Jean-Baptiste Oudry was one of the most innovative artists of the European eighteenth century. He experimented in areas as divergent as arabesque decoration, Commedia dell’arte, portraiture, history/allegory, hunt and still-life painting, and pure landscape. As an administrator, he commissioned some of the masterpieces of eighteenth-century tapestry art.
Born on 7 March 1686 in Paris, Oudry began his studies as an artist with his father, Jacques Oudry, a master painter and dealer on pont Notre-Dame. Oudry’s father was made director of the Académie de Saint-Luc, the ancient painter’s guild, where Oudry took classes. He was admitted in 1708 and made professor in 1717. He also studied briefly with Michel Serre (1658-1733). His principal teacher, however, with whom he studied for several years and whose assistant he became, was Nicolas de Largillière (1656-1746).
He began his career as a portrait painter, then began to paint animals and fruits on advice from Largillière. He became a candidate at the Academy in 1717, and a full member in 1719 as a history painter with an Allegory of Abundance (Versailles). He became a painter to the Beauvais tapestry works in 1726 and its director in 1734. The first of many commissions from the Crown came in 1724 and he was soon favoured by the King of Sweden, the Margrave of Ansbach and the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. His gifts aligned perfectly with the court’s obsession with the hunt and, between 1725 and 1752, Oudry would be almost continuously employed on royal decorations of hunt themes. He received the commission for the tapestries of the Royal Hunts of Louis XV, one of Oudry’s most notable achievements, from the Gobelins in 1733, and he was appointed inspector there in 1748. He drew prolifically, and in all media and genre, and held his drawings in special regard. His views of the delapidated park of Arcueil are among the great masterpieces of the period.
He died at Beauvais on 30 April 1755.