Fragonard – The pleasures of the XVIIIth century

Or Fragonard revisited, by Marie-Anne Dupuy-Vachey
Avec Krista Leuck

The bicentenary of the death of Fragonard : a long-awaited occasion to pay tribute to the artist. At the end of 2007, through around one hundred works, the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris opened its doors to an exceptional artist, Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

Émission proposée par : Krista Leuck
Référence : carr312
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Roger aveugle l’orque
Private collection, photograph courtesy of Agnews

To celebrate the bicentenary of the death of Fragonard, it was important that Paris, the city where Fragonard spent most of his carreer, should honour one of the greatest painters of his century.
> already owns a remarquable collection of the principle painters of the XVIIIth century, including Watteau, Boucher or Chardin, and also, of course, Fragonard.
Now this exhibition proposes to revisit the artist’s work and it shows it in a completely new light.
Canal Académie was pleased to receive Marie-Anne Dupuy-Vachey, an art historian and commissioner of the show.
As an author of two books on Fragonard, a monograph published in 2006 and a « Fragonard and Rolando Furioso » and having been a co-organizer of the important Fragonard exhibition in 1987-88 first at the Grand Palais in Paris and then at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, no wonder she has a special interest – maybe even some passion – for this artist.

Les Débuts du modèle
Musée Jacquemart-André © Photo Wyts et Rousseau

M.-A. Dupuy-Vachey explains to us her inner reasons of this preference, Why Fragonard ? Is it the spirit of this century ? His particular brushstroke ?
She lets us have a look at his life and his career even if his biography had many hidden zones.

But above all, Mrs. Dupuy-Vachey raises some fundamental issues on this outstanding artist, her discovery of an unknown facet of Fragonard. Along the exhibition’s visit, she reveals to our attention besides the Fragonard painter of the pleasures of a century, a new Fragonard, a literary Fragonard.

Tête de vieillard
Musée Jacquemart-André © Photo Wyts et Rousseau

In fact, if Fragonard is as well known for his great virtuosity and his colourful and brusque brushstrokes as he is for the variety of his subjects : portraits, landscapes, scenes depicting eroticism and scenes evoking frivolity, etc., few have yet chosen to investigate his sources of inspiration. As the exhibition shows, this inspiration was mainly provided by the artist’s reading of writers and poets.
For instance, Fragonard and the Orlando Furioso or Fragonard and Don Quixote, which leave us some outstanding drawings in the fiery rhythm of the epic poems revealing the artist’s profound knowledge of the language and the literary content. Other literary inspiration can be found by Fragonard’s reading contemporary authors, like Marmontel’s « Annette and Lubin », or a libertine tale published in 1761 by Stanislas de Boufflers « The Queen of Golconde » offering us a dozen sheets illustrating the singular destiny of a young seducer and a milkmaid.
Nevertheless, we must not underestimate Fragonard especially known as the painter of the libertine subjects and even frivolous ones bringing back the enjoyment of life and the taste for pleasures that also characterised this period of the Enlightenment.

La petite sultane
Ball State University Museum of Art, E. Arthur Ball Collection, Gift of the Ball Brothers Foundation, 1995 © Trustees of Ball State University. Photo Steven J. Talley

The> in Paris presented a unique collection which has been made possible due to the loan of around one hundred works from France and abroad belonging to the most prestigious public institutions and private collections (Musée du Louvre, Ecole Nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona, National Gallery in Washington, British Museum in London, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica de Rome, Kunsthalle de Hambourg, a.m.o.).

Renaud dans la forêt enchantée
Paris, Musée du Louvre © Photo RMN, Gérard Blot

Bibliography :
- Catalog of the exibition by Marie-Anne DUPUY-VACHEY, Editions Snoeck, on sale at the
>, Paris. 39 Eu.
- Fragonard et le Roland Furieux, Marie-Anne DUPUY-VACHEY, Editions de l’Amateur, 2003
- Fragonard by Marie-Anne DUPUY-VACHEY, Ed. Terrail, 2006.

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