Jean-Honore Fragonard Biography
- Full Name:
- Jean-Honoré Nicolas Fragonard
- Short Name:
- Date of Birth:
- 05 Apr 1732
- Date of Death:
- 22 Aug 1806
- Paintings, Drawings
- Oil, Other
- Figure, Scenery
- Art Movement:
- Grasse, France
Leading the same charmed life depicted in his paintings of the aristocracy in pre-Revolutionary France, Jean-Honoré Fragonard's name is synonymous with the French Rococo. Focusing on frivolity and the transient nature of beauty and pleasure, the Rococo under Fragonard is a perfectly preserved era.
Achieving commercial success for much of his life, with no shortage of A-list patrons, Fragonard's career was sadly put on hold by the Revolution. One of the most prolific painters of all time, his work remains a testament to the hedonistic legacy of the ancién-regime.
Born in the South of France in a small village called Grasse to a glove maker, Fragonard spent his early days romping through the perfumed countryside.
When he was a mere six years old, his family moved to the big city of Paris, where he began work as a notary's clerk in a law office. Fragonard was fired, however, for constantly drawing instead of working.
In 1747, Fragonard achieved his wish of receiving official artistic training when he went to work in the studio of the renowned Rococo painter Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, as an apprentice. A spirited and diligent worker, Jean-Honore progressed quickly and the next year advanced to the studio of Francois Boucher, the most famous Rococo artist of that time.
After winning the Prix de Rome, Fragonard spent some years in Italy at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. Though his professors found him unimpressive, he spent a great deal of time in the Italian countryside drawing famous gardens, and perfected the pastoral style that would later serve him well in France.
Returning to Paris, the artist was admitted to the Royal Academy in 1765 and made a moderate name for himself with scenic paintings based on his Italian landscape drawings based on idealized pastoral subject matter.
It was between the years of 1765 and 1770 that Fragonard really came into his own and became wildly successful, initially by executing fanciful, suggestive and erotic portraits of big names around town.
His work during this period exemplified the Rococo style, with pastel colors, a swift brushwork that lent immediacy to his paintings, and a silvery lighting scheme.
It was also during this time that Fragonard completed his erotic masterpieces such as The Swing, which really represent the frivolous, hedonistic Rococo movement.
Though attacked by philosophers of the French Enlightenment such as Denis Diderot, who proclaimed his works foolish to an embarrassing degree, Fragonard received an abundance of commissions. While a great deal came from the government, private commissions rolled in as well, particularly from the Madame du Barry, Louis XV's notorious mistress.
Married in 1773, Fragonard's work took a turn towards the domestic, particularly after the birth of his daughter Rosalie, who became one of his favorite models. He executed a series of portraits of young girls reading based upon her.
Five years later he rather scandalously fell in love with his wife's 14-year-old sister Marguerite, who became his pupil as well, and the two executed a series of works together.
In the turbulent bloodbath of the French Revolution in 1789, Fragonard's major client base was wiped out under the merciless blade of the guillotine. With no business left in Paris, he returned to Provence to wait out these dark days with his family.
Not a man to be beaten down however, Fragonard went back to Paris just a year later, and became instrumental in working with the new government to help administer the National Museum in the Louvre.
Living the sweet life until the very end, Jean-Honoré Fragonard died of a stroke on a park bench on August 22, 1806, while eating ice cream.