LANCRET, Nicolas
(b. 1690, Paris, d. 1743, Paris)

The Bird Cage

Oil on canvas, 44 x 48 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Watteau's originality could be copied but not kept alive once Watteau himself was dead. He created a vogue, and this perhaps damaged his own art in the eyes of the next generation. Without Watteau the fête galante was soon to dwindle to triviality, but his example gave further impetus to the uncoordinated desire for freedom. The difficult balance between decoration and genre was to be held best in France by Nicolas Lancret, immensely successful during his lifetime, but who has perhaps suffered too much in reputation for his proximity to Watteau. Frederick the Great felt none of this, and collected both painters in quantity. Lancret did not attempt any psychological insight, but his eternal charm and his keen eye for contemporary manners led to pictures which occasionally are minor masterpieces.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 19 minutes):
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme