*Rococo Revisited

François Boucher (1703–1770): The Secret Message.
Détail, “Le Repas de chasse”, François Boucher,1735. Aile Richelieu, Musée du Louvre
François Boucher  (1703 - 1770) 
The Arts and Sciences: Fowling and Horticulture, 1750-1752
oil on canvas
Madame de Pompadour, Château de Crécy
The Frick Collection
François Boucher  (1703 - 1770) 

The Arts and Sciences: Comedy and Tragedy, 1750-1752
oil on canvas
© The Frick Collection
Madame de Pompadour, Château de Crécy 
François Boucher  (1703 - 1770) 

The Arts and Sciences: Singing and Dancing, 1750-1752
oil on canvas
The Frick Collection
The Boucher Room at the Frick Collection, 1928, Walter Gay. (via Architectural Digest)
Circle of François Boucher (Paris 1703-1770) 
Putti disporting: en grisaille 
oil on canvas
Boreas Abducting Oreithyia 
François Boucher
French (1703–1770)
18th century
Oil on canvas
Failing to win the hand of the lovely Athenian princess Orethyia, one of the daughters of King Erechtheus, by gentle means, Boreas, the cold wind god of the North, decided to revert to his true nature of wildness and cold rage. The story is told by Ovid in the sixth book of the Metamorphoses, and Boucher admirably evokes the passion and fury of the tale.
Boreas swoops down, concealed by dark and stormy clouds, and forcibly snatches up Oreithyia as she gathers flowers with her sisters. Boreas carried her back to his northern realm, where she later bore him twin sons, an event suggested by the putto’s two torches. The felled tree in the foreground, which leads the viewer into the composition, is one of the gnarled oaks that Boreas, in his violence, brought crashing down.
François Boucher (Paris 1703-1770) ‘La petite fermière’ 1769 oil on canvas 
Towards the end of his career, François Boucher, one of the supreme painters of the French rococo, went back to the light-hearted fantasy world of the pastoral landscape, the genre which had contributed so crucially to his early ascent to fame in the 1740s. His native Paris was then a crowded and busy city whose élite yearned for country escapes. Yet, Boucher did not present them with the harsh realities of the countryside. Instead he transformed it into a sunlit and colourful haven where Spring never ended, and where delightful farm courtyards were populated by pleasing rose-cheeked youths tending to some playful rural task. An image of absolute charm and innocence, La petite Fermière epitomises Boucher’s late pastorals. 
 During the French Revolution a taste for neo-classical art predominated, and such pleasing subjects fell out of favour. It was only later in the nineteenth century that Boucher’s celebration of the simple pleasures of life found new champions, the foremost of whom was Edmond de Goncourt, who famously described the artist as ‘one of those men who signify the taste of a century, who express it, personify it and embody it’.
La Cueillette des Cerises

This joyful scene of countryside delights is one of the most enchanting late creations by the great master of French rococo painting, François Boucher. With a spirited brush and much wit, Boucher distills both the tender innocence and the hedonistic sensuality that came to define the eighteenth-century French pastoral ideal, a genre which Boucher formulated. In the 1740s, soon after his return from Italy and inspired by literary examples, the artist sought to visually transcribe the tales of rustic love that found such success in the poetry and theatre of the day. He took up these light-hearted pleasing subjects again towards the end of his career, in the 1760s, adding more veracity to his depictions of shepherds, now deprived of their previous operatic silk dress and extravagant ribbons unfit for their rural tasks. Yet, far from presenting a realistic vision of peasant struggles, the artist retained a high degree of idealisation: Boucher only painted ‘nature embellished by imagination’ and he wished ‘to transform the history of our countryside into an ingenious novel…  it was always as a poet of taste that he painted the countryside’.

The cheerful, youthful and flirtatious rural life that Boucher stages in this picture would have echoed the arcadian fantasies of the sophisticated urban Parisian elite of the day. Overloaded with social conventions and materialistic concerns its members longed to go back to the simple, informal pleasures of the natural world. This yearning for the vie champêtre was perhaps best exemplified a few decades later by Queen Marie-Antoinette, who frequently went to play shepherdess with her close circle of friends in a fantasy farm she had set up in  Versailles. These idyllic recreations also captured the imagination of another great figure of the day, the writer and philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Georges Brunel (op. cit.) recognized an unexpected association - at least indirectly, by way of Ponce’s print - between the Cueillette des Cerises and a passage in Rousseau’s autobiography, The Confessions. Though the first volume of his book did not appear until 1782, Rousseau began writing his memoirs in 1765 and he might well have been thinking of Ponce’s popular engraving when he recounted an anecdote concerning cherry-picking in Book Four. In it, he tells of wandering along a country road when he was eighteen, and coming upon two girls who were having difficulties crossing a stream. After assisting them, he was invited by one of the girls to join them for lunch at her house. After the meal, the three decided to pick fruit from the garden. ‘I climbed the tree,’ Rousseau wrote, ‘and tossed down bunches of cherries, from which [the girls] returned pips through the branches. The sight of Mlle. Galley with her apron spread out and her head thrust back was very pleasant; I aimed perfectly so that a cluster fell on her breast; how we laughed!’

Yet Boucher’s vision of bucolic dalliance was slightly more risqué than Rousseau’s - the meaning of the gesture made by the mischievous shepherd in the tree is so obvious as to require no explanation. The erotic charge of such works, along with their idealization of country life was deemed corruptive and false by the influential art critic and enlightened encyclopedist Denis Diderot who complained in his 1761 review of the Salon: ‘That man has everything but truth!’. Yet even the righteous Diderot could not help but recognize the magnetic appeal of Boucher’s pastorals: ‘One cannot leave the picture. It fixes you. One comes back to it. It is such an agreeable vice, an extravagance so inimitable and so rare! There is so much imagination, of effect, of magic and of facility!’

Key to this enduring power of attraction, the seductive spontaneity of the young protagonists is mirrored by the daring freedom of handling adopted by the aging painter. Far from the polished aspect of his pastoral from the 1740s, Boucher carves directly into colour, using thick impasto and a calligraphic touch. Challenging the traditional categories of preparatory oil sketch and finished painting, he creates a dynamic and fresh image that would have appealed to discerning amateurs, eager to own an example of the artist’s improvisational, loosely painted works. In that sense, La Cueillette des Cerises epitomizes Boucher’s exuberant aesthetic of pleasure.

François Boucher (Paris 1703-1770) ‘La Cueillette des Cerises’ oil on canvas
'Spring' (1745).
by Francois Boucher
This pastoral painting was originally part of a set of four by the artist, each representing a different season.
@the Wallace Collection 
Allegory of Fire
François Boucher (1703-1770)  
Oil on canvas
late 18th century-early 19th century 
This painting is a copy after a composition signed and dated by Boucher in 1741 but now lost. It depicts the allegory of Fire and originally belongs to a cycle of four paintings representing the Elements. 
This work is a fine example of the early career of Boucher, who already pervaded his oeuvre with mischievous pastoral scenes which would become the hallmark of his art and eventually of the whole rococo period.
 (via V&A )

a sleeping lady, bust-length (detail), circle of françois boucher 
Young Woman with a Bouquet of Roses
Francois Boucher 
Oil on canvas
Private collection