Baroque and Rococo


Baroque and Rococo Art Map

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Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin

Jean-Honore Fragonard





A keen social observer, Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin (1699-1779) had a genius for portraying the lives of 18th-century Parisian petite bourgeoisie, who passed their days in modest rooms that were, increasingly, becoming comfortable living spaces to be enjoyed and appreciated. The details of the world of the respectable lower-middle class - their humble household and everyday objects - were rendered in modest canvases in warm, rosy tones with a delightful naturalism. The measured, discerning ethos of the 18th century is perfectly demonstrated in Chardin's work. His paintings such as the Child with the Spinning-top, The Copper Fountain, The House of Cards, Still Life with Jar of Pickled Onions, and The Housekeeper, show the development of the artist's coherent vision, his sensitivity and his methods of representation. In his final years, he successfully turned his hand to the medium of pastels.

Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born November 2, 1699, Paris, France
died December 6, 1779, Paris

French painter of still lifes anddomestic scenes remarkable for their intimate realism and tranquil atmosphere and the luminous quality of their paint. For his still lifes he chose humble objects (Le Buffet, 1728), and for his genre paintings modest events (Dame cachetant une lettre [1733; “Lady Sealing a Letter”]). He also executed some fine portraits, especially the pastels of his last years.

Born in Paris, Chardin never really left his native quarter of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Little is known about his training, although he worked for a time with the artists Pierre-Jacques Cazes and Noël-Nicolas Coypel. In 1724 he was admitted to the Academy of Saint Luc. His true career, however, did not begin until 1728 when, thanks to the portrait painter Nicolas de Largillière (1656–1746), he became a member of the Royal Academy of Painting, to which he offered La Raie (“The Skate”) and Le Buffet, both now at the Louvre Museum.

Although not yet established, he was beginning to gain a reputation. In 1731 he married Marguerite Saintard, and two years later the first of his figure paintings appeared, Dame cachetant une lettre. From then on Chardin alternated between paintings of la vie silencieuse (“the silent life”) or scenes of family life such as Le Bénédicité (“Grace”) and half-figure paintings of young men and women concentrating on their work or play, such as Le Jeune dessinateur (“Young Man Drawing”) and L'Enfant au toton (“Child with Top”). The artist repeated his subject matter, and there are often several original versions of the same composition. Chardin's wife died in 1735, and the estate inventory drawn up after her death reveals a certain affluence, suggesting that by this time Chardin had becomea successful painter.

In 1740 he was presented to Louis XV, to whom he offered La Mère laborieuse (“Mother Working”) and Le Bénédicité. Four years later he married Marguerite Pouget, whom he was to immortalize 30 years later in a pastel. These were the years when Chardin was at the height of his fame. Louis XV, for example, paid 1,500 livres for La Serinette (“The Bird-Organ”). Chardin continued to rise steadily on the rungs of the traditional academic career. His colleagues at the academy entrusted him, first unofficially (1755), then officially (1761), with the hanging of the paintings in the Salon (official exhibition of the academy), which had been held regularly every two years since 1737 and in which Chardin had participated faithfully. It was in the exercise of his official duties that he met the encyclopaedist and philosopher Denis Diderot, who would devote some of his finest pages of art criticism to Chardin, the “grand magicien” that he admired so much.

An anecdote illustrating Chardin's genius and his unique position in 18th-century painting is told by one of his greatest friends, the engraver Charles-Nicolas Cochin, who wrote a letter shortly after Chardin's death to Haillet de Couronne, the man who was to deliver Chardin's eulogy to the Academy of Rouen, of which Chardin had been a member.

One day, an artist was making a big show of the method he used to purify and perfect his colours. Monsieur Chardin, impatient with so much idle chatter, said to the artist, “But who told you that one paints with colours?” “With what then?” the astonished artist asked. “One uses colours,” replied Chardin, “but one paints with feeling.”

He was nearer to the feeling of meditative quiet that animates the rustic scenes of the 17th-century French master Louis Le Nain than to the spirit of light and superficial brilliance seen in the work of many of his contemporaries. His carefully constructed still lifes do not bulge with appetizing foods but are concerned with the objects themselves and with the treatment of light. In his genre scenes he does not seek his models among the peasantry as his predecessors did; he paints the petite bourgeoisie of Paris. But manners have been softened, and his models seem to be far removed from Le Nain's austere peasants. Thehousewives of Chardin are simply but neatly dressed, and the same cleanliness is visible in the houses where they live. Everywhere a sort of intimacy and good fellowship constitute the charm of these modestly scaled pictures of domestic life that are akin in feeling and format to the works of Johannes Vermeer.

Despite the triumphs of his early and middle life, Chardin's last years were clouded, both in his private life and in his career. His only son, Pierre-Jean, who had received the Grand Prix (prize to study art in Rome) of the academy in 1754, committed suicide in Venice in 1767. And then too, the public's taste had changed. The new director of the academy, the all-powerful Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre, in his desire to restore historical painting to the first rank, humiliated the old artist by reducing his pension and gradually divesting him of his duties at the academy. Furthermore, Chardin's sight was failing. He tried his hand at drawing with pastels. It was a new medium for him and less taxing on his eyes. Those pastels, most of which are in the Louvre Museum, were highly thought of in the 20th century, but that was not the case in Chardin's own time. In fact, he lived out the remainder of his life in almost total obscurity, his work meeting with indifference.

It was not until the middle of the 19th century that he was rediscovered by a handful of French critics, including the brothers Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, and collectors (the Lavalard brothers, for example, who donated their collection of Chardins to the Museum of Picardy in Amiens). Especially noteworthy is the La Caze Collection donated to the Louvre in 1869. Today Chardin is considered the greatest still-life painter of the 18th century, and his canvases are coveted by the world's most distinguished museums and collections.

Pierre M. Rosenberg




The House of Cards

Oil on canvas, 82 x 66 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington


The Attributes of the Arts and their Rewards
Oil on canvas
Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg




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Influenced by his teachers Boucher and Chardin and their feeling for the rocaille figurative culture, Jean-Honore Frago-nard (1732-1806) breathed new life into the Rococo movement with his inspirational ease of style and elegant treatment of his subjects. His invigorating handling of colour and his strongly expressed naturalism were reminiscent of the Dutch master Hals and the mature style of Rembrandt. Fragonard's paintings featured beautiful, pastoral settings, erotic scenes, and amorous encounters, and show a sensuous and tactile application of colour. They are among the period's most representative artistic achievements.


Jean-Honore Fragonard

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born April 5, 1732, Grasse, Fr.
died Aug. 22, 1806, Paris

French Rococo painter whose most familiar works, such as “The Swing” (c.1766), are characterized by delicate hedonism.

Fragonard was the son of a haberdasher's assistant. The family moved to Paris about 1738, and in 1747 the boy was apprenticed to a lawyer, who, noticing his appetite for drawing, suggested that he be taught painting. François Boucher was prevailed upon to accept him as a pupil (c. 1748), and in 1752, Fragonard's elementary training completed, Boucher recommended that he compete for a Prix de Rome scholarship, which meant study under the court painter to Louis XV, Carle Van Loo, in Paris. On Sept. 17, 1756, Fragonard set off with other scholarship winners for the French Academy at Rome.

At the academy Fragonard copied many paintings, chiefly by Roman Baroque artists, and, with his friend the French painter Hubert Robert, made numerous sketches of the Roman countryside. When his scholarship ended in July 1759, he was allowed to remain in residence until, in late November, he met a wealthy amateur artist, the Abbé de Saint-Non, who was to become one of his chief patrons. Early in 1760 Saint-Non took Fragonard and Robert on a prolonged tour of Italy, where the two artists studied Italian paintings and antiquities and made hundreds of sketches of local scenery.

In 1761, after returning to Paris, Fragonard exhibited a few landscape paintings and the large “Coresus Sacrifices Himself to Save Callirhoe” at the Salon, where it was purchased for King Louis XV. Consequently, the artist was commissioned to paint a pendant, or companion piece, granted a studio in the Louvre Palace, and accepted as an Academician. Nevertheless, after 1767 he almost ceased to exhibit at the salons, concentrating on landscapes, often in the manner of the 17th-century Dutch painter Jacob van Ruisdael (“Return of the Herd,” Worcester); portraits; and decorative, semi erotic outdoor party scenes (“The Swing”) in the style of Boucher but more fluently painted. His admiration for Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, Frans Hals, and a Venetian contemporary, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, emerges in a large series of loosely and vigorously executed heads of old men, painted probably between 1760 and 1767 (“Head of an Old Man”), followed by a series of portraits (c. 1765–72) in a similar style and in which the sitters were real persons, but their fantastic costumes were emphasized rather than facial expressions.

In 1769 he married Marie-Anne Gérard from Grasse and shortly afterward received the accolade of fashion, when in 1770 he was commissioned by Mme du Barry to decorate her newly built Pavillon de Louveciennes, with four large paintings (“Progress of Love,” Frick Collection, New York City), and in 1772 he received a somewhat similar commission from the notorious actress Madeleine Guimard. Neither was a success, the Louveciennes paintings probably being rejected as too Rococo for a totally Neoclassical setting.

A journey to the Low Countries perhaps in 1772–73 increased his admiration for Rembrandt and Hals and was reflected in his later portraits. A second visit to Italy followed in 1773–74.As before, he concentrated on drawing picturesque Italian landscape subjects rather than on painting. The return journey was taken through Vienna, Prague, and Germany. Onhis return to Paris, the family was joined by his wife's 14-year-old sister, Marguerite, with whom Fragonard fell passionately in love. Consequently, he turned his interests toward a new type of subject matter: domestic scenes inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau's moral philosophy or romantic novels (“The Happy Family”) or scenes concerned with children's upbringing, in which his son Évariste (born 1780) frequently figures (“The Schoolmistress”).

In the last years preceding the French Revolution, Fragonard turned finally to Neoclassical subject matter and developed a less fluent Neoclassical style of painting (“The Fountain of Love”), which becomes increasingly evident in his later works, particularly the genre scenes executed in collaboration with Marguerite Gérard (“The Beloved Child”).

Fragonard's art was too closely associated with the pre-Revolutionary period to make him acceptable during the Revolution, which also deprived him of private patrons. At first he retired to Grasse but returned to Paris in 1791, where the protection of the leading Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David obtained for him a post with the Museum Commission, but he was deprived of this in 1797. Hespent the rest of his life in obscurity, painting little. His death in 1806 passed almost unnoticed, and his work remained unfashionable until well after 1850.

Fragonard has been bracketed with Watteau as one of the two great poetic painters of the un poetical 18th century in France. A prodigiously active artist, he produced more than 550 paintings, several thousand drawings (although many hundreds are known to be lost), and 35 etchings. His style, based primarily on that of Rubens, was rapid, vigorous, and fluent, never tight or fussy like that of so many of his contemporaries.

Although the greater part of his active life was passed during the Neoclassical period, he continued to paint in a Rococo idiom until shortly before the French Revolution. Only five paintings by Fragonard are dated, but the chronology of the rest can be fairly accurately established from other sources such as engravings, documents, etc.

Sir F.J.B. Watson



Jean-Honore Fragonard
The Progress of Love
Frick Collection New York

 This is one of a series of four scenes depicting the awakening of love in the heart of a young girl, commissioned by Madame du Barry, who succeeded Madame de Pompadour as the king s favourite. The series did not find favour with her, however, and Fragonard failed to secure consistent and highly placed patronage.





1769; oil on canvas; 81 x 65 cm fj2 x 26 in); Musee du Louvre, Paris.


Jean-Honore Fragonard
Man Playing an Instrument (The Music)



Painted when the artist was at his most successful, this portrait, also known as Portrait of Monsieur de la Breteche, shows a musician with his instrument, probably a lute. He is shown seated with his back to the viewer, but looking over his shoulder. In accordance with prevailing fashion, he is wearing make-up. His curly, tousled hair is half covered by a plumed cap, his robe is partially off one shoulder, and he is wearing a bright yellow shirt with a white-collar. Towards the upper right-hand section of the painting a music score is spread open.


1. The composition is organized along oblique lines. A diagonal runs from the top right-hand corner, with the subject's torso occupying the lower right-hand triangle and his hand, forearm, head, and shoulders occupying the triangle in the upper left-hand section. The forearm and the head are positioned on two diagonal lines. Oblique lines can be traced from his right shoulder, across his back, and along his left leg. With the forearm, these create an impression of recession from foreground to background, while the diagonal of the head directs the face upwards and slightly forwards from the hack to the front.

2. The composition is constructed according to an irregular variation of curved lines and movement, in keeping with the character of Rococo art. A sinuous style of drawing characterizes the whole of the figure, defining it in space by bringing it closer to the picture plane. This treatment is complemented and partially contrasted by the use of energetic contours. The artist has employed brushwork that cart either define or blur the outlines. There are no acute angles among the fragmented and varied curves, and the light angle formed by the chair is softened by the use of white. The relative rarity of acute angles in Rococo art distanced it from the Gothic and Renaissance styles, while its realism and naturalism indicated a new artistic approach.


Jean-Honore Fragonard
The Music


3. The painting conveys a strong sense of action unexpectedly interrupted and a moment seized, while the lively brushwork expresses a mood of spontaneity on the part of the artist himself. However, closer examination reveals that, in fact, precision governs every line. Vie alternation of brilliant highlights and dramatic chiaroscuro bring a vitality to a composition that might otherwise have lacked dynamism.

4. The vibrant, resplendent colour follows the rhythm of the brushwork in a harmonious, almost melodic manner, lie rich yellow of the sleeve gives way to warm, coloured shadows, where the fabric is enlivened only by a few rapid strokes of white paint. The sketchy white collar is loosely rendered with a Remhrandtesque touch. The edges of the musical score are curled and the pages appear to be blown by a soft breeze. The reddish hues that characterize this work give the picture a warm and translucent quality.


Jean-Honore Fragonard
The Music


5. From the initally monochrome foundation of the ground, loaches of red. brown, green, and white build a face with expressive lines and gaze. Above the forehead the hair is dishevelled and curly, emerging from underneath a brilliantly coloured scarlet hat. Shadows shape the slightly sagging cheeks and the full, well-defined lips are enlivened with red. In the subject's glance, which is penetrating and rather serious. Fragonard seems to anticipate Impjressionism in his commitment to canvas of a single fleeting "impression''



She Turns My Head

The Garden of Earthly Delights

(K.Reichold, B.Graf)

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

Jean-Honore Fragonard
The Swing

c. 1767
Oil on canvas
81 x 65 cm
The Wallace Collection, London


One day in October 1766, the Parisian painter Jean-Honore Fragonard was summoned to the hunting lodge of Baron Saint-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-year-old Fragonard took advantage of a grant from the Academie 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 Pans, 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 Frenchman 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

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Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin

Jean-Honore Fragonard


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