François Boucher
(French, 1703 - 1770)
Portrait of François Boucher
by Gustav Lundberg
This person is associated with: Rococo


French painter, leader of the Rococo style.

The son of an unknown draughtsman, Boucher studied under Lemoyne for a short period. Pushed by necessity, he had to work rapidly; he therefore started his career as a etcher, notably by engraving more than a hundred of Watteau's works. Then, he won the Prix de Rome in 1723 for Evilmerodach Releasing Jehoiachin from Prison (lost painting). However, he was not awarded a stipend to travel to Rome and had to fund the trip by himself; he left in 1728 with his future rival Carle Van Loo, who had won the prize of 1724.

Back in Paris in 1731, he received his first important commission by a small lawyer named François Debrais. Boucher decided to make an ambitious ensemble in order to make himself known to the Parisian elite and can be considered as his art manifesto. His five mythological nudes displayed naked goddesses, painted with rounded curves and in bright colours, which he often replicated throughout his career; for instance, he made at least six Venus and Vulcan. Derbais' apartment also exhibited his first depictions of scenes exclusively centred on fat and naughty cupids, or putti. Boucher usually made series of the four seasons, the elements, or the liberal arts, with these grotesque characters, which were copied in countless arrangements by Boucher and his followers.

Soon after the completion of Derbais' apartment, Boucher was admitted in the Academy on 30 January 1734; his reception piece was Rinaldo and Armida. As a result, his career rapidly took off and Boucher was kept busy with prestigious commissions until his death. Firstly, he made a set of four massive pastorals for an unknown patron in 1735 (supposedly the Duke of Richelieu), then a set of grisailles for the Queen's Chamber and two works of the famous series of the Foreign Hunts (1736-8) for Versailles, and seven overdoors of the Palace of Soubise in Paris (1738). Between 1739-42, the Swedish ambassador and scholar Tessin also acquired a large collection of his works, which are now in the Nationalmuseum.

These early successes caught the eye of Madame de Pompadour, the King's official mistress, whose interest in the Arts and position at the court had turned her into the most prominent patron in Europe. She started to employ him in 1749, with the commission of an altarpiece for the Castle of Bellevue (1750), one of his rare religious paintings; he painted a dozen portraits of her, another genre he scarcely approached. He also made for her two famous pictures of the Toilet and Bath of Venus, illustrating a role she played before the king in Versailles in 1750.

eight panels on the Arts and Sciences (now in the Frick). 1753 The Rising and Setting of the Sun, a lost series of the nine muses in 1756 for her palace in Paris (now the Elysée Palace).

Meanwhile, Boucher continued to fulfil some prestigious commissions, such as four works on the Story of Aminta and Sylvia for the Duke of Penthièvre in his Hôtel de Toulouse (Paris) in 1756. He also made portraits of naked courtesans, including several versions of the Dark-Haired Odalisque, and two of the Blonde Odalisque, whom Casanova said that she was the king's 14 years old mistress Marie-Louise O'Murphy.

He completed his last masterpiece in 1768 with six mythological panels for the Hôtel Bergeret de Frouville.

Additionally, Boucher was the most successful tapestry designer of the century. The manufacture of Beauvais first employed him in 1735 and he made six series for them: 8 Italian Feasts in 1736, 6 works on the Story of Psyche in 1737, 12 Chinoiseries in 1742, The Loves of the Gods, Fragments of Opera, and 6 large Nobles Pastorales in 1748. The success thus enjoyed by Beauvais made jealous their arch-rival of the Gobelins, which had been the leading manufacture in France since Louis XIV. At the death of Oudry in 1755, the Gobelins lobbied the Ministry to appoint Boucher at his place of Inspector of the Gobelins, and successfully poached him from Beauvais, albeit Boucher had a limited production for them.

His fabulous career as a designer also extended to the Manufacture of Sèvres and decorative designs for theatres.

However, the death of the Duchess of Pompadour in 1765 marked the end of Boucher's hegemony on the arts, which started to evolve towards less frivolous compositions with the rise of Neoclassicism. The first art critics such as Diderot severely judge his meaningless style; besides, Boucher refused to display his works in the Salon of 1767 after some pamphlets had mocked his works. This distaste grew even higher during the Revolution as his works were

Unlike most of his contemporaries, Boucher sold his drawings, which were collected by amateurs. As a result, more than 5,000 drawings are said to survive today.

He was appointed academician in 1734, then Premier Peintre du Roi in 1765.

He was the master of Fragonard, Le Mettay, Drouais and Challe and father-in-law of Baudouin and Deshays de Colleville.


  • Catalogues raisonnés:

Alistair Laing, Les Dessins de François Boucher, Paris, Éditions Scala, 2003.

  • Exhibition catalogues:

Laing, Alastair, et al. François Boucher, 1703-1770, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986.

  • Studies:

Melissa Hyde, Making Up the Rococo: François Boucher and His Critics, Los Angeles, Getty Publications, 2006.

Melissa Hyde & Mark Ledbury, Rethinking Boucher, Los Angeles, Getty Publications, 2006.


Contributors:   Josselin, kohn1fox, kkvk
Name:François Boucher
Dates:1703 - 1770
This artist has 324 artworks in the database. Add more!
Top owners of works by this artist
Private collection79 artworks
Wallace Collection - London(United Kingdom - London)19 artworks
Musée du Louvre(France - Paris)19 artworks
National Gallery of Art - Washington DC(United States - Washington)14 artworks
Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Archéologie de Besançon(France - Besançon)13 artworks
The State Hermitage Museum - Saint Petersburg(Russian Federation - St. Petersburg)13 artworks
California Palace of the Legion of Honor - San Francisco(United States - San Francisco, California)11 artworks
Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York, NY(United States - New York)9 artworks
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts(Russian Federation - Moscow)7 artworks
Frick Collection - New York(United States - New York City)6 artworks
Museum of Fine Arts - Boston(United States - Boston)5 artworks

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Creative works made by this person are in the PUBLIC DOMAIN (not copyrighted).

This person died over 70 years ago (in 1770).

Josselin:46 edits
kohn1fox:2 edits
kkvk:1 edit