Jean-Honoré Fragonard

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Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Self-Portrait, 1780s, black chalk with gray wash
Born(1732-04-05)5 April 1732
Grasse, France
Died22 August 1806(1806-08-22) (aged 74)
Paris, France
French Academy in Rome
Known forPainting, drawing, etching
Notable workThe Swing, A Young Girl Reading, The Bolt
Children2, including Alexandre-Évariste Fragonard
AwardsPrix de Rome

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (French: [ʒɑ̃ ɔnɔʁe fʁaɡɔnaʁ]; 5 April 1732[1][2] – 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 Régime, 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.


Statue of Fragonard in Grasse, his birthplace
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Blindman's Buff, 1775–1780, Timken Museum of Art, San Diego

Jean-Honoré Fragonard was born in Grasse, Alpes-Maritimes, France the only child of François Fragonard, a glover, and Françoise Petit.[3][4] 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 François 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 a short time with Chardin 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.[5]

Though not yet a student of the Academy, Fragonard gained the Prix de Rome in 1752 with a painting of Jeroboam Sacrificing to Idols, but before proceeding to Rome he continued to study for three years under Charles-André van Loo.[4] In the year preceding his departure he painted the Christ washing the Feet of the Apostles now at Grasse Cathedral. In December 1756, he took up his abode at the French Academy in Rome, then presided over by Charles-Joseph Natoire.[4]

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.[5]

In 1765 his Coresus Sacrificing Himself to Save Callirhoe secured his admission to the Academy. It was made the subject of a pompous (though not wholly serious) eulogy by Denis 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),[6] Serment d'amour (Love Vow), Le Verrou (The Bolt), La Culbute (The Tumble), La Chemise enlevée (The Raised Chemise), 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 Diderot (1769) has recently had its attribution to Fragonard called into question.[citation needed]

Early engraving after Jean-Honoré Fragonard titled Chaumiére Italienne[7]

A lukewarm response to these series of ambitious works induced Fragonard to abandon Rococo and to experiment with Neoclassicism. He married Marie-Anne Gérard, herself a painter of miniatures,[8] (1745–1823) on 17 June 1769 and had a daughter, Rosalie Fragonard (1769–1788), who became one of his favourite models. In October 1773, he again went to Italy with Pierre-Jacques Onézyme Bergeret de Grancourt and his son, Pierre-Jacques Bergeret de Grancourt. In September 1774, he returned through Vienna, Prague, Dresden, Frankfurt and Strasbourg.[citation needed]

Back in Paris Marguerite Gérard, his wife's 14-year-old sister, became his student and assistant in 1778. In 1780, he had a son, Alexandre-Évariste Fragonard (1780–1850), 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 progrès de l'amour dans le cœur d'une jeune fille,[9] originally painted for Château du Barry.[10]

The Swing (French: L'escarpolette), 1767, Wallace Collection, London

Fragonard returned to Paris early in the nineteenth century. On August 21, 1806, the 74 year old painter consumed a dish of shaved ice on a hot day in Paris and became ill. He died the next day. His friend Greuse designed a monumnent to him. Fragonard was almost forgotten at his death; his sensual artworks had fallen out of fashion in the stormy revolutionary era when artistic trends in France shifted to depicting more heroic and martial subjects.[citation needed]


For half a century or more, Fragonard was so completely ignored that Wilhelm Lübke's 1873 art history volume omits mention of his name.[11] Later re-evaluations have re-identified his position among the all-time masters of French painting. The influence of his handling of local colour and expressive, confident brushstroke on the Impressionists (particularly his grand niece, Berthe Morisot, and Renoir) is undoubtable. Fragonard's paintings, alongside those of François Boucher, seem to sum up an era.[12]

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.[13] 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 Collé's memoirs[14] a young nobleman[15] had requested this portrait of his mistress seated on a swing. He asked first Gabriel François 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.[14]

References within art and literature[edit]

Fragonard's art finds itself imbedded within other writer's stories, as within the text The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald there is a portion in the story in which Peter L. Hays in the article "Fitzgerald and Fragonard"[16] states that Fitzgerald alludes to Fragonard's paintings both implied and explicitly. The first art piece Fitzgerald alludes to is The Swing, as the character Nick within The Great Gatsby as he describes what he sees as women swinging in Versailles whilst a man looks up the skirt of a woman. The is the explicit description that Fitzgerald gives the readers as a clue that alludes to Jean-Honoré Fragonard's painting The Swing. Hays also claims that F. Scott Fitzgerald is alluding to a second painting of Fragonard which is his rendering of Etienne Maurice Falconet's "Cupid the Admonisher" in which Cupid is seen with his finger on his lips referencing the clandestine nature of what the character Nick in The Great Gatsby is looking at. This is because the man that is seen in Fragonard's The Swing has a perfect view of the young woman's underside of her dress.

Octave Mirbeau's short story The Little Summer-House in the collective book "French Decadent Tales" by Stephen Romer directly references Fragonard's art pieces when an unnamed character is taken into a bathroom and is stuck between two emotions disapproval or pleasure.

Fragonard's art also finds itself within not only stories, but poems as well. The poem The Lamentation of the Old Pensioner by William Butler Yeats, in which he uses the description of a broken tree and a woman that turns her face as another allusion to Fragonard's The Swing once again,[17] as the branch the woman uses to swing on is broken and facing the viewer.

Fragonard's art finds itself in a poem passage The Waste Land written by T.S Eliot which visually depicts the “carvéd dolphin” surmounted by winged cupids in Fragonard’s Progress of Love: The Pursuit.

Fragonard's also finds itself being referenced in a novel written by Milan Kundera Slowness which talks about Fragonards paintings Progress of Love, which shows the progress of love, from pursuing, love letters, and crowning the lover, which shows the slowness of pursing a lover. There have also been many artistic installations inspired Fragonard's work, some including actual recreations of his paintings come to life. The Swing (After Fragonard) is a 2001 exhibit that physically recreates Fragonard's The Swing, creating a real life exhibit of the famous scene of the girl swinging. Artist Yinka Shonibare CBE puts his own spin on Fragonard's work, such as using a mannequin wearing a dress made of frilly African print fabric, or choosing to not give the mannequin a head or face. He also keeps the background a neutral white with wooden flooring, which contrasts the bright colors of the dress, and the many flowers he plants at the base of the exhibit. He keeps the flying shoe as seen in the actual painting, as well as the suggestive and upbeat pose of a girl swinging midair, ensuring that the sculpture still closely reflects Fragonard's The Swing, even with the different renditions of Shonibare. Artist Cy Twombly also references Fragonard in his 1928 painting "Untitled." He takes elements of Fragonard's work and reinterprets them in his own abstract and expressive style. "Untitled" is an abstract piece made up of loose and energetic lines that portray motion and vigor. The pallet of Twombly's painting is close to the famous work of Fragonard in that it uses light and airy colors, while representing a sort of sexual and provocative energy.


Recent exhibitions[edit]

See also[edit]

References and sources[edit]


  1. ^ Rosenberg, Pierre (1 January 1988). Fragonard. Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 9780870995163.
  2. ^ Edmond and Jules de Goncourt (1881–1882). "Fragonard". L'Art du XVIIIe siècle. Vol. III. G. Charpentier. p. 241. ISBN 978-2-35548-008-9. Archived from the original on 19 November 2008. Retrieved 1 June 2009. Voici l'acte de naissance de Fragonard, dont M. Sénequier veut bien nous envoyer la copie prise par lui sur les registres conservés à la mairie de Grasse : Année mille sept cent trente-deux. Le sixième avril, a été baptisé Jean-Honoré Fragonard, né le jour précédent, fils du sieur François, marchand, et de demoiselle Françoise Petit, son épouse; le parrain : sieur Jean-Honoré Fragonard, son aïeul, et la marraine demoiselle Gabrielle Petit, sa tante, tous de cette paroisse. Signé qui a su : Fragonard, Fragonard, Martin, curé. (birth/baptism certificate)
  3. ^ Houël de Chaulieu, Philippe (May 2006). "L'histoire en marche; Anniversaire: Jean-Honoré Fragonard". Intermédiaire des chercheurs et curieux. No. 644. pp. 571–574. ISSN 0994-4532. Retrieved 9 May 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Harrison, Colin (2003). "Fragonard, Jean-Honoré". Grove Art Online. Retrieved March 2024.
  5. ^ a b Chisholm, Hugh (1911).
  6. ^ Milam, Jennifer (1998). "Fragonard and the blindman's game: Interpreting representations of Blindman's Buff". Art History. 21 (1): 1–25. doi:10.1111/1467-8365.00090. ISSN 0141-6790.
  7. ^ "Chaumiére Italienne". Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  8. ^ Ferrand, Franck (2008). "Monsieur Fragonard". France Today. Vol. 23, no. 2. pp. 30–31. ISSN 0895-3651.
  9. ^ Also known as "Roman d'amour de la jeunesse".
  10. ^ Donald Posner (August 1972). "The True Path of Fragonard's 'Progress of Love'" (PDF). Burlington Magazine. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 January 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
  11. ^ "The Project Gutenberg eBook of Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume X Slice VII - Fox, George to France".
  12. ^ "Fragonard, Jean-Honoré", WebMuseum, Paris. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  13. ^ Ingamells, John, The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Pictures, Vol III, French before 1815, 165, Wallace Collection, 1989, ISBN 0-900785-35-7,
  14. ^ a b Collé, Charles (1868). Journal et mémoires de Charles Collé sur les hommes de lettres, les ouvrages dramatiques et les événements les plus mémorables du règne de Louis XV (1748–1772). Vol. III. Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, Fils et Cie. pp. 165–166.
  15. ^ Although his identity was not unveiled by Collé, it has been thought that it was Marie-François-David Bollioud de Saint-Julien, baron of Argental (1713–1788), best known as Baron de Saint-Julien, the then Receiver General of the French Clergy. However there is little evidence for this, according to Ingamells, 163–164.
  16. ^ Hays, Peter L. (May 2006). "Fitzgerald and Fragonard". ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes and Reviews. 19 (3): 27–30. doi:10.3200/ANQQ.19.3.27-30. ISSN 0895-769X.
  17. ^ "The Lamentation of the Old Pensioner, by William Butler Yeats".
  18. ^ Aurora Triumphing over Night
  19. ^ Fernando, Real Academia de BBAA de San. "Fragonard, Jean Honoré - El sacrificio de Caliroe". Academia Colecciones (in Spanish). Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  20. ^ "Jean Honoré Fragonard | The Love Letter". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 15 March 2024.
  21. ^ "Jean Honoré Fragonard | The Two Sisters". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 15 March 2024.
  22. ^ "1769 – JEAN HONORE FRAGONARD, A WOMAN WITH A DOG". Fashion History Timeline. 17 March 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2024.



Articles and webpages

  • Lajer-Burcharth, Ewa (2003). "Fragonard in Detail". Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies. 14 (3): 34–56. doi:10.1215/10407391-14-3-34. ISSN 1040-7391. S2CID 144003749.
  • Simon, Jonathan (2002). "The Theater of Anatomy: The Anatomical Preparations of Honore Fragonard". Eighteenth-Century Studies. 36 (1): 63–79. doi:10.1353/ecs.2002.0066. ISSN 0013-2586. S2CID 162293464.
  • Sheriff, Mary D. (1987). "Invention, Resemblance, and Fragonard's Portraits de Fantaisie". Art Bulletin. 69 (1): 77–87. doi:10.1080/00043079.1987.10788403. ISSN 0004-3079.
  • Ferrand, Franck (2008). "Monsieur Fragonard". France Today. Vol. 23, no. 2. pp. 30–31. ISSN 0895-3651.
  • McEwen, J. (1988). "Fragonard: Rococo or romantic?". Art in America. Vol. 76, no. 2. p. 84. ISSN 0004-3214.
  • Milam, Jennifer (1998). "Fragonard and the blindman's game: Interpreting representations of Blindman's Buff". Art History. 21 (1): 1–25. doi:10.1111/1467-8365.00090. ISSN 0141-6790.
  • Milam, Jennifer (2000). "Playful Constructions and Fragonard's Swinging Scenes". Eighteenth-Century Studies. 33 (4): 543–559. doi:10.1353/ecs.2000.0042. ISSN 0013-2586. S2CID 162283094.
  • “Cy Twombly: Untitled.” The Guggenheim Museums and Foundation, Accessed 15 Mar. 2024.
  • Tate. “‘The Swing (after Fragonard)’, Yinka Shonibare CBE, 2001.” Tate, 1 Jan. 1970,

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

External videos
video icon Fragonard's The Meeting
video icon Analysis of Fragonard's The Swing
video icon Beneath the Painted Surface: Fragonard's Fountain of Love

Media related to Jean-Honoré Fragonard at Wikimedia Commons