Together with Carle Vanloo, François Boucher was the most important and influential history painter of the mid-eighteenth century working in France. He was also the painter with the strongest influence on the decorative arts, producing numerous overdoors and a wide range of designs for tapestries, porcelain, stage design etc.
Boucher was the son of a maître peintre in the Académie de Saint Luc and probably did his early training in his father’s shop before moving briefly to that of the history painter François Le Moyne. Boucher won the Grand Prix in August of 1723 with his 'Evilmerodach Releasing Joachin from Prison', but his trip to live in Rome at the French Academy was delayed. He stayed in Paris and found housing and work in the print world as a draftsman and engraver. Most importantly, he contributed more than one hundred etchings after Watteau for Jean de Jullienne’s publication of Watteau's work, the so-called 'Recueil Jullienne'. This employment had the twin benefit of introducing Boucher to Watteau's art in a way that would mark his work for the rest of his life, and paying the young Boucher enough money to travel to Rome. He left for Italy in 1728, in the company of Carle Vanloo and other members of the Vanloo family, and remained for two years. His Rome lodging was provided to him by the director of the Académie de France in Rome, Nicolas Vleughels.
Boucher returned to France in 1731 and applied himself to a successful career in the framework of the Academy, becoming a full member in 1734 with his 'Rinaldo and Armida' (Musée du Louvre, Paris). He was a full professor by 1737. He was named Premier peintre du roi in 1765, on the death of Carle Vanloo. He exhibited at the Salon between 1737 and 1769 (excluding 1741, 1744, 1749, 1751, 1755 and 1767), and died in Paris on 30 May 1770. His collections, which included all kinds of curiosities, were sold in Paris from 18 February 1771.
Boucher worked for a wide and diverse range of clients, in France and elsewhere in Europe. His first commission from the Crown were paintings for the Queen’s apartments at Versailles in 1735, followed by two hunting scenes for the Galerie des petits appartements du Roi at Versailles (both Musée de Picardie, Amiens) from 1736 and at least 15 works for the king at Choisy from 1741. Other major works include overdoors for the Hôtel de Soubise from 1738, virtually continuous tapestry designs for Beauvais and Gobelins (beginning in 1736), and several portraits of the king’s Maîtresse en titre, Madame de Pompadour. He worked constantly and his studio apprentices would include Jean-Baptiste Deshays (1729-1765, his son-in-law) and Jean-Honoré Fragonard.
The Wallace Collection houses the most important collection of Boucher's paintings worldwide.