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“A Young Girl Reading” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Fragonard, The Reader

“A Young Girl Reading” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

“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?

Jean-Honoré Fragonard 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 Young Girl Reading

  • Title:             A Young Girl Reading
  • Artist:           Jean-Honoré Fragonard
  • Created:       1770
  • Media:          Oil-on-canvas
  • Movement  Rococo
  • Dimensions: 81.1 cm × 64.8 cm ( 31 15⁄16 in × 25 1⁄2 in)
  • Museum:     National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., United States

Jean-Honoré Fragonard

  • Name:               Jean-Honoré Fragonard
  • Born:                 1732 – Grasse, France
  • Died:                 1806 (aged 74) – Paris, France
  • Nationality:     French
  • Notable works:
  • The Swing,
  • A Young Girl Reading,
  • The Bolt

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“The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing.”
– Eugene Delacroix

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Photo Credit 1) Jean-Honoré Fragonard [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons