Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Jean-Honoré Fragonard and the Rococo Style

Jean-Honoré Fragonard was a French rococo painter and print maker. When examining one of his paintings, there was no doubt in your mind that it exhibited the qualities of a rococo painting; exuberant and hedonistic. His work is easily recognizable for his deft brushwork and his soft, carefree lighting schemes.

"The Swing" possibly known as his most famous piece of work demonstrates all the qualities of his style. His quick brushwork that aids him with the light, airy feel of the painting. This painting was commissioned by French libertine Baron de St. Julien. Fragonard was given specific instructions of what to paint. "I should like you to paint Madame seated on a swing being pushed by a Bishop. ""Place me in a position where I can observe the legs of that charming girl. " This is Baron de St. Julien's mistress and in the background, her husband is depicted. You can also see cupid painted with his finger raised to his lips as to say that we, as the viewer, should remain silent about this affair.

"The Bolt" is another one of Fragonard's paintings. Upon closer examination you can see how allusive this painting is. The distraught bed, the man locking the bolt, the lady's undressing; all these characteristics lead the viewer to believe in the pleasure of the moment. As if he didn't denote his meaning well enough, he also includes an apple on the table; the apple symbolizing original sin.

Interior of  Wieskirche in Bavaria, Germany

Fragonard's paintings, along with various other rococo paintings, were symbolic of a hedonistic time when the focus of people was on positive emotions. This frivolity in painting, caused a bitterness in the relationship between the ecclesiastical and the arts. Rococo was toned down for the purpose of architectural decoration in churches but for the most part, many believed the two to be incompatible.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard
"The Swing"
"The Bolt"

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