Offered by Stéphane Renard Fine Art
Old master paintings and drawings
8 11/16’’ x 13 ¾’’ (220 x 350 mm) - Framed 42.5 x 53.5 cm
• Bought from Sicart in Lyon by the Marquis de Chennevières (1820 - 1899) - Chennevières Collection (stamped lower left - Lugt 2072)
• Inscribed on the back of the mount "Salle 10/Delestre, 27 February 1899”
• Sold in Paris at the Hôtel Drouot during the second Chennevières sale (4 to 7 April 1900, n°44) as François Boucher - number 44 (sold for 18 francs to Roblin)
• Sold in Paris at the Hôtel Drouot, 4 and 5 March 1901, n°12 as François Boucher
Bibliography: this drawing is cited by Chennevières in "Une collection de dessins d'artistes français" (chapter XVIII, page 24-25) and is number 1033 of the Catalogue de la Collection Chennevières compiled by Louis-Antoine Prat with the collaboration of Laurence Lhinares.
This drawing was executed on a very thin sheet of paper glued to a thicker laid paper, and traces of glue have unfortunately yellowed, especially in the lantern of the house and in the sky. The laid paper glued to the back has a very nice watermark, in which one can read on the second line the word "AUVERGNE" followed by a date (1740 ?).
This well-documented drawing was given to Boucher by the Marquis de Chennevières, one of the most important collectors of drawings at the end of the 19th century. While the landscape is reminiscent of Boucher's other landscape drawings, our drawing was probably modified at a later stage by the addition of the two figures in the right foreground and by the slight enhancement of the horizon line behind them.
1. François Boucher, the master of French rocaille
The extraordinary career of Francois Boucher was unmatched by his contemporaries in versatility, consistency, and output. For many, particularly the writers and collectors who led the revival of interest in the French rococo during the last century, his sensuous beauties and plump cupids represent the French eighteenth century at its most typical. His facility with the brush, even when betraying the occasional superficiality of his art, enabled him to master every aspect of painting – history and mythology, portraiture, landscape, ordinary life and, as part of larger compositions, even still life. He had been trained as an engraver, and the skills of a draftsman, which he imbued in the studio of Jean-Francois Cars (1661 – 1738), stood him in good stead throughout his career; his delightful drawings are one of the most sought-after aspects of his oeuvre.
As a student of Francois Lemoyne (1688 - 1737), he mastered the art of composition. The four years he spent in Italy, from 1727-1731, educated him in the works of the masters, classics, and history, that his modest upbringing had denied him.
On his return to Paris in 1734, he gained full membership of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture with his splendid Rinaldo and Armida (Paris, Musée du Louvre). Although, throughout his career, he occasionally painted subjects taken from the Bible, and would always have considered himself first as a history painter, his own repertoire of heroines, seductresses, flirtatious peasant girls and erotic beauties was better suited to a lighter, more decorative subject matter. His mastery of technique and composition enabled him to move from large scale tapestry cartoons (he worked throughout his career for both the Beauvais and Gobelins tapestry factories, becoming director of the latter in 1755), to intimate masterpieces such as Diana Resting (Paris, Louvre) or Leda and the Swan and the occasional scene from everyday life such as The Luncheon (Paris, Louvre), with its elegantly dressed figures grouped around a well-laid table.
Enormously successful and widely bought, Boucher’s output was prodigious. First patronized by the Crown in the 1730s, and appointed Premier Peintre du Roi in 1765, he executed numerous royal and princely commissions until his death in 1770, working particularly for Louis XV’s mistress, the Marquise de Pompadour in each of her several palaces. Always ready to utilize his talents in other fields, he designed stage sets for theatre and opera and supplied drawings to be used as designs for figures at the Vincennes (later Sèvres) porcelain factory. As a teacher, he was much loved by his many students, who included Fragonard, Le Prince, Deshays, Brenet, Baudouin, Lagrenee, and Madame de Pompadour herself.
In his earliest surviving works with their colourful rococo palette, even David, a distant cousin, was clearly influenced by Boucher. Not since Le Brun had a single French artist held such a monopoly on the imagery of a particular society or left such a mark on the art of his time.
2. Description of the drawing
In the background is depicted a rural landscape: a rather modest farmhouse, surrounded by high fences on a tree-lined knoll. While the figures that animate Boucher's landscapes usually appear in the background, another hand (probably a student of Boucher's) has added a couple of fishermen and the watery element into which they seem to be moving in the foreground, thereby enhancing the horizon line. The bush behind the woman (which was probably also added later) is executed without relief, in a very different manner from the other bushes on the left. While our two fishermen are gracefully drawn, their size is slightly disproportionate to the rest of the landscape.
3. Comparison with other Boucher landscapes
While it seems clear to us that the two figures do not belong to the original drawing, the landscape in the background is very reminiscent of other known landscapes by Boucher and fully justifies in our view the attribution of this drawing to Boucher by Chennevières.
The landscape drawings constitute an important but probably little-known part of the graphic work of François Boucher, who took up landscape painting around 1730. Following the example of Jean-Baptiste Oudry in Arcueil, this was a time when many French artists went to the countryside to find subjects for inspiration. Boucher's specificity is to have developed an (ideal) vision of the countryside deeply rooted in the French environment, whereas the other landscape painters of the French school such as Fragonard, Hubert Robert or Claude-Joseph Vernet would always remain deeply inspired by their stays in Italy.
The drawing by Boucher in the British Museum, reproduced below, has a number of points in common with our drawing, both in the description of the farmhouse, the wooden poles surrounding it, and the treatment of the trees, both bushy and graceful.
The leaf is presented in a beautiful Louis XVI period carved and gilded wooden frame which is probably the one in which it was presented at the 1901 sale.
Main bibliographical references :
Alastair Lang The drawings of François Boucher - American Federation of Arts 2003
Louis-Antoine Prat (with the collaboration of Laurence Lhinares) La Collection Chennevières - Quatre siècles de dessins français Editions du Musée du Louvre 2004
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