JEAN-HONORÉ FRAGONARD: THE ROCOCO GENIUS OF THE ANCIEN RÉGIME
Depicting the risqué scenes with delicate and tender colors, unique brushwork and soft, carefree lighting scheme, the French Rococo painter, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, is best known for his fluid technique, exuberance, spontaneity, and a delicate hedonism.
Celebrated as one of the most prolific painters of the Ancién Regime, Fragonard was born on April 5, 1732, in Grasse, France. In 1738, his family moved to Paris and in 1747, he was sent away from home as an apprentice to a Parisian lawyer and notary. Noticing Fragonard's appetite for painting, the lawyer suggested that he be taught painting.
At the age of 18, Fragonard began to study painting with Chardin, but he formed his style principally on the work of his next master François Boucher. Boucher soon trusted him enough to paint replicas of his works and on his recommendation Fragonard competed and won Prix de Rome scholarship in 1752. Three years later he moved to study at the French Academy of Art in Rome.
At the academy Fragonard copied many paintings, chiefly by Roman Baroque artists, and with his friend the French painter Hubert Robert, made numerous sketches of the Roman countryside. In 1760, Fragonard traveled through Italy and was particularly influenced by the romantic gardens, temples, grottos, terraces, and fountains.
In 1765, he painted “Coresus et Callirhoe”, which not only secured his position at the Academy, but showed his talent for intimate, mildly erotic scenes, which were favored by wealthy patrons and members of Louis XV's lascivious court.
Married in 1773, Fragonard's paintings focused more on domestic themes, particularly after the birth of his daughter Rosalie, who became one of his favorite model.
Fragonard was wildly popular until the French Revolution deprived him of his patrons, many of whom were guillotined or exiled. Without patronage, he left Paris in 1793, living with his friend Maubert, whose house he decorated with a series of lavishly decorated panels.
Upon returning to Paris, he found that he was almost completely forgotten, his erotic scenes seemingly irrelevant after the upheaval of the French Revolution. Fragonard died in relative obscurity on August 22, 1806, at the age of 74.