Friday, December 23, 2016

Fragonard: Drawing Triumphant

Jean-Honore Fragonard: Drawing Triumphant
18th century French painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard was known for his luxuriously colored and lavishly rendered depictions of frivolity and sensuality, much in keeping with the High-Baroque fascination with those kinds of scenes.

As beautifully painted as they may be, the subject matter of Fragonard’s paintings can leave you with the undeserved impression that his abilities as a painter are likewise somewhat frivolous, and he doesn’t often get his due as a painter.

My introduction to Fragonard was through his drawings, which I encountered early on at shows in New York at the Met and the Morgan Library, both of which have superb examples in their permanent collections.

Fragonard’s drawings, with their remarkable combination of suggested detail and economy of notation, as well as his fluidity in rendering figures — much of which was passed on from his teacher, François Boucher — reveal his exceptional skill more directly than his paintings.

Not only are his drawing abilities impressive, his methods of notation are often unusual, particularly the wonderful way he suggests foliage with those crazy zig-zag lines, as in the image detail above, second down.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has mounted a new exhibition of Fragonard’s drawings, with over 100 works on paper. As with most works on paper, they are rarely on view because of the fragility and light sensitivity of paper.

Many of those in this show are from private collections and have not been on view previously to the public. Much of the remainder are from the Met’s own collection, and apparently from that of the nearby Morgan Library and Museum.

There is a preview of works on the Met’s web pages for the exhibition, those in their own collections have links to high-res, downloadable images elsewhere on their site (or you can search their collection online for “Fragonard drawings“).

Those from private collections are, unsurprisingly, not presented as large images, however, you can look for those from the Morgan Library’s collection on their site, on which you will also find high-res zoomable and downloadable images.

Fragonard: Drawing Triumphant” is on view at the Met until January 8, 2017.

There is a book accompanying the exhibition, also titled Fragonard: Drawing Triumphant, that is available from the Met’s online store, or through Amazon and other book sources.

I haven’t gotten up to see this show yet, but I have seen a number of these drawings in other shows over the years, and they are just beautiful.

In particular, I love the stunning little gouache painting shown above, bottom: Interior of a Park, The Gardens of the Villa d’Este, which is from the collection of the Morgan Library (high-res version here). Wow.

 
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