Watteau, Anthony

, a French painter, was born at Valenciennes in 1684, of mean parents, who were ill al^le to cultivate his genius as it v deserved. He was placed at first under an ordinary master in the country; but his ambition led him to Paris, where he was employed in the theatre by a scene painter. Here his genius began to distinguish itself, and aspired to a prize in the academy, which he gained. He found means afterwards to obtain the king’s pension, which enabled him to see Rome, on which his heart had long been set. Here he was much taken notice of; as he was afterwards in England, where he spent a full year. His health declining, he returned into his own country with a view to establish it; but the experiment failed, and he died in the flower of his age in 1721, a martyr, as is commonly supposed, to industry, Watteau was a painter of great merit, considering his age and disadvantages. Every thing he gained was from himself. He had not only his own talents to form; but he had bad habits, contracted from bad masters, to overcome. In spite of all his difficulties, he became a very eminent painter; and his works are thought worthy of a place in the most curious cabinets. Vandyck and Rubens were the masters he copied after his studies became liberal. He painted chiefly conversation-pieces, in which the airs of his heads are much admired. It is thought he would have excelled in history if he had studied it. He left behind him a great number of drawings; some of which are done in red, others in black, chalk; and many there are in which both are mixed.

Lord Orford, who has included Watteau among his painters, allows that England has but very slight pretensions to him, he having come hither only to consult Dr. Mead, for whom he painted two pictures, that were sold in the doctor’s collection. He objects to Watteau, and it is a very serious objection, that in his landscapes, he did not copy his trees from nature, but from those of theTuilleries and villas near Paris, where they are trimmed into fantastical shapes. 2


Pilkington. Argenville, vol. IV.-r- Wattle’s Anecdotes.