Unlike François Boucher, with whom he shared many patrons, Chardin was not interested in the superficial; it was the very essence of objects and the underlying humanity of his figures that he evoked with tiny slabs of saturated paint. "We use colors," said Chardin, "but we paint with our feelings."
A Parisian carpenter's son, Chardin learned from a modest artist and began by painting signposts for tradesmen and details in other artists' works. His work was "discovered" in 1728 by Nicolas de Largillière at an outdoor show, and Chardin was immediately admitted for membership in the Académie Royale. Early in his career, Chardin painted primarily still lifes; he turned to genre painting from 1733 to 1751, then created still lifes again after 1751. As his sight dimmed, he took up pastels, with which he made beautiful portraits. For most of his life, Chardin's entries in the Salon exhibitions were outstandingly successful. He helped to elevate still life to a respected category of painting, and his name remains inextricably associated with it. "We have learned from Chardin that a pear is as living as a woman, that an ordinary piece of pottery is as beautiful as a precious stone," wrote novelist Marcel Proust.