Boucher, Diana leaving her Bath, 1742 Fragonard, The Swing, 1767
It is difficult to group Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin with the other French rococo artists, but it would be
wrong to separate him too much from them. Chardin was a great admirer of Watteau’s work, and he was
a contemporary of Boucher, but his intensely private still lifes and genre scenes have little in common
with those of Watteau and Boucher. Chardin worked slowly and used thick brushstrokes and a brown
palette—very different from the deft touch and bright glow of Watteau’s canvases.
Chardin was, above all, a painter who wanted to record what he saw. His small still life paintings typically
depict humble objects from the kitchen, like a bottle or a pot and some fruit. The objects are carefully
composed on a bare table, set just below eye level. The abstract harmony and serenity of these works
have great appeal to modern viewers. Chardin also painted genre scenes, often depicting mildly moralistic
images of women teaching their children or working at domestic tasks. The women in these small
paintings, like Grace, have the delicate heads, hands, and feet typical of Watteau’s or Fragonard’s women.
The simple goodness of Chardin’s women, however, separates them from the women of Watteau’s or
Fragonard’s work.
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