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Jean-Baptiste Oudry

1686 - 1755

Place Born

Paris

Place Died

Beauvais

Bio

Jean-Baptiste Oudry is without doubt the most striking example of an artist who rose from the ‘popular’ artistic traditions of Paris to a place of distinction within the French Royal Academy. His father, Jacques, a painter/picture-dealer on the Pont Nôtre-Dame, was prominent in the old craftsmen-painters’ maîtrise. After a grounding in this milieu the young Oudry, around 1705, was sent to live for five years with Nicolas de Largilliére, the celebrated portraitist. Thus originated the peculiar lifelong tension of his art, between a kind of naive naturalism on one hand and theatrical effects on the other, a marriage that allowed him to cater to all levels of taste. Oudry’s exceptional technical mastery has never been in dispute, and he was also in the forefront of his times in the exploration of sentiment.

For the first decade of his independent career, until about 1720, Oudry specialised in portraiture, with only modest success. He also produced still lifes and even a few landscapes and popular prints. He was admitted to the Academy in 1719 as a history painter, more (one suspects) in deference to Largilliére than on the merits of his few large church pictures. The 1720s were his most brilliant period. He discovered the animal as a subject for still lifes and pictures of the hunt, themes he treated in a manner splendidly decorative in the best sense of the word. He was a leader in those years among the small group of painters – Le Moyne, de Troy, Lancret, Restout, Nattier – who invented and exploited the genre pittoresque or Louis XV style.

In the late 1720s Oudry prepared a notable series of illustrations for Scarron’s Roman comique and the Fables of La Fontaine. He also began working for the King, painting the favourite royal dogs, and obtained the position of painter to the Royal Tapestry Manufactory at Beauvais. Tapestry dominated the next decade of his career, especially his great models for the chasses royales de Louis XV at the Gobelins, while at Beauvais (of which he became Director in 1734) he discovered the unparalleled gifts of François Boucher.

Oudry was truly the official artist in the final phase of his career, from about 1740 on: administrator at the Gobelins as well as Beauvais; Professor in the Academy where he delivered two theoretical lectures late in his life; an assiduous (and esteemed) contributor to the Salons. He enjoyed an international clientele. Oudry in his day was unexcelled for pictures like the Bed of Tulips from the garden of Monsieur de la Bruére, publisher of the Mercure de France, shown in the Salon of 1745 (Detroit Institute of Arts); La Ferme, an extraordinary landscape extolling agricultural France, commissioned by the Dauphin (Salon of 1751; Paris, Louvre); the highly admired Bitch Hound Nursing her Pups (Paris, Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature), acquired by the philosophe Baron d’Holbach at the Salon of 1753; and the White Duck (Houghton Hall, Marquess of Cholmondeley), a veritable tour de force of illusionism, purchased sight unseen by Oudry’s eminent Swedish patron, Carl Gustaf Tessin, even before it could be shown in the Salon of 1753. His reputation was soon eclipsed by younger artists – Chardin, Boucher and, younger still, Greuze and Vernet. But each in a different way all owe a debt to Oudry, one of the most versatile, fecund and inventive artists of eighteenth-century France.

Available Art Works

Boar Hunt & Stag  Hunt (Paintings are paired)

Work Available
Historical Period: 1720-1780 Rococo
Boar Hunt & Stag Hunt (Paintings are paired)