Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Creator Name: Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Creator Type: Art
Dates: 1732 - 1806
Language: French

Jean-Honor Fragonard (French:[ ne fana]; 5 April 1732 22 August 1806) was a French painter and printmaker whose late Rococo manner was distinguished by remarkable facility, exuberance, and hedonism. One of the most prolific artists active in the last decades of the Ancien Rgime, Fragonard produced more than 550 paintings (not counting drawings and etchings), of which only five are dated. Among his most popular works are genre paintings conveying an atmosphere of intimacy and veiled eroticism.


Jean-Honor Fragonard was born at Grasse, Alpes-Maritimes, the son of Franois Fragonard, a glover, and Franoise Petit. Fragonard was articled to a Paris notary when his father's circumstances became strained through unsuccessful speculations, but showed such talent and inclination for art that he was taken at the age of eighteen to Franois Boucher. Boucher recognized the youth's rare gifts but, disinclined to waste his time with one so inexperienced, sent him to Chardin's atelier. Fragonard studied for six months under the great luminist, then returned more fully equipped to Boucher, whose style he soon acquired so completely that the master entrusted him with the execution of replicas of his paintings.

Though not yet a student of the Academy, Fragonard gained the Prix de Rome in 1752 with a painting of Jeroboam Sacrificing to the Golden Calf, but before proceeding to Rome he continued to study for three years under Charles-Andr van Loo. In the year preceding his departure he painted the Christ washing the Feet of the Apostles now at Grasse Cathedral. On 17 September 1756, he took up his abode at the French Academy in Rome, then presided over by Charles-Joseph Natoire.

While at Rome, Fragonard contracted a friendship with 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. He also learned to admire the masters of the Dutch and Flemish schools (Rubens, Hals, Rembrandt, Ruisdael), imitating their loose and vigorous brushstrokes. Added to this influence was the deep impression made upon his mind by the florid sumptuousness of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, whose works he had an opportunity to study in Venice before he returned to Paris in 1761.

In 1765 his Coresus et Callirhoe secured his admission to the Academy. It was made the subject of a pompous (though not wholly serious) eulogy by Diderot, and was bought by the king, who had it reproduced at the Gobelins factory. Hitherto Fragonard had hesitated between religious, classic and other subjects; but now the demand of the wealthy art patrons of Louis XV's pleasure-loving and licentious court turned him definitely towards those scenes of love and voluptuousness with which his name will ever be associated, and which are only made acceptable by the tender beauty of his color and the virtuosity of his facile brushwork; such works include the Blind Man's Bluff (Le collin maillard), Serment d'amour (Love Vow), Le Verrou (The Bolt), La Culbute (The Tumble), La Chemise enleve (The Shirt Removed), and L'escarpolette (The Swing, Wallace Collection), and his decorations for the apartments of Mme du Barry and the dancer Madeleine Guimard. The portrait of Denis Diderot (1769) has recently had its attribution to Fragonard called into question.

A lukewarm response to these series of ambitious works induced Fragonard to abandon Rococo and to experiment with Neoclassicism. He married Marie-Anne Grard, herself a painter of miniatures, (17451823) on 17 June 1769 and had a daughter, Rosalie Fragonard (17691788), who became one of his favourite models. In October 1773, he again went to Italy with Pierre-Jacques Onzyme Bergeret de Grancourt and his son, Pierre-Jacques Bergeret de Grancourt. In September 1774, he returned through Vienna, Prague, Dresden, Frankfurt and Strasbourg.

Back in Paris Marguerite Grard, his wife's 14-year-old sister, became his student and assistant in 1778. In 1780, he had a son, Alexandre-variste Fragonard (17801850), who eventually became a talented painter and sculptor. 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 progrs de l'amour dans le cur d'une jeune fille, originally painted for Chteau du Barry.

Fragonard returned to Paris early in the nineteenth century, where he died in 1806, almost completely forgotten.


For half a century or more he was so completely ignored that Wilhelm Lbke's 1873 art history volume 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 colour and expressive, confident brushstroke on the Impressionists (particularly his grand niece, Berthe Morisot, and Renoir) cannot be overestimated. Fragonard's paintings, alongside those of Franois Boucher, seem to sum up an era.

One of Fragonard's most renowned paintings is The Swing, also known as The Happy Accidents of the Swing (its original title), an oil painting in the Wallace Collection in London. It is considered to be one of the masterpieces of the rococo era, and is Fragonard's best known work. The painting portrays a young gentleman concealed in the bushes, observing a lady on 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 Coll's memoirs a young nobleman had requested this portrait of his mistress seated on a swing. He asked first Gabriel Franois Doyen to make this painting of him and his mistress. Not comfortable with this frivolous work, Doyen refused and passed on the commission to Fragonard.

Recent exhibitions

  • Consuming Passion: Fragonard's Allegories of Love Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, from 28 October 2007 to 21 January 2008.
  • Fragonard Jacquemart-Andr Museum, Paris, from 3 October 2007 to 13 January 2008.
  • Fragonard. Origines et influences. De Rembrandt au XXIe sicle Caixa Forum, Barcelona, from 10 November 2006 to 11 February 2007.
  • Les Fragonard de Besanon, Muse des Beaux-Arts et d'archologie de Besanon, from 8 December 2006 to 2 April 2007: Official website
  • Jean-Honor Fragonard, dessins du Louvre, Muse du Louvre, Paris, from 3 December 2003 to 8 March 2004.
  • Fragonard amoureux, Muse du Luxembourg, Paris, from 16 September 2015 to 24 January 2016: Official website
  • Fragonards Enterprise: The Artist and the Literature of Travel Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, from 17 September 2015 to 4 January 2016.

See also

  • Honor Fragonard
  • History of painting
  • Western painting
  • Jeroboam Sacrificing to Idols

References and sources




  • This articleincorporates text from a publication now in the public domain:Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Fragonard, Jean-Honor". Encyclopdia Britannica. 10 (11thed.). Cambridge University Press. pp.772773.
  • Edmond and Jules de Goncourt (18811882). "Fragonard". L'Art du XVIIIe sicle. III. G. Charpentier. p.241. ISBN978-2-35548-008-9. Archived from the original on 19 November 2008. Retrieved 10 May 2009.
  • Eva-Gesine Baur (2007). Rococo. Taschen. ISBN978-3-8228-5306-1.
  • Jean Montague Massengale (1993). Jean-Honore Fragonard. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. ISBN0-8109-3313-6.

Articles and webpages

  • Lajer-Burcharth, Ewa (2003). "Fragonard in Detail". Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies. 14 (3): 3456. doi:10.1215/10407391-14-3-34. ISSN1040-7391. S2CID144003749.
  • Simon, Jonathan (2002). "The Theater of Anatomy: The Anatomical Preparations of Honore Fragonard". Eighteenth-Century Studies. 36 (1): 6379. doi:10.1353/ecs.2002.0066. ISSN0013-2586. S2CID162293464.
  • Sheriff, Mary D. (1987). "Invention, Resemblance, and Fragonard's Portraits de Fantaisie". Art Bulletin. 69 (1): 7787. doi:10.1080/00043079.1987.10788403. ISSN0004-3079.
  • Ferrand, Franck (2008). "Monsieur Fragonard". France Today. Vol.23 no.2. pp.3031. ISSN0895-3651.
  • McEwen, J. (1988). "Fragonard: Rococo or romantic?". Art in America. Vol.76 no.2. p.84. ISSN0004-3214.
  • Milam, Jennifer (1998). "Fragonard and the blindman's game: Interpreting representations of Blindman's Buff". Art History. 21 (1): 125. doi:10.1111/1467-8365.00090. ISSN0141-6790.
  • Milam, Jennifer (2000). "Playful Constructions and Fragonard's Swinging Scenes". Eighteenth-Century Studies. 33 (4): 543559. doi:10.1353/ecs.2000.0042. ISSN0013-2586. S2CID162283094.

Further reading

  • Dore Ashton (1988). Fragonard in the Universe of Painting. Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN0-87474-208-0.
  • Mary Sheriff (1990). Fragonard: Art and Eroticism. The University of Chicago Press. ISBN0-226-75273-9.
  • Jean-Pierre Cuzin (1988). Jean-Honore Fragonard: Life and Work. Complete Catalogue of the Oil Paintings. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. ISBN0-8109-0949-9.
  • David Wakefield (1976). Fragonard. London: Oresko Books. ISBN0-905368-01-0.
  • Georges Wildenstein (1960). The Paintings of Fragonard. Phaidon.
  • Martha Richler (1997). "18th century". National Gallery of Art Washington A World of Art. Scala Publishers Ltd. ISBN1-85759-187-9.
  • Milton W. Brown, George R. Collins, Beatrice Farwell, Jane G. Mahler and Margaretta Salinger, "Jean-Honor Fragonard" in Encyclopedia of Painting: Painters and Paintings of the World from Prehistoric Times to the Present Day, Myers S. Bernard (ed), Crown, 1955. pp18283.

External links

Media related to Jean-Honor Fragonard at Wikimedia Commons

  • Web Gallery of Art: Jean-Honor Fragonard
  • Fragonard's Biography, Style and Artworks
  • Olga's Gallery
  • Jean-Honor Fragonard's Cats
  • Biography at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by Jean-Honor Fragonard at Open Library
  • Fragonard works at the National Gallery of Art
  • Jean-Honor Fragonard

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