Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721)

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Watteau, Love in the Italian Theatre

Love in the Italian Theatre

Watteau, Mezzetin


Jean-Antoine Watteau was a French Rococo artist known for his paintings of theater and ballet scenes. Watteau commonly depicted the fetes galantes which were elaborate parties filled with costumed guests. While Watteau is classified as a Rococo artist, he referenced the Baroque era through his use of color and movement.

Watteau, The Scale of Love

The Scale of Love

Watteau was born in Valenciennes, France, a region that was a part of the Spanish Netherlands. At an early age, Watteau began to apprentice with one of the few local painters, Jacques-Albert Gérin. By 1702, Watteau moved to Paris in search of greater challenges and inspiration. In the French capital, Watteau found employment copying genre paintings for a workshop at Pont Notre-Dame. It was through this work that Watteau was able to develop his own style as an artist.

Watteau, Love in the French Theatre

Love in the French Theatre

As Watteau’s skills increased, he found more work assisting Claude Gillot, an artist who opposed the official art of King Louis XIV. Under Gillot, Watteau met actors, who he would choose as subject matter in his paintings.

Watteau, Gersaint's Sign Shop

Gersaint’s Sign Shop

Watteau was also employed as a draftsman for an interior designer, Claude Audran III. Watteau was able to assist Audran, who was the curator at the Palais du Luxemboug and had excellent connections and access to masterpieces by Peter Paul Rubens.

Watteau, Seated Woman

Seated Woman

By 1712, Watteau was accepted as a full member at the Academy in Rome. Watteau spent five years working until he completed his final piece for the Academy, “Embarkation for Cythera”, also known as “Pilgrimage to Cythera”. Though Watteau’s paintings seem suitable for aristocratic collections, bourgeois patrons such as dealers and bankers purchased his paintings.

Watteau, Embarkation for Cythera/ Pilgrimage for Cythera

Embarkation for Cythera/ Pilgrimage for Cythera

Watteau, French Comedians, 1719

Embarkation for Cythera/ Pilgrimage for Cythera

Unfortunately, Watteau was always in a fragile state of health and died at the young age of thirty-six. Even after Watteau’s premature death, his reputation continued to grow. During the Victorian era Watteau societies were formed in Paris and London, and a Watteau center was formed in Valenciennes.

Watteau, Gilles


Watteau, A Lady at her Toilette

A Lady at her Toilette

Watteau, La Surprise (The Surprise)

La Surprise (The Surprise)

In 2007, the discovery of the lost painting “La Surprise” again revived Watteau’s reputation. The rediscovered masterpiece sold for fifteen million Euros, the most expensive Watteau painting to date.

Watteau’s paintings are timeless in value and beauty. Do you think you own a painting by Jean-Antoine Watteau? Contact us. We are the experts on Jean-Antoine Watteau.


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