Nicolas Lancret was a French painter from the Rococo period. His style was much inspired by Antoine Watteau’s, however, with his stylistic nuances. Lancret painted in a style known as fete galante, or courtship party. His paintings were often comedic and with a light-mood.
Nicolas Lancret was born in 1690. To talk about Lancret inevitably is to speak about Jean-Antoine Watteau, whose work was a massive inspiration to Lancret. He would often be regarded, unfairly, as a close imitator of Watteau. However, Lancret’s artwork, even though similar, had its particularities.
After a brief period of training engraving, Lancret was apprenticed to the history painter Pierre Dulin and shortly after entered the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. He left Dulin’s studio to study under Claude Gillot, who was Watteau’s former teacher, a decision that would announce Lancret’s pursuit of a career as a genre painter rather than a history painter.
Although scholars could not precise exactly in which period Lancret studied under Gillot, it is yet probable that coincided with Antoine Watteau’s acceptance to the Academy in 1712. Although Lancret has never been one of Watteau’s pupils, their friendship surely was one of the reasons Lancret would imbue much of Watteau’s innovations into his artwork.
In 1719, Lancret submitted his painting of acceptance to the Academy, a conversation galante heavily inspired by Watteau. Lancret’s inspiration from Watteau’s artwork remained even after their falling out. Following the latter’s death in 1721, Lancret would execute his paintings with his artistic idioms. He would leave Watteau’s glimmering surfaces to more bold use of color.
In 1725, the artist exhibited several pictures at The Salon. In the same year, he painted Ballor de Sovot, who later wrote the artist’s biography. Lancret also painted Madeimoselle Camargo, one of the Paris Opera’s most famous dancers. One of these celebrated portraits is at the National Gallery of Art.
At some point, Lancret received a commission to execute a picture representing a contemporary history. This was one of the few history paintings Lancret produced throughout his career.
There are also two unique elements on Lancret’s artworks: anecdote and humor, often depictions of amusing incidents or situations. Some excellent examples of said paintings are The Ham Lunch, in his series The Time of Day, and some representing La Fontaine’s fables exhibited at the 1738 Salon.
Nicolas Lancret died in 1743. Even after his passing, his paintings were sought off fervently, as was the foremost painter of fete galante, at the time.