1 B. de Savot, Eloge de Mr Lancret, peintre du Roi, impr de J. Guérrin, 1743, page 25
2 M.T. Holmes, Nicolas Lancret, The Fick Collection; Harry N.Abrams, Inc, Publishers New York 1991
3 M.T. Holmes, Lancret décorateurs des « petits cabinets » de Louis XV à Versailles, L’œil n°356, Mars 1985
During his lifetime and throughout the eighteenth century, Nicolas Lancret, was one of the most celebrated artists of the eminently French genre la “Fête galante” and painter to the king. His paintings convey splendid stories of leisure and merry congregations set in Paris’ countryside. An essential part of his oeuvre yet somewhat reserved from the general public, his drawings and sketches are at the basis of his masterpieces. Indeed, Lancret was a true observer of life around him; his sketchbook always at hand, it wasn’t unusual for him to drift away during a stroll in order to capture an instant, a group or a movement. “His talent” reports his biographer and once close friend Ballot de Savot, “followed him everywhere, even in times of recreation. He saw our promenades as opportunities for sketching figures, he quite often separated from the group in order to draw and capture our figures or any other figure that pleased him”. “Drawing and painting” he adds on, “were preoccupations with Mr. Lancret. He had such a great love of work that he would have found the feast days burdensome had he not felt obliged to fill them attending to the demands of religion, which he always did until the final moment of his life”.
This testimony amongst many others bears witness to Lancret’s conscientious nature and the importance of drawings in his work. Hence, our study of a huntsman is a preparatory sketch for the painting “A Hunter and His Servant” (see ill. below), now in the private collection of an English nobleman.This painting is one of Lancret’s rare attempts at more formal portraiture, and so successful it is that we wonder why he did not paint others. It is a masterly example of the artist’s late works: the brilliant choice of autumnal tones appropriate to the subject, the creamy use of brushstroke and the confidence with which he integrates the figures into the surrounding landscape all attest to the mastership of Lancret’s mature work. The sitter’s elegant pose and the finely executed chalk line of this drawing reflect Lancret’s mastership of drawing towards the end of his life.
It is noteworthy to mention that Mary Tavener Holmes, specialist of Lancret’s work, believes this painting to be a portrait rather than a generic figure. Interestingly, both master and servant though individuals are characterized by Lancret’s signature enlarged eyes and elongated fingers.
B. de Savot, Eloge de Mr Lancret, peintre du Roi, impr de J. Guérrin, 1743, page 25
M.T. Holmes, Nicolas Lancret, The Fick Collection; Harry N.Abrams, Inc, Publishers New York 1991
M.T. Holmes, Lancret décorateurs des « petits cabinets » de Louis XV à Versailles, L’œil n°356, Mars 1985
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