Indepth Arts News: |
"Painting Women: Fragonard to Bouguereau"
2002-11-23 until 2003-04-27
San Diego Museum of Art
San Diego, CA,
USA United States of America
Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s masterwork, A Young Girl Reading (ca. 1776), is the focal point of a special gallery installation that brings together twelve paintings of women from SDMA’s collection, including favorite works by William Bouguereau, Joaquín Sorolla, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Peter Hurd. On temporary loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Fragonard’s painting presents an image of bravura brushwork and rich color that embodies the painting aesthetics of his time, particularly in how they were applied to the depiction of women.
Fragonard (1732–1806) was the leading rococo painter of his generation during the second half of the 18th century in France. His exotic landscapes inhabited by frolicking lovers and intimate scenes of everyday life, such as A Young Girl Reading, were highly sought after by his many patrons.
The roots of Fragonard’s preoccupation with the female figure can be traced back to the very origins of Western art. Indeed, the earliest depictions of a human figure in the history of art, namely Paleolithic representations of so-called fertility goddesses, are of the female form. With classical antiquity, the human form was accepted as a canon of beauty, a tradition that has endured with tenacity in Europe. By the eighteenth century, the conventions of depicting women were so well established—and employed by artists in works ranging from religious imagery to portraiture and even unabashed voyeurism—that painters commonly used the subject, with little regard for its underlying meaning, in their investigations of style and technique. Fragonard’s painting, like those from SDMA’s collection, can thus be regarded as an opportunity to explore the painter’s creative spirit.
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, (French)
A Young Girl Reading, c. 1776
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Gift of Mrs. Mellon Bruce in memory of her father,
Andrew W. Mellon, 1961:16.1,