was considered to be natural in such settings and these paintings could be used as decorations. This explains the absence of very heavy treatment and colors. The painting shows two young girls who seem charming and are tired from a romp that they had one through the woods. These girls are seen to have weapons but due to their soft nature they were unable to kill any living creature because none is present at the time of the painting (Stein, 2003).
There was also the painting titled “the rest on the flight to Egypt”. Francois studied in Rome between the year 1727 and 1731 and when he was in Rome, he was impressed specifically by the colorful baroque of religious paintings. When he returned to France, Francois turned into religious subjects and this is an example of this. This painting depicts a very popular legend that builds up the spare treatment in the Bible of the journey into Egypt (Kathryn, 1976).
Renaissance painters and medieval painters painted other scenes which depicted holy family resting during this long journey through which they were running away from the fury of the king of the Jews. We however find that Francois has gone an extra mile because we find a host of angels, John the Baptist being a baby while playing with Jesus. Joseph who is the father to Jesus is found to be doing all the work while we find Mary resting on a cloud objective on her prayers and still accompanied by a sheep. This is however thought to be a gift that she had received from the Bethlehem shepherds but was not a biblical account (Mellissa & Francois, 2006).
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There was also the painting titled “are they thinking of grapes”. This is another of the pastoral scenes where Francois injected erotic overtones into simple representations that he had in mind. These types of paintings were well suitable for the bedrooms or the sitting rooms because they depicted the theme of love or lust. In this particular painting there are two young peasants; where one is a shepherdess and the other a goat-herd. They are found feeding each other with grapes at the middle of a lavish landscape. Some anachronisms found in this genre are both the two peasants are barefoot though the shepherdess wears a sumptuously ornate dress. The implication of this particular painting is very clear that lust and love are not reserved for aristocrats or for goddesses and gods, but that it also dominates in the simple life (Houssaye, 1843).
The success of Francois was greatly promoted by the support of the Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson who is known historically as Marquise or Madame de Pompadour who was a talented and beautiful mistress of Louis XV. This public figure was a very powerful political figure who arranged that her own brother and the lover to her mother be appointed to the high government positions at her time. It is also recorded that through by way of art patronage she was able to influence greatly the contemporary taste and this helped to make Versailles the capital of art in Europe. Francois was however her best painter and therefore when she required her completed house in the country-side at Bellevue to be decorated, she called upon Francois to do so (Bolton, 2004).
This was a house that she was given as a gift by the king. Francois was awarded various commissions that included a sequence of panels for the bathroom that was luxurious. This painting was inclusive of those panels and it indicates a goddess of love who is surrounded by putti. Putti are described as winged young boys who were symbols of love traditionally. This painting was only to be decorative though we find a dazzling surface technique, profusion of objects which look like they are spilling over the boundaries, sensuous textures which are all styles used by Francois. The luxuries that are allowed the nubile lady shows her actual wealth as well as his tribute to his own patron (Stein, 2003).
This painting becomes a reflection of her own status and fortune and it also depicts the idea of the luxury that she had. There is also the glittering array of silks and satins which remind us of the rich and wealthy life led by the ancient regime in France. It also depicts the most profitable industries in France at the time of booming silk weavers of the Lyons which was the epicenter of the production in Europe.
There was the painting titled “Venus and cupid” which was among the series on the bathroom in the 1751. The subject matter here is goddess of love which was suitable for the bathroom of a King’s mistress. There is a playful treatment of this theme in this painting titled, Venus disciplining her son. The legends explain that Cupid has an arrow and a bow with which he can shoot the humans in an attempt to make them fall in love. Cupid is described as a gleeful youngster who loves to make use of his arrows mostly in harmful and mischievous ways (Mellissa & Francois, 2006).
The goddess of love who is his mother disciplines him often. In this painting, we find the mother taking the quiver of arrows away, to the full enjoyment of the other putti who on the other hand does not know how to force people to fall in love. In this case, Venus is painted with Francois’s mastery of knowledge and flesh of the power there is of revealing drapery. The goddess like in most of the paintings done by Francois is changed into looking like an ordinary woman. She is shown to be beautiful although she lacks the magnificent characteristics which other artists had used formerly to portray her (Hyde & Mark, 2006).
The other painting by Francois is titled “Pastorale”. This was done under new genre of painting when compared to the notion of “cultivated” pictures especially from the aristocratic portraits or the classical antiquity which were wide. The new genre included shepherdess and shepherds and also innocents who were awash in a local teaming up with nature, and also the natural tendencies to making love. This initiative of a natural and simple life was put first as a way of criticism of Parisian and court existence. Rousseau Jean-Jacques attracts great attention due to his purposeful provocative thesis which suggests that happiness could only be achieved best through resuming to a simple life.
Francois introduced this theme as part of the very first French painters to bring this theme on board. This theme was broadly imitated and all the modern museums seem to have different pictures of the same but the treatment given to this theme by Francois still remains appealing and fresh. In the painting we find a young girl and boy who are resting in an idyllic pose. Their bare foot and his goat depicted them to be local people from the countryside but this aspect is contradicted by her elaborate costume and the flowers that were hot-house sized. This is because wild roses do not grow so large. The paintings are willfully artificial and are based on real and shrewd observations. These paintings assisted artists and arts to shake off the methodological, religious and dynastic roles which had previously dominated their activities (Hyde, 2006).
The works by Francois Boucher are really interesting and also inspiring to other artists. The descriptions of the social and political climates are shown well in the essay.
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