French painter whose scenes of frivolity and gallantry are among the most
complete embodiments of the
spirit. He was a pupil of
for a short while and also of
before winning the
Prix de Rome
in 1752. From 1756 to 1761 he was in Italy, where he eschewed the work of
the approved masters of the
but formed a particular admiration for
He travelled and drew landscapes with
and responded with especial sensitivity to the gardens of the Villa d'Este
at Tivoli, memories of which occur in paintings throughout his career.
In 1765 he became a member of the
with his historical picture in the
Coroesus Sacrificing himself to Save Callirhoe
(Louvre, Paris). He soon abandoned this style, however, for the erotic
canvases by which he is chiefly known
(The Swing, Wallace Collection, London, c. 1766).
After his marriage in 1769 he also painted children and family scenes.
He stopped exhibiting at the
in 1767 and almost all his work was done for private patrons. Among them was
Mme du Barry, Louis XV's most beautiful mistress, for whom he painted the
works that are often regarded as his masterpieces the four canvases
The Progress of Love
(Frick Collection, New York, 1771-73).
These, however, were returned by Mme du Barry and it seems that taste was
already turning against Fragonard's lighthearted style. He tried
unsuccessfully to adapt himself to the new
vogue, but in spite of the admiration and support of
he was ruined by the Revolution and died in poverty.
Fragonard was a prolific painter, but he rarely dated his works and it is not
easy to chart his stylistic develop;ent. Alongside those of Boucher, his
paintings seem to sum up an era. His delicate coloring, witty
characterization, and spontaneous brushwork ensured that even his most
erotic subjects are never vulgar, and his finest work has an irresistible
verve and joyfulness.