Antoine Watteau was born at Valenciennes in 1684, and died near there about thirty-seven years later of consumption. Valenciennes really belonged to Flanders, and had only lately been annexed to France, so that Watteau owed something of his art to Flemish rather than to French sources. At the same time it cannot be said that his development would have been the same if he had gone to Brussels or Antwerp instead of to Paris to study, for though the works of Rubens and Van Dyck were from his earliest years his chief attraction, the influence of the French artist Claude Gillot, as well as that of Audran, the keeper of the Luxembourg Palace, without doubt exerted a very decided help in determining the future course of his work.

When living with Audran, Watteau had every opportunity for studying the works of the older masters, especially those of Rubens, whose decorations, executed for Marie de Medici, had not at that time been removed to the Louvre. Besides copying from these older pictures, Watteau was employed by Audran in the execution of designs for wall decorations, etc.

Watteau's two earliest pictures still in existence are supposed to be the Départ de Troupe and the Halte d'Armée, which were the first of a series of military pictures on a small scale. To an early period also belong the Accordée de Village, at the Soane Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields, the Mariée de Village at Potsdam, and the Wedding Festivities in the Dublin National Gallery.

In 1712 other influences began to work upon him. In this year he came into contact with Crozat, the famous collector, in whose house he became familiar with a fresh batch of the Flemish and Italian masterpieces. It was at this time that he was approved by the Royal Academy, though he took five years over his Diploma picture, "Embarquement pour l'Île de Cythère," which is now in the Louvre. Meantime the influence of Rubens and the Italian masters—especially the Venetians, had greatly widened and deepened his art, and these influences, acting on his peculiarly sensitive temperament and poetical spirit, had a magical effect, transforming the actual scenes of Paris and Versailles, which he painted into enchanted places in


fairyland, as he transformed the formal actual painting of the period of Louis XIV. into the romantic school of the eighteenth century in France. The setting of the famous pictures in the Wallace Collection, catalogued as The Music-Party or Les Charnes de la Vie (No. 410), is a view of the Champs Elysées taken from the gallery of the Tuileries. Who would have thought it? And what does it matter, except to show how entirely Watteau revolutionized the pompous and prosaic methods of his time by investing the actual with poetry and romance.

Two other pictures at Hertford House, Nos. 389 and 391, were painted in the Champs Elysées, and the figures are, for the most part, the same in both, all three of these pictures are fine examples of the artist's power of broad and spirited treatment, combined with extreme delicacy and refinement of conception.

Three other pictures at Hertford House are equally delightful examples of another class of subject, namely groups of figures dressed in the parts of actors in Italian comedy. From a note in the Catalogue we learn that a company of Italian comedians were in Paris in the sixteenth century, but were banished by Louis Quatorze in 1697 for a supposed affront to Madame de Maintenon. In 1716, however, they were recalled by the Regent, the Duc d'Orléans, and became once more the delight of Paris. Several of the figures in the Italian comedy had already passed into French popular drama, and in Watteau's time there seems to have been a fluctuating company, according as one actor or actress or another developed a part, and to Pantalone, Arlecchino, Dottore and Columbina were now added Pierrot—or Gilles—Mezetin, a sort of double of Pierrot, Scaramouche and Scapin. The vague web of courtship, dalliance, intrigue and jealousy called up by these characters attracted Watteau to employ them in his compositions, and to make them also the medium of the more sincere sentiments of conjugal love and friendship,—as in The Music Lesson, Gilles and his Family and Harlequin and Columbine, at Hertford House. All of these three were engraved in Watteau's life-time or shortly after his death, and the verses sub-joined to the engravings are a charming rendering of the sentiment underlying the pictures.

In The Music Lesson we see the half length figures of a lady, seated, reading a music book, and of a man playing a lute opposite to her. Another man looks at the book over the lady's shoulder, and two little children's faces appear at her knee. The verses are as follows:—

Pour nous prouver que cette belle
Trouve l'hymen un nœud fort doux
Le peintre nous la peint fidelle
À suivre le ton d'un Époux.

Les enfants qui sont autour d'elle
Sont les fruits de son tendre amour
Dont ce beau joueur de prunelle
Pouvait bien goûter quelque jour.

In Gilles and his Family we have a three-quarter length full-face portrait of le Sieur de Sirois, a friend of Watteau, with these verses under the engraving:—

Sous un habit de mezzetin
Ce gros brun au riant visage
Sur la guitarre avec sa main
Fait un aimable badinage.

Par les doux accords de sa voix
Enfants d'une bouche vermeille
Du beau sexe tant à la fois
Il charme les yeux et l'oreille.

In the little Lady at her Toilet (No. 439) we see the influence of Paul Veronese, though it is probable that this was not painted until he visited London in the later part of his short life. For there is a similar piece called La Toilette du Matin which was engraved by a French artist who had settled in England, Philip Mercier, and on whose work the influence of Watteau is very noticeable.

Le Rendez-vous de Chasse (No. 416), which is of the same size, and in character similar to Les Amusements Champêtres (No. 391), is the last by Watteau of which we have any certain knowledge. It was painted in 1720, the year before his death, when his health prevented him from making any sustained effort. It is said to have been a commission from his friends M. and Mme. de Julienne, in whose shooting-box at Saint Maur, between the woods of Vincennes and the river, he went to repose from time to time.

Nicholas Lancret was only by six years Watteau's junior, so that he can hardly be considered as a pupil or even a disciple, but only as an imitator of Watteau. He was the pupil of Claude Gillot, and afterwards his assistant, and it was not unnatural that a close friendship should have been formed between Lancret and Watteau, or that it should have been dissolved by the deliberate imitation by the former of the latter's style—seeing how successful the imitation was. Two of the pictures by Lancret at Hertford House, Nos. 422, Conversation Galante and 440, Fête in a Wood, are fair examples of how close, at one period of his career, the imitation became. The latter is the Bal dans un Bois which was exhibited at the Place Dauphiné, and was complained of by Watteau on account of its close resemblance to his own work.

Another in the Wallace Collection belongs to the same early period of Watteau's influence. The Italian Comedians by a Fountain (No. 465), being attributed to Watteau in the sale, in 1853, at which it was bought for Lord Hertford. His lordship was particularly anxious to secure this picture, "Between you and I," he writes, with the quaint regardlessness of grammar peculiar to the Victorian nobility, "(and to no other person but you should I make this confidence), I must have the Lancret called Watteau in the Standish Collection. So I depend upon you for getting it for me. I need not beg you not to mention a word about this to anybody, either before or after the sale." And again, "I depend upon your getting the Lancret (Watteau in the Catalogue) for me. I have no doubt it will sell for a good sum, most likely more than it is worth, but we must have it ... I leave it to you, but I must have it, unless by some unheard of chance it was to go beyond 3000 guineas." He was fortunate indeed in getting it for £735.

Mademoiselle Camargo Dancing (No. 393), and La Belle Grecque (No. 450), in the Wallace Collection, are good examples of the Comedian motive treated with more actuality, yet with no less grace. The four little allegorical pieces in the National Gallery, The Four Ages of Man, are more lively if less romantic, being composed more for the characters illustrating the subject than for poetical setting.

Jean Baptise Joseph Pater was actually a pupil of Watteau. He was ten years his junior, but was equally unhappy on account of his health, and died at forty. Like Lancret, he incurred Watteau's displeasure for a similar reason, though in his case it was rather the fear of what he would do than what he did that was the cause of Watteau's displeasure. At the same time, the names of both Lancret and Pater are inseparable from that of Watteau in the history of painting, and, both in their choice of subject and their treatment of it, they are hardly distinguishable to the casual observer. Watteau, it need hardly be said, was far above the other two, but it was fortunate indeed that his romantic genius had two such gifted imitators as Lancret and Pater—or to put it the other way, that they had such a master to imitate, without whom neither their work nor their influence would have been nearly as great as it was.

François Boucher, though doubtless influenced by Watteau, more especially at the outset of his brilliant career, was nevertheless independent of him in carrying forward the art painting in his country, choosing rather to revert to the patronage of the Court like his predecessors Le Brun, Rigaud, and Largillière than to devote himself to the expression of his own ideas and feelings. Being a pupil of François Le Moine, whose principal work was the decoration of Versailles, it is not unnatural that Boucher should have succumbed to the influence of Royalty, especially when exerted in his favour by as charming and as powerful an agent as Madame de Pompadour. Another early influence which shaped his artistic tendencies as well as his fortunes was that of Carle van Loo, in whose honour his countrymen coined the verbvanlotiser—to frivol agreeably—- on account of the popularity which he achieved as a painter of elegant trifles. There is a picture by Carle van Loo in the Wallace Collection entitled The Grand Turk giving a Concert to his Mistress (No. 451), painted in 1737, which is a fair example of his proficiency in this direction, and there are one or two portraits scattered about the country which he painted when over here for a few months towards the end of his life. He died in Paris on the 15th July 1765, and Boucher was immediately appointed his successor as principal painter to Louis XV.

Madame de Pompadour was more than a patron to him, she was a matron! She made an intimate friend and adviser of him, and it is to her that he owed most of his advancement at Court, which continued after her death. The full-length portrait of her at Hertford House (No. 418) was commissioned by her in 1759, and remained in her possession till her death in 1764. It was purchased by Lord Hertford in 1868 for 28,000 francs. In the Jones Collection at the South Kensington Museum is another portrait of her, and a third in the National Gallery at Edinburgh, not to mention those in private collections. The two magnificent cartoons on the staircase at Hertford House, called the Rising and Setting of the Sun, she begged from the king. These were ordered in 1748 as designs to be executed in tapestry at the Manufacture Royale des Gobelins, by Cozette and Audran, according to the catalogue of the Salon in 1753 when they were exhibited. They are characterised by the brothers de Goncourt as le plus grand effort du peintre, les deux grandes machines de son œuvre; and the writer of the catalogue of Madame de Pompadour's pictures when they were sold in 1766 testifies thus to the artist's own opinion of them: "J'ai entendu plusieurs fois dire par l'auteur qu'ils étaient du nombre de ceux dont il était le plus satisfait." They were then sold for 9800 livres, and Lord Hertford paid 20,200 francs for them in 1855.

Even without these chefs d'œuvre the Wallace Collection is richer than any other gallery in the works of Boucher, with twenty-four examples (in all), of which few if any are of inferior quality. But it must be confessed that the abundance of Boucher's work does not enhance its artistic value, and we have to think of him, in comparison with Watteau and his school, rather as a great decorator than a great painter. With all his skill and charm, that is to say, there is not one of his canvases that we could place beside a picture by Watteau on anything like equal terms. Superficially it may be equally or possibly more attractive, but inwardly there is no comparison. Let us hear what Sir Joshua Reynolds has to say of him:—

"Our neighbours, the French, are much in this practice of extempore invention, and their dexterity is such as even to excite admiration, if not envy; but how rarely can this praise be given to their finished pictures! The late Director of their Academy, Boucher, was eminent in this way. When I visited him some years since in France, I found him at work on a very large picture without drawings or models of any kind. On my remarking this particular circumstance, he said, when he was young, studying his art, he found it necessary to use models, but he had left them off for many years.... However, in justice, I cannot quit this painter without adding that in the former part of his life, when he was in the habit of having recourse to nature, he was not without a considerable degree of merit—enough to make half the painters of his country his imitators: he had often grace and beauty, and good skill in composition, but I think all under the influence of a bad taste; his imitators are, indeed, abominable."

Twenty-one years elapsed between the birth of Boucher and the next painter of anything like his ability, namely, Jean Baptiste Greuze. He was a native of Tournous, near Macon, and lived to see the century out, dying in 1805, at the age of seventy-eight. His popularity is nowadays due chiefly to his heads of young girls, which he painted in his later life with admirable skill, but with a sentimentality that almost repels. The famous example in the National Gallery is more free from the sickly sweetness that spoils most of them, and reminds us that he could paint more serious works, and paint them exceedingly well. He first came into notice by pictures like La Lecture du Bible, La Malédiction Paternelle, or Le Fils Puni, which are now to be seen—though generally passed by—at the Louvre, and his style was imitated in later years in England by Wheatley and others of that school with more or less success. It was a great blow to him, and one which seriously affected his career when the Academy censured his Diploma picture, The Emperor Severus reproaching Caracalla. But for this we might have had more than these sentimental young ladies from a hand that was undoubtedly worthy of better things. However, as Lord Hertford admired them sufficiently to include no less than twenty-one of them in his collection, we ought not to be severe in criticising them, and we may quote the description of The Souvenir (No. 398) given by John Smith, in his Catalogue Raisonné in 1837, as showing the esteem in which it was held.

"The Souvenir. An interesting female, about fifteen years of age, pressing fondly to her bosom a little red and white spaniel dog; the pet animal appears to remind her of some favourite object, for whose safety and return she is breathing an earnest wish; her fair oval countenance and melting eyes are directed upwards, and her ruby lips are slightly open; her light hair falls negligently on her shoulder, and is tastefully braided

Louvre, Paris

with a crimson riband and pearls. She is attired in a morning dress, consisting of a loose gown and a brownish scarf, the latter of which hangs across her arm. Upon a tree behind her is inscribed the name of the painter. This beautiful production of art abounds in every attractive charm which gives interest to the master's works."

Very different, and far superior to Greuze, was Jean Honoré Fragonard, born at Grasse, in the Alpes Maritimes, in 1732. In England his name was almost unknown until within quite recent years, and the National Gallery has only one picture by him, which was bequeathed by George Salting in 1910. Fortunately he is well represented in the Wallace Collection, three at least of the nine examples being in his most brilliant manner.

Fragonard's father was a glover. In 1750 the family moved to Paris, and the boy was put into a notary's office. The usual signs of disinclination for office work and a passion for art having duly appeared, he was sent to Boucher, who advised him to go and study under Chardin. This he did for a short time, but finding it dull—for Chardin was not as great a teacher as he was a painter—he went back to Boucher as an assistant. In 1752 he won the Prix de Rome, although he had never attended the Academy Schools, and in 1756 started for Italy.

Reynolds had just returned from Rome at the date of Fragonard's capture of the opportunity of going there, and we know from the Discourses how he spent his time there and what direction his studies took. Fragonard pursued an exactly opposite course, being advised thereto by Boucher, who said to him, "If you take Michelangelo and Raphael seriously, you are lost." Feeling that the advice was suitable to himself, if not sound on general principles, Fragonard devoted himself to the lighter and more sparkling works of Tiepolo and others of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He also made a tour in South Italy and Sicily with Hubert Robert, the landscape painter, and the Abbé Saint Non, the latter of whom published a number of etchings he made after Fragonard's drawings, under the title of Voyages de Naples et de Sicile.

On returning to Paris in 1761 his first success was the large composition of Callirhoé and Coresus, which was exhibited at the Salon in 1765, and is now in the Louvre. But he soon abandoned the grand style, chiefly, it is probable, owing to the patronage of the idle or industrious rich who showered commissions upon him, for smaller and more sociable pictures with which to adorn and enliven their houses. The beautiful, but exceedingly improper picture at Hertford House, called The Swing—or in French, Les Hazards heureux de l'Escarpolette, appears to have been commissioned by the Baron de St. Julien, within the next year or two, for in the memoirs of Cotté a conversation is recorded which shows that the Baron had asked another painter, Doyen, to paint it. "Who would have believed," says the indignant Doyen, "that within a few days of my picture of Ste. Geneviéve being exhibited at the Salon, a nobleman would have sent for me to order a picture on a subject like this." He then goes on to relate how the Baron explained to him exactly what he required. We cannot entirely acquit Fragonard of all blame in accepting such a commission, but he was a young man, just starting as a professional artist, with the example of Boucher before him, and it would hardly have seemed wise to begin his career by offending a noble patron. The whole incident throws a glaring light on the conditions under which the art of France flourished in the Louis Quinze period, when Boucher was everybody and Chardin nobody.

For the real Fragonard we may turn to Le Chiffre d'Amour, or the "Lady carving an initial," as the prosaic diction of the Wallace Collection has it (No. 382). In this the equal delicacy of the sentiment and of the painting combine to effect a little masterpiece of Louis Quinze art. It is simple and natural, and entirely free from the besetting sins of so slight a picture triviality, affectation, empty prettiness, or simply silliness. In its way it is perfect, and for that perfection is for ever reserved the popularity which we find temporarily accorded to pictures like Frith's Dolly Varden or Millais' Bubbles.

Another of the Hertford House examples, the portrait of a Boy as Pierrot, is equally entitled to be popular for all time, and like Reynolds's Strawberry Girl, might well be called "one of the half-dozen original things" which no artist ever exceeded in his life's work. A comparison between the two pictures, which were probably painted within a few years of each other, will serve to show the difference between the English and French Schools at this period. On the one hand—to put it very shortly indeed—we see Fragonard influenced by Tiepolo, France, and Louis XV.; on the other, Sir Joshua, influenced by Michelangelo and Raphael, England, and George III.

The mention of Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin among this brilliant and frivolous galaxy seems almost out of place. "He is not so much an eighteenth-century French artist," Lady Dilke says of him, "as a French artist of pure race and type. Though he treated subjects of the humblest and most unpretentious class, he brought to their rendering not only deep feeling and a penetration which divined the innermost truths of the simplest forms of life, but a perfection of workmanship by which everything he handled was clothed with beauty." That the Wallace Collection includes no work from his hand is perhaps regrettable, but truly Chardin was someone apart from all the magnificence that dazzles us there. His was the treasure of the humble.

The effects of the Revolution upon French painting were as surprising as they were great. That the gay and frivolous art of Boucher and Fragonard should have suddenly ceased might have been considered inevitable; but whereas in Holland, when the Spanish yoke had been thrown off, and a Republic proclaimed, a vigorous democratic school arose under Frans Hals; and in England during the Commonwealth the artistic influence which was beginning to be spread by Charles I. and Buckingham utterly ceased; in France an artistic Dictator arose, as we may well call him, in the person of Jacques Louis David, who not only made painting a part of the revolutionary propaganda, but succeeded under the Emperor Napoleon also in maintaining his position as painter to the Government, and thereby imposing on his country a style of art which had a great influence on the whole course of French painting for many years to come. But the most remarkable thing was that it was to the classics that this revolutioniser went for inspiration. The explanation is to be found in the fact that he was bitterly aggrieved by the attitude of the Academy to him as a young man, and in the accident of his famous picture of Brutus synchronising with the events of 1789. He was at once hailed as a deliverer, and made, as it were, painter to the Revolution.

L'ÉTUDE Louvre, Paris

But what was even more important in the influence he exerted at this time was his actual appointment as President of the Convention, which gave him the power to revenge himself upon the Academy, which he did by extinguishing it in 1793, and to remove any inconvenient rivals by indicting them as aristocrats. Of the older painters, Fragonard and Greuze were the only important ones left, and as they could not under the altered circumstances be considered as rivals to the classical David, they both saw the century out. Fragonard simply ceased painting for want of patrons, and David was good enough to procure him a post in the Museum des Arts, or he would have starved. Unfortunately he attempted to adapt himself to the new style, and was promptly ejected from his post—ostensibly on his previous connection with royalty—and was wise enough to fly to his native town in the south.

During the first quarter of the nineteenth century the dictatorship of David was supreme. How it was finally overthrown we shall see in another chapter.