It was probably following a brief trip by Watteau to Valenciennes in 1710 that Pater was apprenticed to the elder master and followed him to Paris, only to be dismissed soon after as a result of his master’s difficult temperament. Several years later, in 1721, the dying Watteau called Pater to Nogent near Paris full of remorse and with a desire to teach his former pupil the art of painting and perhaps seek his assistance to complete a number of commissions. Pater would later claim that it was during those few weeks that he learned everything that he knew about painting.
Watteau’s style and choice of subject matter left an indelible mark on Pater who, like his master, specialised in fêtes galantes, of which the present paintings are particularly fine examples. The scenes depict elegant figures dressed in refined costumes enjoying daily past-times of dancing to music and playing on a swing within a natural outdoor setting. The mood is light and carefree and the scenes are filled with amorous intrigue. It was specifically as a painter of fêtes galantes that Pater was approved in 1725 and then received by the Academie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris in 1728, a category that had been created for Watteau, who had pioneered the genre, in 1717.
Following the death of Watteau in 1721 Pater experienced increasing demand for his work and he came to enjoy considerable success. In 1736 he received a royal commission to paint a Tiger Hunt for the dining room of the Petite Appartements at the Château de Versailles and his work was widely collected by Frederick the Great, who acquired more than forty works by Pater, including his celebrated series of fourteen small works illustrating Paul Scarron’s Roman Comique, today in Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin. It was precisely for scenes such as the present exquisite pair of fêtes galantes however that Pater was so admired during his lifetime as also today.
During the late 19th century the paintings belonged to Mrs Pauline Lyne-Stephens (née Duvernay), a celebrated French ballet dancer who following a highly successful career in Paris and London married the English banker Stephen Lyne-Stephens, one of the richest men in England. He bought 8,000 acres at Lynford in Norfolk, which he intended to develop into a hunting retreat, and in 1857 commissioned the building of Lynford Hall (see fig. 1) from the architect William Burn. Following Lyne-Stephens’ untimely death in 1861 his wife inherited his fortune and lived at Lynford Hall.
Upon her death in 1894 her entire collection was sold from Lynford Hall, Upper Grove House in Roehampton and her apartment in Paris in a series of sales that took place in London over a period of nine days.
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