Nicolas Lancret (January 22, 1690 - September 14, 1743), French painter, was born in Paris, and became a brilliant depicter of light comedy which reflected the tastes and manners of French society under the regent Orleans.
His first master was Pierre d'Ulin, but his acquaintance with and admiration for Watteau induced him to leave d'Ulin for Gillot, whose pupil Watteau had been. Two pictures painted by Lancret and exhibited on the Place Dauphine had a great success, which laid the foundation of his fortune, and, it is said, estranged Watteau, who had been complimented as their author.
Lancret's work cannot now, however, be taken for that of Watteau, for both in drawing and in painting his touch, although intelligent, is dry, hard and wanting in that quality which distinguished his great model; these characteristics are due possibly in part to the fact that he had been for some time in training under an engraver.
The number of his paintings (of which over eighty have been engraved) is immense; he executed a few portraits and attempted historical composition, but his favorite subjects were balls, fairs, village weddings, etc. The British Museum possesses an admirable series of studies by Lancret in red chalk, and the National Gallery, London, shows four paintings--the "Four Ages of Man" (engraved by Desplaces and l'Armessin), cited by d'Argenville amongst the principal works of Lancret. In 1719 he was received as Academician, and became councillor in 1735; in 1741 he married a grandchild of Boursault, author of Aesop at Court.
See d'Argenville, Vies des peintres; and Ballot de Sovot, Éloge de M. Lancret (1743, new ed. 1874).