Jean Antoine Watteau

Flemish , 1684 - 1721

Jean-Antoine Watteau was born in 1684 in Valenciennes, a Flemish town that had become French just prior to his birth. When he was fourteen, Watteau began studying under an obscure painter of religious subjects. He went to Paris in 1702 were he made a modest living as a painter for a dealer of cheap, devotional pictures. Later, he studied under the French engraver, Gillot who introduced Watteau to the character of the fashionable Italian commedia dell’arte.

In 1708, Watteau began working with the curator of the Luxembourg Palace collections, Claude Audran. Watteau was given the opportunity to study a series of baroque paintings by the Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens. Watteau placed second in the competition for the Prix de Rome in 1709 and thereafter received numerous commissions. In 1712, he was named an associate of the French Academy in Paris and in 1717 he was elected to full member ship. Among Watteau’s subjects were fashionable outdoor gatherings (known as fêtes galantes), clowns and harlequins. Watteau died as a result of tuberculosis in 1721 in Nogent-sur- Marne.

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