François Boucher was born in Paris to the son of a painter specialising in embroidery designs. Boucher's humble beginnings did not allow much in the way of a formal education, but he did work under his father. He then studied composition briefly under le Moyne, but was forced to leave off studying due to financial constraints. Boucher also worked under Jean-François Cars, an engraver. A promising young artist, he won the coveted Prix de Rome at age 20. A commission to engrave the paintings of Watteau gave him first - exposure to Watteau's delicate style, second - acclaim in the eyes of his peers, and third - the finances to go to Italy.
Boucher spent four years in Italy (from 1727 to 1731). There he soaked up history and mythology and studied the Venetian masters. This trip served to fill some of the gaps left by his lack of formal education. On his return to Paris, he received full membership at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in with his Rinaldo and Armida. This was only the beginning of an illustrious career that culminated in his appointment as First Painter to the King (he was appointed by Louis XV in 1765).
Boucher was a protégé of Madame de Pompadour, painting her portrait 7 times at least, and was also her drawing master. His prolific output included numerous decorative paintings, tapestry cartoons for the Royal Beauvais and Gobelins factories (he eventually succeeded Carle van Loo as art director of the Gobelins tapestry factory), designs for Sèvres and Vincennes porcelain, theatre sets, portraits and even costumes for the Opéra, the Opéra-Comique and the Théâtre de la Foire.
François Boucher's age was an age of prettiness, of charm, glamour and pleasure. His gift was in his perfect attunement to these times. Expressing with his brush all the beauty and none of the harshness of 18th century life, his paintings were perfectly suited to the clientele he served. He chose to paint pictures with mythological themes - not the inspirational mythology of Rubens, Titian and Poussin, but a mythology that allowed him to present impossibly beautiful nudes for boudoirs and dressing rooms with just the thinnest veneer of historical justification. Ministering to society's wildest dreams, its most hidden passions, Boucher beguiled his patron's senses with paintings that shimmered, melted, and dissolved like cotton candy.
Criticised even early in his career for the falseness of his paintings, for his lack of observation of nature, Boucher's spirit was even less appreciated in the stricter moral climate that took over France during the Revolution. Accused of corrupting the morals of the public, he fell out of favour. Bewildered, Boucher outlived his appeal, but he refused to change the style of his work, and continued to work right up until his death on 30 May, 1770 in Paris.
Nearly two hundred and fifty years after his death, Boucher makes us long for a time that never was, a world that never could be real. His art is untouched by criticism, because the redemption of pettiness is handled in such a grand and elegant manner. Boucher's art becomes true through its beauty.
contributed by Gifford, Katya