Fragonard at the National Gallery

Jean Honore Fragonard (1732-1806) became one particular of the most well-known painters of the French Rococo design. The courts of King Louis XV (1715-1774) and Louis XVI (1754-1793) had been regarded for their luxury and excessive. Even though it was the age of Enlightenment, with Voltaire wanting religious toleration and Diderot publishing the initially encyclopedia, Fragonard’s patrons required scenes of festivals, mythological enthusiasts, and entertainments, often with sensual implications.

“Blind Man’s Bluff” (1775-76)

Fragonard’s patrons often asked for sequence of paintings in groups of four or five. The Nationwide Gallery of Artwork (Washington, D.C.) consists of four of these paintings. “Blind Man’s Bluff” (1775-76) (85’’ x 73’’) depicts a significant backyard of a French estate. Below a blue sky with fluffy white clouds, two fountains, formal flower beds, a wide variety of tall trees, marble colonnades, and a very well-groomed lawn present a romantic and breath-taking placing. At the ideal, members of the social gathering delight in a luncheon buffet though they watch a game of blind man’s bluff. Closer in, a pair enjoys sitting on the grass as they far too search on.

The marble fountain at the still left spurts high into the air. The feminine figures that type the foundation of the fountain may perhaps represent the Vestal Virgins, Roman maidens who served the goddess of the Fireplace, Vesta. Their career was to see that the sacred fire of the fireplace by no means went out. To be a Vestal Virgin, a youthful girl was demanded to get a vow of chastity. Another statue of a female can be seen on a hilltop at the right. Also tiny to determine, it is probably a statue of the goddess Vesta, or possibly Athena, who frequently is depicted wearing a helmet mainly because she is each the goddess of wisdom and war. 

Blind Man’s Bluff” (element)l

The principal attraction is the blind-folded young girl in a white gown, who turns awkwardly all over trying to discover one of her buddies. Many others in the party dodge to continue to be out of her attain. The recreation is entertaining, but its depiction is supposed to recommend the problems of locating a acceptable husband or wife. Or, specified the presence of the Vestal Virgins, perhaps the message would be it is improved to keep on being unmarried. In the distance some others take pleasure in this pleasurable park.

The Swing” (1775-76)

“The Swing” (1775-76) (85” x 73”) is the companion to “Blind Man’s Bluff.” The viewer can see the matching trellis of pink and pink flowers at the reduce remaining and right corners of the two paintings when they are hung aspect by facet. The foliage of the trees also offers a steady see across the paintings. A younger lady, dressed in pink and gold, sits on the swing. She raises her still left hand to greet her buddies. The swing is pulled with a rope by a gentleman who stands between the two fountains, the h2o flowing from the mouths of the lions. At the still left corner, a gentleman in environmentally friendly and a girl in pink engage in with their boy or girl in the lion fountain. Her mates check out from the lawn and talk with a person yet another.

At the proper corner of the painting, a female in purple and her companion sit on a marble system. She is wanting as a result of a telescope. Too shut to be employing the telescope to glance at her buddy, she appears to look off into the distance. What is she wanting at? Or more exciting, what is she looking for? 

Is this Fragonard operate just a different lovely scene of people getting entertaining, or could there be another interpretation? Paired with the blind-folded lady trying to find a mate, the again- and-forth motion of the swing and the pulling on the rope suggest the culmination of the act of love. Despite the fact that these recommendations have been slight, other of Fragonard’s paintings, for occasion his “Swing” of 1766, leave no question about the intention of the artist with regard to the wants of his patrons.

“A Match of Horse and Rider” (1775-80)

“A Video game of Horse and Rider” (1775-80) (45.5” x34.5”) yet again depicts a scene established in a large backyard garden. Nevertheless, this backyard garden is organic, not formal, as is the matter issue. The informal garden does not have not properly-intended flower beds, or meticulously arranged marble partitions. The trunks of the tall birches at the remaining facet crisscross every other, achieving substantial into the sky, with their, leaves fanning out. At the suitable facet an old gnarled tree, missing most of its leaves, is silhouetted against the sky. There are no paths, and the grass meets a winding stream, the place in the length a gondola pulls up to the shore to enable off passengers who have come to take pleasure in the day. 

The figures in the foreground also offer distinction. The grownups at the remaining of the scene lounge quietly on the grass, engaged in dialogue. Outside of them a young boy runs, toes flying and arms elevated in anticipation of jumping into the sport. The rowdy game of horse and rider usually takes place less than to the old tree. 

“A Match of Horse and Rider” (detail)

The activity of horse and rider is made up of two groups. The multi legged horse group braces by itself from the tree. The riders race in and bounce on to the horse. It is then the career of the horse to try out to shake off all of the riders. This accomplished, the teams trade places. It is a rough and tumble activity for boys. Meanwhile, the young person and female may well be discussing a later on “tussle” of their individual.


A Match of Scorching Cockles” (1775-80)

“A Game of Scorching Cockles” (1775-80) (45.5” x 34.5”) is the companion piece to “A Match of Horse and Rider.” There is proof that these paintings were slash down to make them shorter. Having said that, the dates and issue matter counsel they were being a component of the identical series, or of a really comparable series by Fragonard. He developed lots of of these painted series. Both paintings depict a pair lounging on the grass and participating in non-public discussion. The gardens contrast the organic with the official, and have paths at the centre that lead into the length. The “Hot Cockles” garden is formal, with intended beds, measures foremost to a route, and sculptures. A youthful few sits on a stone bench at the left. 

“A Sport of Scorching Cockles” (depth)

A sport of hot cockles is currently being performed by a lively group of young people today at the proper aspect of the painting. The sport of hot cockles, has almost nothing to do with cockles and muscular tissues, but was a sensuous deal with. The “penitent,” the gentleman dressed in gold, kneels prior to a younger lady, inserting his head on her lap. How usually would this have occurred? His hand positioned on his back again, he endures other players taking turns slapping his hand, or his bum. It is his career to determine who has slapped him. In this occasion, he seems to place at either the girl in blue or the other woman who huddles with her. Of training course, the “penitent” can misidentify who has slapped him in buy to keep on to bury his facial area in the woman’s lap.

Two sculptures are placed in the back garden. The determine of a woman at the remaining is most probable a goddess, but not so recognized. At the correct, on major of the pedestal is the very well-acknowledged sculpture titled “Menacing Cupid” by Etienne Maurice Falconet. Cupid retains his finger to his lips, and he watches the naughty game.

Fragonard’s travels to Italy, which include many visits to its beautiful parks, gardens, and fountains, remaining an indelible mark on his creativeness. Although the four paintings in the Nationwide Gallery have been not painted in Italy, they mirror Fragonard’s enthusiasm for his matter. He painted with a fluid brush stroke nicely suited to the attraction of his figures and their configurations. He is described by artwork historians as a virtuoso. 

Beverly Hall Smith was a professor of art history for 40 several years.  Since retiring with her spouse Kurt to Chestertown in 2014, she has taught art historical past courses at WC-ALL. She is also an artist whose function is sometimes in exhibitions at Chestertown RiverArts and she paints sets for the Garfield Centre for the Arts.

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