I’m in New York for a few days (hence no post yesterday), and I had a chance to see a number of shows. One is a small but beautiful show of French Rococo drawings at the newly renovated and expanded Morgan Library and Museum, “Fragonard and the French Tradition“, with drawings by Fragonard, his mentors Francois Boucher and Charles-Joseph Natoire, and contemporaries Hubert Robert, Jean-Babtiste Greuze and Jacques-Louis David.
The exhibit is drawn (if you’ll excuse the expression) from the Morgan’s own superb collection. The show is small, but beautiful.
Jean-Honoré Fragonard was a French Rococo painter whose playful, sensual and often erotic canvasses, along with those of Boucher, exemplify the voluptuously romantic visions of the period.
Fragonard’s drawings, most often executed in brown inks and wash, are wonderful in their ability to appear richly detailed while, in fact, having a remarkable economy of line and texture. Foliage that might be represented by hundreds of curved strokes in the drawings of other artists, even in the case of that sublime master of quick suggestion, Rembrandt, are created by Fragonard in a flurried illusion of wonderful scribbles that somehow convince your eye that you are, indeed, looking a leaves and branches.
The luxurious color and detail in his paintings are a fascinating contrast to the directness and quick suggestion of his drawings. If you go to the Morgan show and want to see that contrast, go uptown to the Frick Collection to see their wonderful examples of his paintings from the series titled “The Progress of Love”.