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Jean Honoré Fragonard
(1732-1806)

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Jean-Honoré Fragonard was a French painter of the Rococo age, who became a favourite in the courts of Louis XV and Louis XVI for his delicately coloured scenes of romance, often in garden settings. Fragonard was born in Grasse on April 5, 1732. He began to study painting at the age of 18 in Paris with Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, but he formed his style principally on the work of his next master, François Boucher.  

Fragonard won the Prix de Rome in 1752. After studying for three years with the French painter Carle Van Loo, he studied and painted for six years in Italy, where he was influenced by the paintings of the Venetian master Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Fragonard first painted in a style suitable to his religious and historical subjects. After 1765, however, he worked in the Rococo style then fashionable in France. These later paintings, the works for which he is best known, reflect the gaiety, frivolity, and voluptuousness of the period. They are characterized by fluid lines, frothy flowers amid loose foliage, and gracefully posed figures, usually of ladies and their lovers or peasant women with their children. 

The French Revolution, which destroyed the nobility on which Fragonard depended for commissions, ruined him financially. 

Although befriended by Jacques-Louis David, the leading painter of the new French classical school, Fragonard did not adjust to the new style and died poor in Paris on August 22, 1806.

  • USSR 1984. The Secret Kiss. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg. 

  • France 1972.  The Study. 

The decorative panels commissioned by Madame du Barry, mistress of Louis XV, for her château at Louveciennes constitutes his chief work. The series that he executed there, The Progress of Love, includes the paintings The Pursuit and The Lover Crowned (both 1771-1773, Frick Collection, New York). The Louvre in Paris has five of Fragonard's works, among them The Bathers (c. 1760) and The Study (1769). Other noted paintings are The Swing (c. 1766, Wallace Collection, London) and The Love Letter (c. 1769-1770, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). 

Sources. 

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