Fragonard

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A painter and printmaker of the Rococo movement, Jean- Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) is recognised as one of France’s most prolific artists. His genius however almost went forgotten after the Revolution due to the expanding influence of neo-classicism and the loss of his bourgeoisie clientele. He studied under the great Boucher and painted over 550 works in various genres including landscapes and portraits illustrating the erotic, the domestic and an abundance of religious scenery. His smooth brushstrokes never faltered in depicting the charm and wit of 18th century France. Fragonard’s talent lies in bringing his creations to life in a refined and decadent manner with Goncourt describing him as “the poet of the Ars Amatoria of the age”.

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Date de parution 29 juillet 2015
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781785250705
Langue English

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Authors : Edmond and Jules Goncourt
Page 4:
Marguerite Gérard,
Portrait of Jean-Honoré Fragonard,
c. 1787-1791.
Oil on panel, 21.8 x 16.1 cm.
Private collection.
Layout :
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No part of this publication may be reproduced or adapted
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world. Unless otherwise specified, copyright on the works
reproduced lies with the respective photographers, artists, heirs
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possible to establish copyright ownership. Where this is the case,
we would appreciate notification.
ISBN: 978-1-78525-070-5
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„The touch of Fragonard resembles those accents which, in
certain languages, give to mute words a melodious sound. His
figures, though merely indicated, live, breathe, smile and
delight. Their very indecisiveness has the attraction of a tender
mystery. They speak in low voices and glide past on tiptoe.
Their gestures are like furtive signs exchanged by lovers in the
thdarkness. They are the voluptuous shades of the 18 century.‰
· Paul de Saint-Victor
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Biography
1732: Jean-Honoré Fragonard is born in Grasse in the south of France.
1738: Arrives in Paris around this time.
1748-1752: After working as a notary apprentice for a while and having shown a keen
interest in drawing, Fragonard is sent to François BoucherÊs studio. Boucher
refuses to teach him so he is then sent to Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin who
trains him by creating copies. He focuses on the paintings of the Masters that
he sees in churches and impressed by the quality of his paintings, Boucher
finally takes him on as a student.
1752: He wins the Prix de Rome with his painting Jéroboam Sacrificing to the Idols,
a competition usually reserved for students of the Academy.
1753-1756: Thanks to the prize, he joins the École Royale des Élèves Protégés under the
direction of Carle Van Loo. His many works from this period demonstrate the
influence of his masters and their training.
1756-1761: First sojourn in Italy. He studies at the Académie de France in Rome. After a
difficult start, he becomes interested in the baroque painters he emulates in
his lessons. During this period, he leaves Rome on two occasions. Once to
work in Tivoli and another in Naples accompanied by his painter friend,
Hubert Robert, and Jean-Claude Richard, abbé de Saint-Non, who will go
on to become one of his primary sponsors. The two young artists create
many paintings for the abbé de Saint-Non. Upon his return to Paris,
Fragonard has established himself as a reputable artist.
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1765: His is accepted at the Académie Royale de Peinture due to his painting The
High Priest Corésus Sacrificing Himself to Save Calirrhoé which allows him
to obtain a studio and accommodation at the Louvre in Paris.
1767: Starting from this year he seldom takes part at the Salon. He turns his back
on academic and classical painters to focus on more light-hearted subjects.
The majority of the work he produces is commissioned by private clients.
1769: Fragonard marries Marie-Anne Gérard who is also an artist and comes
from Grasse. Their first child is born, a daughter named Rosalie.
1770-1773: He creates the series Progress of Love, a collection of decorative panels
made to adorn the walls of one of the dining rooms of a pavilion in
Louveciennes, the residence of the countess du Berry, a mistress of Louis XV.
The panels however are returned to the artist and are highly critiqued by
defenders of the emerging neoclassical movement.
1773-1774: Fragonard travels Italy and central Europe.
1780: Birth of his son Alexandre-Évariste, who will go on to become a painter like
his father.
1792-1800: Bankrupt and out of favour after the French Revolution, Fragonard paints less
and less. The painter Jacques-Louis David uses his influence and gets him a
position as a curator in the recently opened museum at the Louvre.
1805: An imperial decree requires all the resident artists, including Fragonard, to
leave the Louvre.
1806: He dies following a stroke, largely unnoticed by his contemporaries. His
thartwork only starts to once again receive recognition in the 19 century.
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thhe 18 century had no poets; I do not mean
rhymers, versifiers, word-spinners; I sayT poets advisedly. Poetry in the noblest and
most profound sense of the term, poetry which is
creation through imagery, poetry which is an
enchantment, an enhancement of the imagination,
an ideal of pensive meditation or smiling delight
offered to the human mind, that poetry which lifts
up from the earth, with throbbing wings, the spirit
of an age, the soul of a people, such poetry was
thunknown in 18 -century France; her two poets, the
only two, were painters: Watteau and Fragonard.
Blind Man’s Bluff
c. 1750-1752
Oil on canvas, 116.8 x 91.4 cm
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo (Ohio)
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Watteau, a child of the north, of Flanders, was
the great love poet, the master of a serene and
tender paradise whose art is like the Elysian Fields
of passion; he was the elegiac poet amid whose
tristful autumn woods, around whose wistful image
of pleasure, all the sighing of nature was magically
audible; he was the pensieroso of the Regence.
Fragonard sang in less elevated strains; he was the
poet of the Ars Amatoria of the age.
You remember that mischievous, impudent cloud
of naked cupids, vanishing into the sky of the
Embarquement de Cythère? Their destination was
the studio of Fragonard, where they shed the dust
from their butterfly wings onto his palette.
The See-Saw
c. 1750-1752
Oil on canvas, 120 x 94.5 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
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Fragonard was the audacious raconteur, the
gallant amoroso, pagan and playful, whose wit
was Gallic, whose genius was almost Italian,
whose bright intelligence was French; he was the
creator of ceiling mythologies, of a hundred
latitudes of dress, of blushing skies roseate with a
reflection from the naked forms of goddesses, of
alcoves luminous with the glow of a womanÊs
nudity. Imagine the breeze of a fine day turning for
you the pages of his engraved works as they lie on
your table next to a vase of roses: from a vision of
satin frocks, in mimic flight, escaping across the grass,
Jéroboam Sacrificing to the Idols
1752
Oil on canvas, 111.5 x 143.5 cm
École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris
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the eye is rapidly diverted to glimpses of fields
tended by a fifteen-year-old Annette, of barns in
which the gambollings of pleasure have upturned
the painterÊs easel, of meadows where the milkmaid
goes barelegged with her pail of milk and mourns,
like a nymph over her broken urn, a lost sheep or,
it might be, a faded dream. On another page, a
girl in love inscribes, as the summer light declines,
the name of her beloved on the bark of a tree. The
breeze still turns the pages; and to a vision of a
shepherd and shepherdess embracing in front of a
sundial, whose carven cupids compose a calendar
Psyche Showing her Sisters
her Gifts from Cupid
1753
Oil on canvas, 168.3 x 192.4 cm
National Gallery, London
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of pleasure, succeeds the charming dream of a
pilgrim, asleep beside his staff and his scrip, to
whom a bevy of young fairies appears skimming
the soup in a great saucepan...
We are charmed by the illusion of a fête by
Boucher staged by his pupil in the gardens of Tasso.
In this entrancing magic lantern, Clorinda follows
Fiametta, the light of chivalry illumines the smiles of
the novellieri. Stories told by the fairy Urgele,
playful comedies, gay shafts of sunlight such as
brightened the canvas on which Beroald de Verville
depicted his little cherry-picker – of such elements
The Dream of Plutarch
1753-1756
Oil on wood, 24.5 x 32.8 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen, Rouen
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the painting of Fragonard is compact. It recalls the
felicitous, spirit of Tasso, Cervantes, Boccaccio,
Ariosto – the Ariosto whom the artist illustrated, an
Ariosto inspired by Passion and Folly. It smiles upon
us with the freedoms of La Fontaine; the scope of
its inspiration ranges from Propertius to Grecourt,
from Longus to Favart, from Gentil-Bernard to
Andre Chenier. It has, so to speak, the heart of a
lover and the hand of a charming scoundrel. Within
its frontiers, the breath of a sigh passes in a kiss. It
is young with a perpetual youth; it is the enchanting
poem of Desire, and it is enough to have written it
Rest on the Flight into Egypt
1754-1755
Oil on canvas, 188 x 219 cm
Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk (Virginia)
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as Fragonard wrote it to remain what he will
always be: the Cherubino of erotic painting.
Jean-Honoré Fragonard was born at Grasse, in
Provence, on 5 April 1732. It was a delightful
countryside, an orchard of laurel, lemon,
grenadine, almond, citron, strawberry, myrtle,
bergamot and other scented trees and shrubs;
a garden of tulips, of carnations which grew only in
the flower beds of the Alps and whose dazzling
colours were unknown in the north; a region
drenched in the perfume of thyme, rosemary,
sage, spikenard, mint and lavender, and resonant
The Joys of Motherhood
c. 1754
Oil on canvas, 144.8 x 96.5 cm
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis
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with the gushing of innumerable fountains; a land
„interlaced with vines‰ – the phrase in which
Salvien, the Marseilles priest, described it – vines in
whose shadow pass and repass continually the
great flocks driven down from the mountains of
Provence to its plains; a land bounded by the azure
horizon of the Mediterranean! It was a joyous
landscape, a place of pleasure, enlivened by laughter,
music and dancing, full of the light-hearted
happiness, the songs, the dances, the volubility of a
thlocal population who, in the 18 century, made of
their lives a festival to Pan beneath the softest and
The Shepherdess
1754-1755
Oil on canvas, 148.6 x 93.7 cm
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit
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purest sky in all Europe. Among the many bowers
in this garden, Grasse, the cradle of the painter,
shone forth; it was the distillery of this paradise, a
town of sweets and scents, of perfumers and
confectioners; a place where gardens rose one
upon another, a place of golden fruits, silver
blossomings, and forests of wild orange trees, with
the river Foux curling amid the verdure of its
immense meadows, a place whose southern
prospect carries the eye to Monans, La Mougins,
Châteauneuf, the plain of Laval and the sombre
Esterel, and vanishes far away into an infinite blue
softness – the sea in which Italy is lapped!
The Gardener
1754-1755
Oil on canvas, 149.2 x 93.3 cm
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit
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