"At age seven they put the crayon in our hand. We begin to draw after engravings, eyes, mouths noses and ears then feet and hands. Our back has been bent over the sketchbook for a very long time when we finally come face to face with a statue… After having wilted for days on end and spent nights by lamplight in front of some inanimate still-life objects, we are confronted with living nature. Suddenly all the effort of the preceding years seems to have been for naught, for we feel more at a loss than the first time we picked up the chalk."
- Diderot, salon of 1765
Despite a modest background, Jean-Siméon Chardin became a prominent painter for members of the European royalty and was known as a painter of still lifes and later genre painting.
Chardin began his apprenticeship with the history painter Pierre-Jacques Cazes, later becoming the assistant of Noël-Nicholas Coypel, he completed his training at the Académie St Luc, which was an artisanal training program. In 1728 he was accepted into the Royal Academy with two large diploma works “peintre dans le talent des animaux et des fruits” for his painting of a gutted ray-fish. In the 1730’s he began to turn his attention to genre painting or scenes taken from everyday life, for which he is probably best known.
The Return from the Market, 1738 and The Governess, 1739 were probably conceived as a pair. He continued to paint genre subjects until 1750, after which he returned to still lifes. At the end of his career he produced pastel portraits. He held the position of Treasurer at the Royal academy from 1755 to 1774 and was responsible for hanging the pictures at the Salon from 1755. He even had a studio at the Louvre at his disposal.