This volume assembles a group of interrelated thought-provoking essays from leading international scholars in the field originally presented at the conference Boucher and the Enlightenment, held at the Wallace Collection, London.
The conference was one of a series of extraordinary events celebrating the tercentenary of the artist’s birth: exhibitions were held in Paris, Dijon, London and New York, a conference was dedicated to the artist’s work at The Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles and a number of associated ground-breaking publications were published.
All were agreed on the significance of Boucher’s achievement, his contemporary success and the startlingly rapid critical decline. Yet, although much valuable new research was presented elsewhere regarding the connoisseurship, interpretation and critical reception of Boucher’s work, the Wallace Collection conference was outstanding in its emphasis on the essentially social nature of Boucher’s artistic enterprise, the seriousness of his artistic ambition, and how the artistic relationships he forged both influenced his artistic practice and affected his critical reputation for both good and bad. Subsequent research in eighteenth-century studies has confirmed many of the ideas first posited at the conference, but no other major publication on the artist has appeared in the intervening ten-year period that has been able to present or benefit from the advances made at the Wallace Collection.
It has thus become increasingly obvious that the original conference papers, unpublished at the time, should be issued. The papers have been revised and enriched with further original research, incorporating important recent discoveries and trends in Boucher scholarship. Taken as a whole, the essays present a wealth of new material concerning Boucher’s social and professional relationships to his patrons, dealers and fellow artists, which in turn illuminate, as no subsequent publication has done, his extraordinary position at the crossroads of the fine, decorative, literary and musical arts of his time.
The book includes a variety of inter-disciplinary topics including new biographical information regarding Boucher’s life, artistic practices and relationships, while new research is also published regarding the detailed connoisseurship and dating of his work alongside new interpretations of its iconography and critical and commercial reception. The diverse subject matter and variety of art-historical approach of the essays open up new perspectives in our understanding not only of François Boucher but also of the wider cultural and social context of his time. Together they shed new light on Boucher’s significance as one of the most original and controversial artists of the eighteenth century.
The volume is the first major work on the artist to appear in recent years.
Leda Consentino is the Curator of Sculpture at the Wallace Collection.
Dr Christoph Martin Vogtherr was Director of the Wallace Collection from 2011 to 2016 and was previously Curator of Pictures pre-1800. Before joining the Collection he was Paintings Curator at the Foundation of Prussian Palaces and Gardens, Potsdam, Germany (1998-2007). In 2010 he published the catalogue raisonné of paintings by Watteau, Pater and Lancret in Berlin and Potsdam and, more recently, on Antoine Watteau, French eighteenth-century collecting and the Fête galante. In 2016 he was named the Director of the Hamburger Kunsthalle.
Co-published in association with the Wallace Collection, London UK