Jean-Honore Fragonard was a French painter and printmaker from the Rococo period. He was a pivotal figure during the late Rococo, primarily known for his exuberant and hedonistic compositions, the prime example being The Swing.
Jean-Honoré was born on April 4, 1732, in Grasse, France. His inclinations towards art were recognized at a young age, but only with 18 years, he became an apprentice, initially, he was taught by François Boucher. However, he saw his potential and refused to waste his time with someone so inexperient and sent him to Jean-Batiste-Siméon Chardin’s atelier. He then, after six months, came back under Boucher’s teachings. In 1752, although not being a student at the Academy, Fragonard was awarded the Prix de Rome. Four years later, he ingressed at the French Academy in Rome.
He became friends with the painter Hubert Robert, and in 1760 they traveled throughout Italy, this trip rendered him a lot of sketches as well the scenery that later would become part of his paintings. He also came to admire Flemish and Dutch masters like Rembrandt, Hals, and Rubens, but especially Giovanni Battista Tiepolo with his sumptuous florid work.
He hesitated between themes, religious or classic, among other subjects. He started painting voluptuous sceneries, mainly because of the interest of Louis XV’s court on such topics. These paintings would be his most recognized works, like The Blind Man’s Bluff and especially L’escarpolette (The Swing). These works were accepted at the time but not with the acclaim expected by Fragonard, and this would make him abandon Rococo and move towards Neo-classicist experimentation.
Fragonard married a fellow painter, Rosalie, who became his model, they had a son, Alexandre-Évariste Fragonard, who later became a talented sculptor and painter. The French Revolution deprived him of most of his patrons at the time; they were either exiled or guillotined.
Although there is limited information regarding Fragonard’s pupils, it’s certain that Marguerite Gerard, his 14-years-old sister-in-law, became both his pupil and assistant; she became a quite successful French artist. His son, Alexandre-Evariste Fragonard, also became a skilled sculptor and painter.
Although he was regarded as one of an essential Rococo’s painters, and his painting The Swing is often considered one of the masterpieces of this era, Fragonard died almost forgotten.
Jean-Honore Fragonard died in Paris, on August 22, 1806, virtually forgotten.