Born in Paris in 1686, Oudry trained briefly under Michel Serre, entering the atelier of Nicolas de Largillière in circa 1705, where he was to remain for five years, mostly executing portraits, but also some still lifes, and even some pictures in the style of Watteau depicting figures of the Commedia dell'Arte.
In 1719, Oudry was received into the Académie Royale as a history painter with his Abondance avec ses attributs (Versailles), but was soon to concentrate on hunting scenes, still lifes and landscapes. Already by 1722, the Mercure de France eulogised: 'Le sieur J-B. Oudry a un talent admirable pour tous les genres de la peinture, mais qu'il excelle dans les paysages.' In 1723-4 he met the influential Louis Fagon (1680-1744), Intendant des Finances and Henri-Camille, marquis de Beringhen (1693-1770), who was prominent in the elaborate organization of the royal hunt - a sport to which King Louis XV was rapidly becoming devoted. Given the use of a studio in the Tuileries, Oudry soon began to receive royal commissions, and break Desportes' royal monopoly. In 1725 Fagon obtained for him employment as painter to the royal tapestry works at Beauvais, where over the next ten years he produced a number of tapestry sets. Outside France, he received commissions from Friedrich, Crown Prince of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and, via Count Carl Gustav Tessin, from the Swedish and Danish Courts.
During the 1730s, Oudry gradually abandoned the genre pittoresque and drew increasingly from life - his animal pictures of this period were often drawn from visits to the royal menageries. This period also saw the production of a number of innovative views of the countryside around Paris. Between 1737 and 1755, Oudry exhibited no less than thirty-six rustic landscapes, always with the sobriquet 'peint d'après nature' added to the livret description. The present pair of pictures, dated 1737 and 1738, were intended to represent, according to Opperman (loc. cit.), 'interpretations of nature rather than...mere fancy...For all their brilliant array of what Oudry would have called 'effets piquants' - which make of this and its companion true rococo landscapes - it is clear that this site is intended to be real rather than imaginary. In this Oudry reveals himself to be the most important landscape artist of his day.'
Opperman suggests that these landscapes could possibly be identified as the two landscapes exhibited in the Salon of 1738, described as: '81. Un petit Païsage, où paroit une grosse Tour, d'après nature.' and '107. Un Païsage de cinq pieds sur quatre de large, representant un grand Pont, des Vaches & des Moutons sur le devant.' The dimensions do not in fact correspond to these pictures, but, as Opperman notes, the livret de salon of 1738 was notoriously imprecise.
A river landscape with a peasant girl tending to her herd by a round tower; and A river landscape with a peasant couple with their herd, a bridge and watermill beyond.
Oil on canvas
The first signed and dated '1737/J B. Oudry' (lower centre); the second signed and dated 'J B. Oudry 1738' (lower left)
51¼ x 637/8 in. (130 x 162 cm.)
J. Locquin, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre de Jean-Baptiste Oudry peintre du roi (1686-1755), Archives de l'art français, nouv. pér., VI, 1912, nos. 416 and 418.
J. Vergnet-Ruiz, 'Oudry', in L. Dimier, ed., Les Peintres français du XVIIe siècle, Paris and Brussels, 1930, I, nos. 221 and 222, the first illustrated pl. 30.
H.N. Opperman, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, New York and London, 1977, I, pp. 105-6 and 584, nos. P602-3, the first illustrated, II, p. 1094, fig. 244.
H. Opperman, catalogue of the exhibition, J.-B. Oudry, Grand Palais, Paris, 1 October 1982-3 January 1983, pp. 169-172, nos. 89 and 90.
The dealer Meffre, by 1860; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 9-10 March 1863, lots 74 and 75 (each sold 3,100 francs).
Mme. Emile Halphen, Paris.