The first thing you need to know about Jean-Honoré Fragonard – he was a Rococo master. One can say that Fragonard was Rococo. The works of this French painter and printmaker are pure exuberance and hedonism which combined with loose brushstrokes and brilliant colors made him a synonym of a style.
The rest of things you need to know about Fragonard you will find below:
1. He was extremely active
Fragonard produced more than 550 paintings (not counting drawings and etchings) – but only five of them are dated. Among his most popular works are genre paintings conveying an atmosphere of intimacy and veiled eroticism. Like this one!
2. He was a student of François Boucher
At the age of eighteen Fragonard was articled to a Paris notary but he showed such talent that he was taken to another famous Rococo master, François Boucher. Boucher send him away to Chardin, so he could learn a little and then after six months he came back to Boucher and acquired his style.
3. He spent some time in Rome
Fragonard gained the prestigious Prix de Rome, which was an award given by the French Academy in 1752 with a painting of Jeroboam Sacrificing to the Golden Calf. While at Rome, Fragonard became a friend of a fellow painter, Hubert Robert. In 1760, they toured Italy together, executing numerous sketches of local scenery. It was in these romantic gardens, with their fountains, grottos, temples and terraces, that Fragonard conceived the dreams which he was subsequently to render in his art.
4. His daughter was one of his favorite models
The artist married Marie-Anne Gérard, who herself was a painter of miniatures. They had a daughter, Rosalie Fragonard, who became one of his favourite models. She is portrayed on the famous Young Girl Reading.
5. He was one of the victims of the French Revolution
The French Revolution deprived Fragonard of his private patrons: they were either guillotined or exiled. The neglected painter deemed it prudent to leave Paris in 1790 and found shelter in the house of his cousin Alexandre Maubert at Grasse, which he decorated with the series of decorative panels known as the Les progrès de l’amour dans le cœur d’une jeune fille, originally painted for Château du Barry.
Fragonard returned to Paris early in the nineteenth century, he held administrative positions at the Louvre but he died in 1806, almost completely forgotten.
6. His most famous painting is, of course, The Swing!
Fragonard’s most renowned paintings is The Swing, also known as The Happy Accidents of the Swing (its original title, which in my opinion is much better). It is considered to be one of the masterpieces of the Rococo era. The painting portrays a young gentleman concealed in the bushes, observing a lady on the swing being pushed by her spouse, who is standing in the background, hidden in the shadows, as he is unaware of the affair. As the lady swings forward, the young man gets a glimpse under her dress. According to Charles Collé’s memoirs, a young nobleman had requested this portrait of his mistress seated on a swing.
7. The Impressionists were influenced by him
The influence of Fragonard’s handling of local colour and expressive, confident brushstroke on the Impressionists cannot be overestimated. Just compare Renoir’s works to his. And Berthe Morisot‘s, who was his grand niece!
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