Jean-Honore Fragonard – French Painter – 'The Rococo Style'

Jean-Honore Fragonard was one of the most celebrated French painters & printmakers of the eighth century. His works were set in the 'Rococo' style of painting, centered on the luxurious, aristocratic life, rather than that of self-righteous martyrs and heroes. Jean was born on April 5, 1732 in Grasse, France, to a middle-class family of François Fragonard, a glove maker. In 1738, the Fragonards moved to Paris after François went broke.

When eighteen, Jean's aptitude for arts prompted his father to get him controlled under François Boucher, the then Royal Painter. Boucher recognized Jean's talent, but due to his inexperience, sent him to the distinguished painter, Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, in 1750, for laying a strong foundation in painting. Trained Jean-Honore Fragonard returned to Boucher after six months, for further substantial grooming. In 1752, the polished painter won the prestigious Prix de Rome scholarship for "Jeroboam sacrificing to the Golden Calf (1752)." Pursuing this, he opted for three-years training in 'History painting,' at the École Royale des Elèves Protégés, Paris.

Jean-Honore Fragonard then ventured out to explore Italy and joined the French Academy in Rome, on September 17, 1756. Here, he befriended fellow artist, Hubert Robert. Together, the duo traveled through Italy, capturing the exotic sceneries onto their canvas. Fragonard's paintings like "Saint Celestine V Renouncing the Papacy (1761)," were archetypical of the Flemish and Dutch styles, with loose, yet powerful brush strokes. After a spell of five years, Jean returned to Paris in 1761.

In 1765, his painting "Coresus et Callirhoe (1765)" received huge critical acclaim and appreciation. Marveled by this work, King Louis XV bought and treasured it. This patronage of the King earned him more assignments, like the series of paintings commissioned by Madame du Barry, the official mistress of Louis XV. (1760), "La Culbute (The Tumble)" (1766), "L", "La Culbute (The Tumble) (1767), Le Verrou (The Bolt) (1777-78), La Chemise enllevée (The Shirt Removed) (1770), and The Stolen Kiss (1788). These bold paintings depicted the subjects in various amorous positions against a backdrop of lush green landscapes adorned with mythological statues and attractive flowers. The tepid public response to these bold series of paintings made him experiment with 'Neoclassicism,' giving up 'Rococo' completely.

Meanwhile, Jean-Honore Fragonard married in 1769, and had a daughter, who later became his favorite subject in his paintings. In October 1773, he again went to explore Italy with his friend, Pierre-Jacques-Onesyme Bergeret de Grancourt. Among the paintings created during this time were "Seated Man Reading (1773-4)," "A Fisherman Pulling a Net (1774)," and "A Fisherman leaning on an Oar." On his return to Paris, he fell in love with his wife's sister, with whom he had a son, Alexandre-Évariste Fragonard, in 1778. Alexandre was also a brilliant painter and sculptor. With the outbreak of the French Revolution, Jean's fellow artists and benefactors were forced to leave France. He himself took refuge at his friend's place in Maubert, Grasse in 1793. He also painted huge panels in this house, and named the series, "Les progrès de l'amour dans le coeur d'une jeune fille."

After his return to Paris in the early nineteenth century, he died on August 22, 1806 in anonymity. The French Revolution away away the sheen from his glorious career, and his identity as one of the greatest French artist was lost. Later researches, however, rediscovered the artist, bringing into light his brilliant 'Rococo' style, and courageous outlook towards painting. Jean was a prolific artist, who created at least 550 paintings. His work is appreciated and exhibited in many art galleries, such as Louvre (Paris), Wallace Collection (London), and the National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC).