Jean-Baptiste Oudry1686 - 1755
Born: March 17, 1686, Paris, France
Died: April 30, 1755, Beauvais, France
Jean-Baptiste Oudry followed in his father's footsteps to become a painter; Jacques Oudry had been a painter and art dealer in Paris and encouraged his son to pursue a career in art, as well. The younger Oudry began his studies at age eighteen with the Marseilles-based painter Michel Serre in 1704. The next year found Oudry beginning a five-year apprenticeship with Nicolas de Largillierre and also attending classes in drawing at the Academie de St-Luc and the Academie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris. By 1708, based on his submission of a bust of Saint Jerome, Oudry had gained the status of master in the Academie de St-Luc.
Setting out on his own as an independent painter was challenging at first for Oudry. He accepted portrait commissions and painted still-life images to earn a living, works based on current trends in the art market in order to guarantee his income. He struggled to find a personal style during this period, attempting to distance his work from that of his master, de Largillierre. The year 1719 marked a turning point in Oudry's career, however, when he was accepted by the French Royal Academy as a history painter. He moved away from portraiture altogether, and his still lifes and hunting scenes gained in popularity. During the 1720s, Oudry's work with animal and hunting subjects surpassed that of the current foremost master of these types in France, Alexandre-Fransois Desportes, and Oudry gained the favor of the French King Louis XV. After 1724, Oudry was producing royal commissions exclusively.
Oudry's privileged position with Louis XV allowed him to be the most visible artist at the Salon of 1725; he was also given a solo exhibition at Versailles on March 10, 1726. After these successes, Oudry was given a job as a painter of tapestry cartoons at the royal tapestry works in Beauvais. He focused on producing designs for tapestries through much of the 1730s, only shifting his priorities back to painting in 1737, when the Salon exhibitions resumed regular, annual occurrence (there had only been one Salon, that of 1725, between 1704 and 1737). Because of his ability to paint for his audiences, Oudry was popular at the annual Salons for the rest of his career.
Throughout his mature career, Oudry operated a busy workshop as was customary in his time, which produced copies of his work to meet public demand. In addition, he was named a professor at the Royal Academy in 1743. Oudry trained his son, Jacques-Charles, to paint in a manner close to his own, thus ensuring the endurance of his legacy after his death in 1755.