Fragonard is a great way of understanding the evolutions of the nineteenth century in Paris. I did not know his work so I must go to this exhibition.
What do we know about « Frago » -the nickname he gave to himself and his signature- Le Verrou et L’inspiration which are his two most famous paintings.
Le Verrou et L’Inspiration
We also know that he loves sheepfolds -which allows him to represent love and the antiquity – which is one of the main inspirations of the Académie- but what we do not know his interpretation of La Fontaine poem “Perrette ayant sur sa tête un pot au lait, bien posé sur un coussinet, prétendant arriver sans encombre à la ville…”
Fragonard, Perette et le pot au lait, c.1770
Fragonard is the incarnation of the nineteenth french century : the libertines (the one who refuses to subject to the laws) whom he represents with a lot of backs, naked breast, flirtatious scenes and his work related to the « libertinage » which was all the rage back in the nineteenth century. Les liaisons dangereuses – a very famous libertine novel- were published in 1782.
Anyway, the ways he shows the women’ s condition is very interesting. He is interested in the women’s situation in the society during the nineteenth century and her relationship with love : forced, in a hurry, rejecting a lover to make him go crazy ? He is painting a free woman, in love, sensual during in intimate moments but always for a male audience. What a paradoxical situation…
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, La résistance inutile c.1770-1773
Fragonard even dares to paint women reading maybe a novel ? -literary genre controversial at the time-.
Around 1760,1780, the libertine way of life comes to an end, Fragonard follows this change and now paints « scènes galantes » in a more moral way. The artist represents a very wise conjugal love at the end of his career.
Frago ends up his career with some fresh inspiration from the antiquity coming back to his old habits from the Académie. He reads Anacreon’s poems which amongs to allegorical composition of love.
What I thought about the exhibition :
His work is amazing he has a great way to represent love, details. I appreciate the way he represented woman et their position in the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, the scenography is simple and the « cartels » are uneven, the exhibition is short. However I like the Maurice Blot engravings which are a interesting contribution to understand Fragonard’s work. I recommand this exhibition.
© : own pictures and RMN