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La Lettre d’amour by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1770

The Love Letter is housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY and
La Liseuse (Young Woman Reading), in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
(for photo credit, please click on the names given the paintings)

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (5 April 1732 – 22 August 1806).  Today, the news are the main content of my post.  However, above and to your right, there are paintings by Fragonard and a video on Fragonard, at the bottom of the page.

Born in Grasse, in the Alpes-Maritimes where his father was a glover, Jean-Honoré first articled to a Paris notary when his father experienced financial difficulties.  Jean-Honoré then apprenticed first with François Boucher who quickly gave him a different master: Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin.  He was extremely talented and won the Prix de Rome in 1752, but before leaving for Rome, he also apprenticed with Charles-André van Loo, a native of Nice.

Jean-Honoré was a Rococo artist, but during his lifetime Rococo art was all but eclipsed as Neoclassicism became the art of the day.  Moreover, Fragonard was not spared the French Revolution.  It deprived him of patrons, most of whom were guillotined or went into exile.  He then took refuge in his native Grasse, where he remained until the 19th century.  When he returned to Paris, he had become a forgotten artist.

His productivity is stunning.  His legacy numbers 550 or so works, excluding etchings and drawings.  Etchings are more affordable than paintings since several copies, limited and numbered, can be made.  Moreover, the actual etching can be executed by an assistant who copies his master’s drawings.

Fragonard best-knowing works are associated with a contained form of Rococo art.  According to Wikipedia, Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s work is charactered by exuberance and hedonism, which are Rococo features.  Fragonard also produced genre paintings “conveying an atmosphere of intimacy and veiled eroticism.” (Wikipedia)  “Veiled eroticim” is also a characteristic of François Boucher’s works, Fragonard’s first teacher.  Louis XV is often described as a libertin king and libertinage is expressed in the art created during his reign.

Madame de Pompadour was a patron to François Boucher and Madame Du Barry, a patron to Fragonard.  She became a royal mistress, and was guillotined on December 8th, 1793.

La Liseuse by Fragonard, c. 1776

© Micheline Walker
21 July 2012