Happy Birthday Jean Honoré Fragonard
"Portrait of a Woman with a Dog" Jean Honoré Fragonard (French, 1732—1806) Oil on canvas; 32 x 25 3/4 in. (81.3 x 65.4 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
He is known, among other artistic accomplishments for his lightweight and erotic paintings of maidens and gentlemen of leisure dallying in gardens, was a marvelously gifted and energetic painter. You can well imagine a rising class of wealthy patrons lapping up his fragrant, well-composed canvases. There is a cautionary tale here however (if you read between the lines, this seems to be the way many writers regard Fragonard):
• He was never ahead of his time but he embodied the current Rococo ethos.
• His timing was unfortunate: he rose to popularity at the end of the Enlightenment in France and was over swept by the changes wrought by the revolution and the subsequent Neoclassical style (think Jacques Louis David).
• He died comfortably enough but was never able to recapture the energy and sparkle of his youth.
• Was he too caught up in his technique and the frivolous lifestyle it represented? Is this so bad? Can an artist consciously direct their career to be timeless and relevant or is this utterly out of our control? I’d like to think at least that Fragonard died a happy man who knew he had captured the sun and put it into his paintings.
[Does the painting above remind anyone of Norman Rockwell??]
• The Metropolitan Museum of Art
• The Louvre (in French)
• The Getty Museum
• Web Gallery of Art