October 16, 2011

The Art of Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732 – 1806) was born in Grasse, France to a family of shopkeepers and glove-makers. He was the last of the Rococo movement in France before the Neoclassical style took root. Rococo artists applied a decorative style and embodied a cheerful, optimistic approach to the subject matter that was popular during the Baroque era. Fragonard’s The Swing is one of the most famous paintings of this movement.

(Fragonard, Jean-Honoré. The Swing. c. 1767. oil on canvas. The Wallace Collection, London.)

Fragonard moved to Paris in 1738 with his family. He apprenticed for an attorney, who noticed his love for drawing and suggested that he study art instead. He soon became a pupil of Jean-Siméon Chardin and shortly after he was introduced to Boucher. In 1747, he studied under Boucher for a year. It was here that he gained a feeling for color and developed his signature lightness of touch.

(Fragonard, Jean-Honoré. Diana and Endymion. c. 1753. oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.)

In 1752, he won the prestigious Prix de Rome which enabled him to study in Italy. Here he became friends with Hubert Robert and they toured the country together. In 1761 he returned to France and his paintings soon drew the attention of the king’s mistress, who began to commission his work.

(Fragonard, Jean-Honoré. A Young Girl Reading. c. 1770. oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.)

Fragonard preferred decorative sensual themes over the traditional academic, which was more suited for the boudoir than for public display at that time. He liked to display his talent for painting, by painting at incredible speeds. He claimed to have painted a portrait of his friend in one hour. His loose expressive brushworks and handling of local color influenced the future Impressionist artists, especially Renoir.

(Fragonard, Jean-Honoré. The Bolt. c. 1778. oil on canvas. Louvre, Paris, France.)

Fragonard produced over 550 paintings in his lifetime, which is an impressive portfolio. His brushwork and handling of paint is unlike any other. Seeing his paintings in person is an absolutely breathtaking experience and his work is much appreciated here!

Enjoy! :)

Reference: King, R. Art. New York: Dk Publishing. 2008.