Monday, November 30, 2009

THE LAST ROCOCO PAINTER





Self-Portrait. c.1760
Oil on canvas
Musée-Villa Fragonard, Grasse, France
From Olga's Gallery


Self Portrait, Louvre
From 1ST-ART-GALLERY


Fragonard, Jean-Honoré (1732-1806). French painter whose scenes of frivolity and gallantry are among the most complete embodiments of the Rococo spirit. He was a pupil of Chardin for a short while and also of Boucher, before winning the Prix de Rome in 1752. From 1756 to 1761 he was in Italy, where he eschewed the work of the approved masters of the High Renaissance, but formed a particular admiration for Tiepolo.
He travelled and drew landscapes with Hubert Robert and responded with especial sensitivity to the gardens of the Villa d'Este at Tivoli, memories of which occur in paintings throughout his career. In 1765 he became a member of the Academy with his historical picture in the Grand Manner Coroesus Sacrificing himself to Save Callirhoe (Louvre, Paris). He soon abandoned this style, however, for the erotic canvases by which he is chiefly known (The Swing, Wallace Collection, London, c. 1766). After his marriage in 1769 he also painted children and family scenes. He stopped exhibiting at the Salon in 1767 and almost all his work was done for private patrons. Among them was Mme du Barry, Louis XV's most beautiful mistress, for whom he painted the works that are often regarded as his masterpieces -- the four canvases representing The Progress of Love (Frick Collection, New York, 1771-73). These, however, were returned by Mme du Barry and it seems that taste was already turning against Fragonard's lighthearted style. He tried unsuccessfully to adapt himself to the new Neoclassical vogue, but in spite of the admiration and support of David he was ruined by the Revolution and died in poverty.
Fragonard was a prolific painter, but he rarely dated his works and it is not easy to chart his stylistic development. Alongside those of Boucher, his paintings seem to sum up an era. His delicate coloring, witty characterization, and spontaneous brushwork ensured that even his most erotic subjects are never vulgar, and his finest work has an irresistible verve and joyfulness.
(Nicolas Pioch at WebMuseum


Portrait of a Woman with a Dog
Oil on canvas
Fletcher Fund, 1937
From The Metropolitan Museum of Art


The sitter's costume (above) recalls the court dress of Marie de Medici (1573–1642) as recorded by Rubens in the series of paintings now in the Louvre which Fragonard is known to have studied. Around and perhaps after 1769, Fragonard executed ten three-quarter length portraits of men in theatrical costume, for which the identity of some of the sitters is known. A Woman with a Dog and three other female subjects are the same size and form a related group. Some writers have mistakenly identified the subject of this portrait as the artist's aunt or sister.
(Stein, Perrin. "Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000)


The Stolen Kiss, 1756–61
Oil on canvas
A version from the Hermitage Museum
Source album.foto.ru
From Wikipedia


The above picture is one of the few highly finished works painted by Fragonard during his first Italian sojourn from 1756 to 1761. It belonged to the bailiff of Bréteuil, who was ambassador to Rome from Malta in 1760. An oil sketch for the picture is in the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg. While the figure on the left and the background on the right remind us that Fragonard was trained under Boucher, the color harmonies and rich atmosphere anticipate his style of the mid-1760s.
(Stein, Perrin. "Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000)
Embodying the freedom and curiosity of the French Enlightenment, Jean-Honoré Fragonard developed an exuberant and fluid manner as a painter, draftsman, and printmaker. Prolific and inventive, he abandoned early on the conventional career path dictated by the hierarchical structure of the Royal Academy, working largely for private patrons. His work constitutes a further elaboration of the Rococo idiom established by Antoine Watteau and François Boucher, a manner perfectly suited to his subjects, which favored the playful, the erotic, and the joys of domesticity.
Born in the Provençal city of Grasse, Fragonard moved with his family to Paris in 1738. He spent some time in the busy studio of François Boucher before successfully competing for the Prix de Rome in 1752. He then pursued studies at the École Royale des Elèves Protégés in Paris, following the standard training for a history painter.
In 1756, Fragonard was sent to Italy as a pensioner of the crown; he remained at the French Academy in Rome until 1761. From the numerous black chalk copies he executed there, it is clear that he held masters of the Baroque in the highest esteem, copying works in Rome, Naples, and Venice. Many, such as Saint Celestine V Renouncing the Papacy, were made with eventual publication as prints in mind. He also produced brilliant red chalk drawings of the gardens of the Villa d'Este at Tivoli and painted small cabinet-size paintings for French private collectors living in Rome. The Stolen Kiss was painted for the bailiff of Breteuil, French ambassador to the Order of Malta in Rome. As in the pastorals of his former master Boucher, Fragonard's rustic protagonists are envisioned with billowing silk clothing, engaged in amorous pursuits.
(Stein, Perrin. "Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000)
Back in Paris in 1761, Fragonard found an eager market for his cabinet pictures, which melded the influences of Italian Baroque painting and seventeenth-century Dutch landscape. The spectacular critical success of Coresus and Callirhoë (Musée du Louvre, Paris), which he submitted to the Royal Academy in 1765, led to high hopes that he would be the salvation of history painting in France. However, it was a promise he chose not to fulfill, neglecting royal commissions in favor of work for private collectors.
During this period, he further developed the painterly surface of his canvases, working with great rapidity and little blending, giving pictorial form to the qualities of "fire" and "genius" so admired by contemporary collectors. The Portrait of a Woman with a Dog is related to an inventive series of virtuoso imaginary portraits referred to collectively as the Figures de fantaisie. They feature archaic costumes, often vaguely Spanish or Rubensian in inspiration, and brushwork so rapid and undisguised that it would have previously been associated with oil sketches rather than finished works.
(Stein, Perrin. "Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000)


Coresus and Callirhoe (First version), c. 1762-1765
Oil on canvas
Musee des Beaux-Arts, Angers
From Olga's Gallery


A Gathering at Woods' Edge, ca. 1765–73
Red chalk
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1995
From The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Similar achievements can be cited in the realm of drawing. A Gathering at Woods' Edge, 1765 (above), like many sheets Fragonard made for the increasingly active collector's market, is not a study for a painting, but a finished work of art on paper. In its unhesitating technique and varied range of graphic notation, it is testimony to Fragonard's unmatched mastery of the red chalk medium and to his endearing vision of nature as welcoming and wondrous.
(Stein, Perrin. "Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000)
Unlike the majority of Fragonard's red chalk landscapes, made during a summer at Tivoli in 1760, this drawing is a work of the artist's maturity, probably dating to just before his second trip to Italy in 1773–74. Dense deciduous trees recall the forests around Paris rather than the Roman countryside. The unhesitating, even virtuoso, handling suggests that this is an independent work, probably created in the studio from a related plein-air study now in a private collection. A stand of mature trees, bursting with profuse sunlit foliage, guards the shady entrance to the woods. In a characteristic manipulation of scale, Fragonard presents small groupings of elegant figures, half lost in shadow, as restrained echoes of the vigor and fecundity of the overgrown landscape. The dramatic naturalism associated with the Dutch landscapists, especially Jacob van Ruisdael, is here merged with a vision of nature as a welcoming milieu for aristocratic dalliance, a legacy of Watteau's fêtes galantes.
(Stein, Perrin. "Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000)


The Swing, probably 1765
Oil on canvas
The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA
From Olga's Gallery


The Swing (French: L'escarpolette), 1767
Oil on canvas
Wallace Collection, London
From Wikipedia


The Swing (detail)
From Corel Corporation


This picture (above) became an immediate success, not merely for its technical excellence, but for the scandal behind it. The young nobleman is not only getting an interesting view up the lady's skirt, but she is being pushed into this position by her priest-lover, shown in the rear.
(bc.edu/bc_org)


A Young Girl Reading, c. 1770-72
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washington
From The Artchive


A Young Girl Reading (above) is aglow with the softest of umbers, the rich color darkening and paling as it follows the girl's youthful contours. Her back is supported by a sort of maternal abundance of rosy pillow, but there is an almost horizontal element in the board under her arm except where her charming sleeve has overlapped its rigid outline. She is intent upon her book, as unprotected as any Boucher nymph.
The sweetness of A Young Girl Reading, its almost Renoirish charm, should not blind us to its strength and solidity. There is a geometrical framework to the softness of the adolescent reader: a strong, vertical swathe of yellow brown wall, and the gleaming horizontal bar of the armrest. It is this ability to transcend decoration that distinguishes Fragonard. Look at the girl's neck and bosom: delicious frills and ribbons, and the crinkling descent of the silks, yet there is the firm basis of a real, plump, human body. As in Blindman's Buff, the literal theme of this picture is held in an unstated context of solemnity. Like Boucher, Fragonard is more profound than he seems, and his genuine sensitivity is becoming increasingly apparent.
(Sister Wendy's Story of Painting by Sister Wendy Beckett at The Artchive)


The Lover Crowned, c. 1771-73
Oil on Canvas
Frick Collection, New York
From Ancien Regime-Rococo


In 1771, Fragonard was commissioned to paint a series of panels for the chateau at Louveciennes, the "love nest" of Madame du Barry, the beautiful mistress of Louis XV. His assigned theme was "The Progress of Love," and Fragonard selected to illustrate a variety of stratagems and tactics which lovers have always used. Like its companion piece, the "Meeting", this panel (above) is set in a luscious, albeit imaginary garden. Its title is "The Lover Crowned" and while it may describe only the delicate pose which the couple strike for their friend to sketch, the obvious erotic implications are that the young man has received more than just a crown.
These beautiful pictures, however, were returned by Mme du Barry and it seems that artistic taste was already turning against Fragonard's lighthearted style. He tried unsuccessfully to adapt himself to the new Neoclassical vogue, but in spite of the admiration and support of David he was ruined by the Revolution and died in poverty.
What kind of reaction does the artist expect from this work? Why has he placed the action in such a clearly fictional landscape? What are the elements that make the scene seem so peaceful and yet charged with passion?
(Ancien Regime-Rococo)


The Meeting, 1771-72
One of the panels from The Progress of Love series
Oil on canvas
The Frick Collection, New York, USA
From Olga's Gallery


Obviously, the "Meeting" (above)- usually a secret one and always in a pleasant garden - is a key element. This charming picture, with its combination of imaginary landscape and aristocratic dress, is often presented as the epitome of ancien regime art. What are the elements that make it so?
(Ancien Regime-Rococo)


The Loves of the Shepherds: Love Letters, 1771-73
One of the panels from The Progress of Love series
Oil on canvas
The Frick Collection, New York, USA
From Olga's Gallery


The Pursuit, 1771-72
One of the panels from The Progress of Love series
Oil on canvas. The Frick Collection, New York, USA
From Olga's Gallery


Shortly after the disappointment of Madame du Barry's rejection of the Louveciennes panels, Fragonard agreed to embark on a second trip to Italy (1773–74) as artistic companion to Pierre-Jacques-Onésyme Bergeret de Grancourt, a wealthy fermier général. A great many drawings are associated with this trip, their style quite distinct from those Fragonard made on his first trip. Seated Man Reading probably belongs to a series of informal red chalk portraits Fragonard drew of Bergeret's friends and acquaintances along the way. A Fisherman Pulling a Net and A Fisherman Leaning on an Oar must have been made during the two months the party spent in Naples in spring of 1774. He also adopted at this time the technique of brush and brown wash, which he employed with a freedom and facility paralleling his oil paintings of the 1760s.
After his return to France, Fragonard made various attempts to remake his style in the newly popular Neoclassical manner with its planar compositions and smooth surfaces, although the tide of changing taste was ultimately too strong for him. After the French Revolution, he held administrative positions at the Louvre, but his work had fallen from favor and he died in relative obscurity in 1806.
(Stein, Perrin. "Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000)


Seated Man Reading, ca. 1773–74
Red chalk
Gift of Mrs. Howard J. Sachs and Peter G. Sachs
in memory of Miss Edith L. Sachs, 1978
From The Metropolitan Museum of Art


This confident drawing of a seated man absorbed in his book (above) is closely related to a group of portraitlike drawings made by Fragonard on his second trip to Italy sponsored by the fermier général Pierre-Jacques-Onésyme Bergeret de Grancourt. Drawn in a rapid, confident outline and shaded to convey tone and shadow, this drawing presents its subject with an admirable economy of means. Oddly cropped at the ankle, the sitter may have been observed by the artist across a table and partially obscured. The unconventional composition attests to the informality of the sheet.
(Stein, Perrin. "Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000)


A Fisherman Pulling a Net, 1774
Red chalk
Purchase, The Annenberg Foundation Gift, 2006
From The Metropolitan Museum of Art


A Fisherman Leaning on an Oar, 1774
Red chalk
Purchase, The Annenberg Foundation Gift, 2006
From The Metropolitan Museum of Art


This pair of drawings (above) almost certainly dates to the spring of 1774, when Fragonard and his patron, Pierre-Jacques Onésyme Bergeret de Grancourt, were lodged at the edge of the Bay of Naples. With their confident and broad handling, the drawings capture the fall of late afternoon sunlight on two barefoot fishermen. In these freshly observed studies, Fragonard has reinvigorated the tradition of traveling artists depicting local figures by adopting a monumental scale.
(Stein, Perrin. "Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000)
Due to the French revolution in summer 1789, Fragonard lost his aristocratic clientèle and had to flee back to his home town, taking all his pictures with him. Until 1898 these were hanging in the Villa Fragonard. Later, they were sold, after they had been sent to be copied by the Lyon painter Labrelie. In Grasse, Jean-Honore Fragonard was received with great honors. He continued to receive commissions. Among others, he painted grisailles of patriotic motifs and motifs of freemasonry in the staircase of the villa now used as Musee Fragonard. This choice of motif can be traced back to his cousin and childhood friend Maubert, a perfume manufacturer, who had bought and refurbished the villa built by Madame Rogon in the 1780s
(art DIRECTORY)
For half a century or more he was so completely ignored that Lübke in his History of Art (1873) omits the very mention of his name. Subsequent reevaluation has confirmed his position among the all-time masters of French painting. The influence of Fragonard's handling of local color and expressive, confident brushstroke on the Impressionists (particularly his grand niece, Berthe Morisot, and Renoir) cannot be overestimated.
(HuntFor.com)
Out of his element in a world changed out of recognition, Fragonard never lost the joy of the times that he lived through. He died in the summer of 1806 of a stroke while eating ice cream. Luxury made him, his joy in it and his skill at portraying it, and in the end, luxury killed him too.
"He who has not lived before the Revolution does not know the sweetness of living." This remark by Talleyrand may serve to exculpate Fragonard's son - for the sin he committed when he burned a large collection of his father's prints saying, "I am offering a holocaust to good taste". Only those who lived it may truly comment on it, and Jean Honoré Fragonard remains the perfect spokesman for an age of momentary pleasures and quick delights, unthinking elegance and never-ending grace.
(contributed by Gifford, Katya at Humanities Web)



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