Fragonard - Young Girl Reading

Jean Honoré Fragonard, “Young Girl Reading”, c. 1769, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mrs. Mellon Bruce in memory of her father, Andrew W. Mellon

‘Fragonard: The Fantasy Figures’ - NGA Washington



‘Fragonard: The Fantasy Figures’ brings together—for the first time—a newly discovered drawing by Jean Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806) and some 14 of his paintings that have been identified with it. National Gallery of Art, Washington, October 8–December 3, 2017.

Source: National Gallery of Art, Washington

Fragonard strove to create a specific portrait type that showcased the painterly skill for which he was renowned. The fantasy figures also enabled him to experiment and to refine his ideas of artistic reference and emulation. Created within the competitive atmosphere of the Parisian art world, these works were influenced by a range of events, artworks, and visitors to his studio.

The fantasy figures depict men and women posed at leisure or employed in various pursuits, such as acting, reading, writing, playing instruments, or singing. Wearing extravagant attire, these figures are dressed in what was known in 18th-century France as à l'espagnole (Spanish style)—plumed hats, slashed sleeves, ribbons, rosettes, ruffs, capes, and accents of red and black. Shaped by artistic imagination, these paintings pushed the boundaries of accepted figure painting at the time.

Exhibited for the first time is the newly discovered “Sketches of Portraits” (c. 1769), a thin sheet of paper with three rows of 18 small sketches—all but one are annotated with a name, 14 have been identified with one of Fragonard's painted fantasy figures, and four remain unknown. The emergence of “Sketches of Portraits” prompted a two-year investigation of “Young Girl Reading”, conducted as a collaborative effort by the Gallery's Yuriko Jackall, assistant curator of French paintings, John K. Delaney, senior imaging scientist, and Michael Swicklik, senior conservator of paintings. Published in the April 2015 issue of “Burlington Magazine”, the findings established “Young Girl Reading” as a part of the fantasy figure series and shed light upon Fragonard's approach to the ensemble as a whole.



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