Saturday 14 September 2013

Nicolas Lancret, Master of Fêtes Galantes

Nicolas Lancret (Paris, France, 22nd January 1690 – Paris, France, 14th September 1743) 

Nicholas Lancret, Self Portrait, 1720

Pop out your paints and canvas because we're leaving literature and music behind today to spend a little time with Nicolas Lancret, a master of his craft who displayed a genius for light comedy and pastoral scenes. Aristocratic playtime never looked so idyllic...

The Swing by Nicholas Lancret
The Swing

Lancret was born in Paris as the son of a coachman; he showed a talent for art in his youth and initially trained as an engraver before being apprenticed to Pierre d'Ulin, who began the young man's formal training. Despite d'Ulin's efforts, Lancret's admiration for Jean-Antoine Watteau led him to leave his position in 1712 and join the studio of Claude Gillot, who had trained Watteau, eventually beginning a friendship with his idol.

He remained with Gillot for a year, enjoying increasing plaudits and success but his friendship with Watteau took a blow when Lancret exhibited two works that were so similar in style to Watteau's that some attributed them to him. The older painter was aggrieved that Lancret had apparently copied his style though this personal upset certainly did no damage to Lancret's career, the new toast of Paris in more demand than ever.

A Lady and Gentleman Taking Coffee with Children in a Garden by Nicholas Lancret, 1742
A Lady and Gentleman Taking Coffee with Children in a Garden, 1742

Though his initial training with d'Ulin had been as a history painter, Lancret eventually specialised in light scenes depicting members of the nobility who were, essentially, having fun. His career gathered speed at a remarkable rate and in 1718 he joined the Académie Royale in Paris as a painter of fêtes galantes, a category that only existed because of Watteau. He became hugely popular with the great and good of Paris following the deaths of both Watteau and Gillot. After his first royal commission in 1725, Louis XV became a particular fan and soon his works were hanging in palaces across Europe. So great was his reputation that he was appointed a councillor at the Académie in 1735. He proved himself a canny operator in terms of business too, raking in the profits from prints and engravings sold after his paintings.

Sleeping Shepherdess by Nicholas Lancret, 1730
Sleeping Shepherdess, 1730

With his career enjoying such success, Lancret did not find time to marry until 1741 when he wed an 18 year girl, supposedly to save her from entering a convent. Just two years later he fell victim to pneumonia, leaving behind a rich collection of over 700 works in a variety of genres, all of them distinctly Lancret.

Would you like to see more? My Pinterest board is happy to oblige!

Le Déjeuner de Jambon by Nicholas Lancret, 1735
Le Déjeuner de Jambon, 1735
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)


Unknown said...

All that success and only two years of marriage before succumbing to pneumonia!

Catherine Curzon said...

I know; what bad luck!

Anonymous said...

I love the paintings.

Catherine Curzon said...

Aren't they beautiful? I just want to step into them!