Bio: Jean Honoré Fragonard

Special thanks to the Microsoft Corporation for permission to use following biographical information from Microsoft® Encarta '97:

Jean-Honoré Fragonard was a French painter of the rococo age who became a favorite in the courts of Louis XV and Louis XVI for his delicately colored scenes of romance, often in garden settings.

Fragonard was born in Grasse on April 5, 1732. He began to study painting at the age of 18 in Paris with Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin, but he formed his style principally on the work of his next master, Francois Boucher. Fragonard won the Prix de Rome in 1752. After studying for three years with the French painter Carle Van Loo, he studied and painted for six years in Italy, where he was influenced by the paintings of the Venetian master Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Fragonard first painted in a style suitable to his religious and historical subjects. After 1765, however, he worked in the rococo style then fashionable in France. These later paintings, the works for which he is best known, reflect the gaiety, frivolity, and voluptuousness of the period. They are characterized by fluid lines, frothy flowers amid loose foliage, and gracefully posed figures, usually of ladies and their lovers or peasant mothers with children. The French Revolution (1789-1799), which destroyed the nobility on which Fragonard depended for commissions, ruined him financially. Although befriended by Jacques Louis David, the leading painter of the new French classical school, Fragonard did not adjust to the new style and died poor in Paris on August 22, 1806.

His chief work was decorative panels commissioned by Madame du Barry, mistress of Louis XV, for her chateau at Louveciennes. She rejected the panels as unsuitable. The series that he executed there, The Progress of Love, includes the paintings The Pursuit and The Lover Crowned (both 1771-1773, Frick Collection, New York City). The Louvre in Paris has five of Fragonard's works, among them The Bathers (1760?) and The Study (1769). Other noted paintings are The Swing (1766?, Wallace Collection, London) and The Love Letter (1769?-1770, Metropolitan Museum, New York City).

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