|Dates||1684 - 1721|
The son of a roof tiler, Jean-Antoine Watteau showed a penchant for drawing and painting early in life. At eighteen he was apprenticed to a painter in his native town of Valenciennes. Soon after, with little money and few possessions, he made his way to Paris, where he made a living by copying the works of Titian and Paolo Veronese. There he entered the studio of Claude Audran III, the most renowned decorator in Paris, and met Claude Gillot, a decorator of theatrical scenery. The theatrical qualities of Watteau's paintings and drawings--their artificial illumination, costumes, and painted backdrops--reflect Gillot's influence. Watteau's subjects, often including figures from the commedia dell'arte, reflect his constant observation of the theater and the studies he often drew during performances.
Watteau invented a new type of painting, the fête galante. These large scenes of well-to-do men and women enjoying themselves outdoors allowed him to showcase his talent for conveying the delights and enchantments of nature and led to repeat commissions from such connoisseurs as