Francois Boucher was an 18th century artist who produced many paintings during his lifetime on a very wide variety of subjects. Everything from landscapes, to genre work, to religious art, to classical mythology were normal topics for Boucher and, for the most part, done in a Rococo style. His influences were such painters as Rubens and Watteau. Boucher’s art caused quite a stir in his day. Diderot, ever the moralist, was vehemently against the sensual scenes and overtones that touched Boucher’s work. One of his greatest fans, however, was the Madame de Pompadour, and it was her that protected Boucher from any real outcries against his art.
Madame de Pompadour was a subject that Boucher painted more than once. One of these paintings is The Marquis de Pompadour. Madame de Pompadour lounges on a sofa in this painting. She wears a voluminous blue dress replete with ruffles and lace. The blue is the brightest element in the painting, immediately drawing our eyes to the beautiful woman. The rest of the room is decorated with Rococo furniture and objects. A small dog sits at the Madame de Pompadour’s feet. A book sits in her lap, half forgotten, as she stares to the left at something beyond the boundaries of the painting, her attention completely focused on this new phenomenon.
Another painting of Boucher’s in a very different style is The Afternoon Meal, a genre painting. In this work a family sits down a table in the afternoon for a meal. They are of the middle class, their house decorated with fine objects, though not as overly grand as the room that Madame de Pompadour inhabits. This painting is not as static either. Each person is in motion, gesturing and speaking to one another. A gentleman is trying to the attention of a woman who in turn has her attention upon a small girl sitting on a bench on the floor. Another woman has a very young child wearing a bonnet in her lap and doesn’t seem to be paying attention to the other figures at all. This is a domestic scene, a type of genre painting that had only began to become popular in the last hundred or so years of Boucher’s era. This was a topic that was easily relatable to the middle class and often sought out by the same people to adorn their own homes with. Always a subject that sold, Boucher breeched the confines of producing art for only one class of people, something that was all too easy to fall into habit of doing.
Boucher was a great painter of the 18th
century. The only restrictions on his art were those of his imagination and talent, both of which he had in abundance. Boucher is a great artist whose works have withstood the test of time.
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