Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732 – 1806) became a prominent painter within the Rococo artistic movement, which was filled with light colours, asymmetrical designs, and curved, natural forms.
The Rococo style emerged in Paris during the eighteenth century, more specifically during the reign of Louis XV. Fragonard produced more than 550 paintings and among his most famous works are genre paintings conveying an atmosphere of intimacy and veiled eroticism.
A tour of Jean-Honoré Fragonard Art
- A Young Girl Reading
“A Young Girl Reading” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard depicts a girl in profile wearing a lemon yellow dress with a white ruff collar and cuffs and purple ribbons. The girl is reading from a small book held, and a cushion resting against a wall supports her back. Her face and dress are lit from the front.
Fragonard used fine brushwork on the face and looser brushwork on the dress and cushion, and the ruff which was scratched into the paint with the end of a brush. This painting is a genre painting of an everyday scene, and not a portrait as the name of the sitter is not known. X-rays have revealed that the canvas initially featured a different face looking towards the viewer, which Fragonard painted over.
The figure represents femininity, and Rococo colour scheme conveys emotions and a mood. The darker background colour frames and emphasises the subject’s female profile. The face of the young girls has a rosy-tint, which adds a delicate feel to the painting. The book has no clear writing, which contributes a sense of mystery. Is she reading for pleasure or academic purposes? Museum: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., United States
- The Stolen Kiss
“The Stolen Kiss” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard depicts a kiss between two lovers, showing a young lady in cream-coloured silk gown who has left the group women in the next room for a secret meeting with a young man. Fragonard’s painting displays the kind of eroticism and romantic folly that was popular before the French Revolution among French aristocrats.
This scene of voyeurism depicts the stolen kiss in lavish surroundings, containing luxurious details of textures, silks and lace, like the rug with flower pattern, silk draperies, her shawl on the chair, the elegantly clad ladies that are visible through the open door. The dominant French culture was highly influential on Fragonard’s themes, which were mostly erotic, secretive romance or love scenes, painted for Louis XV’s pleasure-loving court’s enjoyment.
Fragonard’s skills are evident in the diagonal composition framed by the two doors. The diagonal axis is composed on the one end, by the lady’s leaning figure and her extended arm holding on to the shawl that is diagonally draped over the table, at the other end. Fragonard offers us an array of compositional contrasts between colours and shadows and the complex spatial intersections. Museum: Hermitage Museum
The Rococo style began in France in the first part of the 18th century in the reign of Louis XV as a reaction against the more formal and geometric style. It soon spread to other parts of Europe, mainly northern Italy, Bavaria, Austria, other parts of Germany, and Russia. It also came to influence the other arts, particularly sculpture, furniture, silverware and glassware, painting, music, and theatre.
- Name: Jean-Honoré Fragonard
- Born: 1732 – Grasse, France
- Died: 1806 (aged 74) – Paris, France
- Nationality: French
- Notable works:
A Tour of Artists and their Art
- Duccio (1255 – 1319)
- Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510)
- Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519)
- Albrecht Durer (1471 – 1528)
- Michelangelo (1475 – 1564)
- Raphael (1483 – 1520)
- Titian (1488 – 1576)
- Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525 – 1569)
- Paolo Veronese (1528 – 1588)
- El Greco (1541 – 1614)
- Caravaggio (1571 – 1610)
- Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640)
- Diego Velázquez (1599 – 1660)
- Rembrandt (1606 – 1669)
- Pieter de Hooch (1629 – 1684)
- Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675)
- Élisabeth Sophie Chéron (1648 – 1711)
- Canaletto (1697 – 1768)
- Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732 – 1806)
- Francisco Goya (1746 – 1828)
- Caspar David Friedrich (1774 – 1840)
- J.M.W. Turner (1775 – 1851)
- Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867)
- Eugène Delacroix (1798 – 1863)
- Rosa Bonheur (1822 – 1899)
- John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896)
- Frederic Leighton (1830 – 1896)
- Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883)
- Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917)
- Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906)
- Claude Monet (1840 – 1926)
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919)
- Berthe Morisot (1841 – 1895)
- Henri Rousseau (1844 – 1910)
- Mary Cassatt (1844 – 1926)
- Elizabeth Thompson (1846 – 1933)
- John William Waterhouse (1849 – 1917)
- Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)
- Frederick McCubbin (1855 – 1917)
- John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925)
- Tom Roberts (1856 – 1931)
- Lovis Corinth (1858 – 1925)
- Georges Seurat (1859 – 1891)
- Gustav Klimt (1862 – 1918)
- Edvard Munch (1863 – 1944)
- Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901)
- Rupert Bunny (1864 – 1947)
- Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944)
- Arthur Streeton (1867 – 1943)
- Franz Marc (1880 – 1916)
- Goyō Hashiguchi (1880 – 1921)
- Amedeo Modigliani (1884 – 1920)
- Artists and their Art
- Which is your favourite depiction of a Kiss?
“I was in awe of Michelangelo’s energy.
I felt things that I could not express.
When I saw the beauty of the Raphaels, I was moved to tears,
and I could scarcely hold my pencil.
For several months I remained in a state of apathy that I was unable to overcome,
until I resolved to study the painters who I felt I had a chance of rivalling:
and so I turned my attention to Barocci, Pietro da Cortona, Solimena, and Tiepolo.”
– Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Photo Credit 1) Jean-Honoré Fragonard [Public domain]