Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




She Turns My Head

The Garden of Earthly Delights



Happy face, nymph-like girl
Eyes like cherries, seventeen
Delightful prattle
She turns my head.

Bernard, Chevalier de Bonnard (1744-1784), Poesies diverses, published in 1791



One day in October 1766, the Parisian painter Jean-Honore Fragonard was summoned to the hunting lodge of Baron Samt-Julien. The aristocratic treasurer of the Catholic Church pointed to his mistress and commanded: "I want you to paint Madame on a swing kept in motion by a bishop. Put me in it where I can see the legs of this pretty girl or even closer, if you want to make the picture even more pleasing." A man of the world, Baron Saint-Julien had already been turned down by a painter who was probably squeamish about the consequences of carrying out his orders — someone who had made a name for himself with representations of saints and plague victims and felt the commission was indecent so he suggested Fragonard, who accepted. The result was The Swing. Fragonard had no qualms about damaging his reputation as a painter of blameless scenes by taking on this rather delicate commission. Of course Fragonard, who had been a spoilt child, was nothing if not urbane and sophisticated himself. "All his work is dedicated to women; why shouldn't his life have been so too?" asks a biographer. In 1756 the twenty-four-vear-old Fragonard took advantage of a grant from the Academic de France to study works of the Old Masters in Rome. He is said to have devoted himself at least as passionately to the licentious dark-eyed beauties of Trastevere as to the paintings he had gone to Rome to study. In fact, the president of the Academie de France in Rome began to worry about his protege. Fragonard's reputation followed him back to Paris, where all boudoirs were open to him on his return.The beauties of the day and dancers whose "hearts were not so constant" all sought the painter's attentions. Bernard, Chevalier de Bonnard advised the painters of the day to "court all lovely ladies you paint and be sure that you are paid for your portraits in the arms of your sitters". Nothing is really known about Fragonard's love life. However, he was so highly acclaimed as a painter that he was soon provided with his own studio in the Louvre. Begrudging him his marriage because it deprived them of gossip, his biographers characterised his wife as "a peevish termagant". However, he was devoted to her, tenderly calling her "the best of all wives". Despite his reputation with the ladies, the Fragonard did show reticence in one respect: he convinced the depraved Baron Saint-Julien that it was necessary to replace the bishop, who was originally supposed to push the swing in the painting, with a courtier.


Jean-Honore Fragonard
The Swing
The Wallace Collection, London


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