(b. ca. 1689, Berlin, d. 1760, London)


French painter and etcher, active in England. He was an important painter of great ability who was one of the first in England to adopt the work of Watteau (from 1720) to produce the conversation piece (in 1725) and to coin the domestic 'fancy' picture (from 1737).

Philip Mercier was born in Berlin of French extraction, son of a Huguenot tapestry-worker. Mercier studied painting at the Berlin Akademie and under Antoine Pesne, who had arrived in Berlin in 1710, and afterwards he travelled in Italy and France before arriving in London - recommended by the Court at Hannover - probably in 1716. He married in London in 1719 and lived in Leicester Fields.

Nothing is known of his activity before he went to London, he is generally accepted as an English artist whose pleasant and often surprising work resulted from a naturally French inclination being modified by an English environment.

His style developed through clearly defined stages, the engravings and pastiches of Watteau, the conversation piece, which was virtually an Anglicisation of the Féte Galante, the court painter portraits and other commissions for Frederick, Prince of Wales, the first of the Hanoverians to declare a taste in the arts and finally the fancy pictures and portraits produced in some quantity for provincial patrons.

Stylistically the development was gradual from the delicate rococo-fantasy of Watteau towards a more substantial, middle class interpretation of Chardin.