Fragonard at the National Gallery

Jean Honore Fragonard (1732-1806) turned 1 of the most well-liked painters of the French Rococo design and style. The courts of King Louis XV (1715-1774) and Louis XVI (1754-1793) had been known for their luxury and excessive. Whilst it was the age of Enlightenment, with Voltaire seeking spiritual toleration and Diderot publishing the initially encyclopedia, Fragonard’s patrons desired scenes of festivals, mythological fans, and entertainments, often with sensual implications.

“Blind Man’s Bluff” (1775-76)

Fragonard’s patrons generally requested collection of paintings in groups of four or five. The Nationwide Gallery of Artwork (Washington, D.C.) contains 4 of these paintings. “Blind Man’s Bluff” (1775-76) (85’’ x 73’’) depicts a significant yard of a French estate. Under a blue sky with fluffy white clouds, two fountains, formal flower beds, a wide variety of tall trees, marble colonnades, and a properly-groomed lawn provide a intimate and breath-using environment. At the appropriate, members of the occasion enjoy a luncheon buffet whilst they look at a activity of blind man’s bluff. Closer in, a few enjoys sitting down on the grass as they as well search on.

The marble fountain at the still left spurts higher into the air. The feminine figures that variety the base of the fountain may perhaps signify the Vestal Virgins, Roman maidens who served the goddess of the Fireplace, Vesta. Their job was to see that the sacred hearth of the fireside hardly ever went out. To be a Vestal Virgin, a young lady was expected to get a vow of chastity. Yet another statue of a woman can be noticed on a hilltop at the correct. Much too small to determine, it is likely a statue of the goddess Vesta, or maybe Athena, who frequently is depicted sporting a helmet mainly because she is each the goddess of wisdom and war. 

Blind Man’s Bluff” (detail)l

The key attraction is the blind-folded younger girl in a white robe, who turns awkwardly around hoping to come across 1 of her good friends. Many others in the social gathering dodge to stay out of her attain. The sport is fun, but its depiction is intended to counsel the issues of finding a suited husband or wife. Or, presented the existence of the Vestal Virgins, most likely the message would be it is greater to stay unmarried. In the distance other individuals take pleasure in this nice park.

The Swing” (1775-76)

“The Swing” (1775-76) (85” x 73”) is the companion to “Blind Man’s Bluff.” The viewer can see the matching trellis of pink and purple bouquets at the lower remaining and proper corners of the two paintings when they are hung facet by facet. The foliage of the trees also provides a continual watch throughout the paintings. A young girl, dressed in pink and gold, sits on the swing. She raises her still left hand to greet her good friends. The swing is pulled with a rope by a gentleman who stands in between the two fountains, the drinking water flowing from the mouths of the lions. At the remaining corner, a gentleman in environmentally friendly and a woman in purple play with their kid in the lion fountain. Her pals observe from the lawn and communicate with just one one more.

At the ideal corner of the painting, a female in red and her companion sit on a marble platform. She is on the lookout as a result of a telescope. Much too close to be utilizing the telescope to appear at her buddy, she appears to search off into the distance. What is she seeking at? Or far more attention-grabbing, what is she searching for? 

Is this Fragonard do the job just one more wonderful scene of people today having exciting, or could there be a different interpretation? Paired with the blind-folded female trying to get a mate, the back again- and-forth movement of the swing and the pulling on the rope counsel the fruits of the act of like. Even though these suggestions ended up slight, other of Fragonard’s paintings, for instance his “Swing” of 1766, leave no doubt about the intention of the artist with regard to the needs of his patrons.

“A Game of Horse and Rider” (1775-80)

“A Match of Horse and Rider” (1775-80) (45.5” x34.5”) once again depicts a scene set in a substantial yard. Nevertheless, this backyard is all-natural, not official, as is the subject subject. The casual backyard garden does not have not properly-developed flower beds, or cautiously arranged marble walls. The trunks of the tall birches at the still left facet crisscross every other, achieving substantial into the sky, with their, leaves fanning out. At the appropriate side an previous gnarled tree, missing most of its leaves, is silhouetted versus the sky. There are no paths, and the grass satisfies a winding stream, wherever in the distance a gondola pulls up to the shore to permit off travellers who have arrive to delight in the working day. 

The figures in the foreground also deliver distinction. The older people at the still left of the scene lounge quietly on the grass, engaged in dialogue. Over and above them a youthful boy operates, toes traveling and arms elevated in anticipation of jumping into the recreation. The rowdy activity of horse and rider can take put under to the old tree. 

“A Match of Horse and Rider” (detail)

The game of horse and rider is built up of two groups. The multi legged horse crew braces by itself versus the tree. The riders race in and soar on to the horse. It is then the occupation of the horse to try to shake off all of the riders. This completed, the groups trade sites. It is a rough and tumble recreation for boys. In the meantime, the young male and female may well be talking about a afterwards “tussle” of their possess.


A Recreation of Scorching Cockles” (1775-80)

“A Video game of Very hot Cockles” (1775-80) (45.5” x 34.5”) is the companion piece to “A Activity of Horse and Rider.” There is proof that these paintings were lower down to make them shorter. However, the dates and issue make any difference counsel they were a element of the exact collection, or of a extremely similar collection by Fragonard. He produced lots of of these painted series. Equally paintings depict a couple lounging on the grass and participating in private dialogue. The gardens distinction the natural with the official, and have paths at the center that guide into the distance. The “Hot Cockles” yard is formal, with built beds, techniques major to a route, and sculptures. A younger couple sits on a stone bench at the still left. 

“A Match of Hot Cockles” (detail)

A game of hot cockles is remaining played by a lively group of young individuals at the appropriate side of the portray. The recreation of scorching cockles, has almost nothing to do with cockles and muscles, but was a sensuous address. The “penitent,” the male dressed in gold, kneels prior to a younger girl, placing his head on her lap. How usually would this have occurred? His hand put on his again, he endures other players having turns slapping his hand, or his bum. It is his task to make a decision who has slapped him. In this occasion, he seems to position at possibly the girl in blue or the other female who huddles with her. Of training course, the “penitent” can misidentify who has slapped him in order to go on to bury his face in the woman’s lap.

Two sculptures are positioned in the back garden. The determine of a lady at the left is most probably a goddess, but not so determined. At the right, on top of the pedestal is the effectively-regarded sculpture titled “Menacing Cupid” by Etienne Maurice Falconet. Cupid holds his finger to his lips, and he watches the naughty activity.

Fragonard’s travels to Italy, together with quite a few visits to its stunning parks, gardens, and fountains, still left an indelible mark on his imagination. While the four paintings in the Nationwide Gallery have been not painted in Italy, they reflect Fragonard’s enthusiasm for his issue. He painted with a fluid brush stroke effectively suited to the allure of his figures and their configurations. He is described by art historians as a virtuoso. 

Beverly Corridor Smith was a professor of art history for 40 several years.  Because retiring with her husband Kurt to Chestertown in 2014, she has taught artwork historical past courses at WC-ALL. She is also an artist whose do the job is in some cases in exhibitions at Chestertown RiverArts and she paints sets for the Garfield Centre for the Arts.

Angelia S. Rico

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