Boucher was a French Rococo painter, engraver, and designer, who best embodies the frivolity and elegant superficiality of French court life at the middle of the 18th century.
Boucher was for a short time a pupil of Fransois Lemoyne and in his early years was closely connected with Watteau, many of whose paintings he engraved. In 1727-31 Boucher was in Italy, and on his return was soon busy as a versatile fashionable artist. His career was hugely successful and he received many honours, becoming Director of the Gobelins factory in 1755 and Director of the Academy and King"s Painter in 1765. Boucher was also the favourite artist of Louis XV"s most famous mistress, Mme de Pompadour, to whom he gave lessons and whose portrait he painted several times (Wallace Collection, London; National Gallery, Edinburgh).
Boucher mastered every branch of decorative and illustrative painting, from colossal schemes of decoration for the royal chateaux of Versailles, Fontainebleau, Marly, and Bellevue, to designs for fans and slippers. In his typical paintings Boucher turned the traditional mythological themes into wittily indecorous scenes galantes, and he painted female flesh with a delightfully healthy sensuality, notably in the celebrated Reclining Girl (Alte Pinakothek, Munich. 1751), which probably represents Louis XV"s mistress Louisa O"Murphy.
Towards the end of his career, as French taste changed in the direction of Neoclassicism, Boucher was attacked, notably by Diderot, for his stereotyped colouring and artificiality; he relied on his own repertory of motifs instead of painting from the life and objected to nature on the grounds that it was "too green and badly lit". Certainly Boucher paintings often show the effects of superficiality and overproduction, but at their best they have irresistible charm and great brilliance of execution. Boucher passed his quality on to his most important pupil, Fragonard.