Traces of the Hand: Master Drawings from the Collection of Frederick and Lucy S. Herman
Landscape and Seascape
Farmyard Scene, 1733–1766
7 5/8 x 8 3/4 in, 19.37 x 22.23 cm (sheet)
Signature: (recto) "boucher"
Inscriptions: (verso) two illegible inscriptions in red chalk/crayon and pen with the numbers 1684 and 1653
Provenance: Acquired from Joseph Fach, Frankfurt-am-Main, 1952
Gift of The Frederick and Lucy S. Herman Foundation, 2007.15.21
The renowned French rococo painter François Boucher enjoyed an immensely successful artistic career: he won the Prix de Rome in 1723 at only nineteen years old, was patronized by the famous Madame de Pompadour, and was admitted into the Royal Academy as a history painter, one of the highest achievements an artist could obtain.1 He was known for his bucolic landscapes, closely associated with the whimsical nature of the rococo, but in Farmyard Scene, one sees a different side of his approach to the natural world. Here Boucher’s treatment of landscape is partly inspired by his trips to the Low Countries, and partly by the work of several seventeenth-century Flemish and Dutch painters, including Rubens.2 Boucher’s studies from nature were sometimes incorporated into the backgrounds of his paintings, as he was known for finely detailed landscapes. While no single tree in his finished work exactly matches this drawing, a number of paintings contain similar trees with the riven trunk and blasted limbs of this tree, including, for example, Forest Scene with Two Roman Soldiers of 1740 (Musée du Louvre), and Frère Luce of 1742 (Moscow, Pushkin Museum).3 Although it is called Farmyard Scene, a more appropriate title might be Tree Study, since most of Boucher’s attention is focused on the tree, half-dead, picturesque, and full of character and not at all dependent on ideal models.4
In this Farmyard Scene, Boucher employed a mixture of quick strokes and more deliberate, deeply impressed outlines. Careful detail has been applied to the trunk, branches, and base of the tree, whereas the rest of the farmyard is denoted with light hatching and outlines. Boucher’s technique here resembles rough red chalk figure sketches like the Seated Lady in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and a Lady Seated, Holding a Fan in a private collection.5
Such authorities as A. Hyatt Mayor and Agnes Mongan have accepted this drawing;6 and Pierre Rosenberg observed that it is recognized as an early signed work by the artist.7
1. Regina Shoolman Slatkin, François Boucher in North American Collections: 100 Drawings, Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1973.
2. Alastair Laing, The Drawings of François Boucher, New York, 2003.
3. Alastair Lang, J. Patrice Marandel, and Pierre Rosenberg, François Boucher, 1703–1770, New York: Metropolitan Museum, 1986, nos. 35, 45.
4. Ian J. Lochhead, The Spectator and the Landscape in the Art Criticism of Diderot and His Contemporaries, Ann Arbor, MI, 1982, 25.
5. Slatkin, Boucher, nos. 22, 23.
6. Communication from Frederick and Lucy Herman, recorded in Museum’s curatorial files.
7. Miles Chappell, Form, Function, and Finesse: Drawings from the Frederick and Lucy S. Herman Foundation, Catalogue of the Exhibition and Handlist of the Collection, Williamsburg, Virginia: Joseph and Margaret Muscarelle Museum of Art, College of William & Mary, 1983, 84