Nicolas Lancret (1690–1743)

A French painter of fêtes galantes, Lancret was born in Paris. He came from a worthy family, whose name had figured in the Roll of the Shoemakers’ Guild for more than two hundred years. His parents were in a humble position, and his father died when he was quite young. He early received elementary instruction in drawing from an uncle, who was an engraver, but, becoming ambitious of higher things, he entered the studio of Pierre d’Ulin, one of the professors of the Academy. It was, however, to Claude Gillot that he chiefly owed his art education. With him, he remained some years, and there he came into contact with Jean-Antoine Watteau. The style of the Valenciennes painter fascinated him, and he devoted himself heart and soul to his methods. His friendship with the master painter of the fêtes galantes was not long-lived. According to Ballot de Sovot, the success obtained in two works exhibited by him, and which were attributed to Watteau, caused a rupture between the two painters. M. Pierre de Crozat, the eminent collector, sympathised with him, and introduced him to M. de Julienne and other distinguished patrons of art. He was a laborious worker, and allowed himself little leisure. He was accustomed, in summer time, to take his sketchbook into the country round Paris; whilst, in the winter, he worked assiduously in the life-school of the Academy. In 1714, his first pictures of importance appeared, Le bal champêtre, and Une danse dans un bosquet, and gave evidence of special characteristics. In 1719, he was received into the Academy as a painter of fêtes galantes. He was a regular frequenter of the Opera and La Comédie Française, and was a friend of the dancers La Camargo and La Salle, whom he frequently represented in his works. His models, however, were, for the most part, found in the resorts of society. His personality was attractive, and his amiability and good address helped him to make his way. In 1735 he was elected Conseiller of the Academy. His success led to his presentation to Louis XV, who commanded him to paint six pictures at Versailles. It was not till 1740 that he married a granddaughter of the comic poet Boursault. His married life did not, however, last long, for he died in Paris. Lancret has sometimes been called the art-child of Watteau, but he lacks his warmth, and he fails to invest his works with the airy gracefulness which constitutes the great charm of that master. To truth and naturalness, he added good execution. His art displays easy and graceful movement. His dominant colour is a beautiful silvery grey.









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