Tuesday, November 15, 2016

FRAGONARD: Drawing Triumpant at The Met: Review By Polly Guerin

The Swing 1766 Wallace Collection, London 
Whenever I think of Jean Honore Fragonard I recall at best his series on romance,"The Progress of Love," for which he is chiefly known.  It calls to mind his most famous  painting, "The Swing' with its enchanting colorful depiction of an erotic subject that was then in vogue.
    However, the current exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, FRAGONARD: Drawing Triumphant --Works from New York Collections sheds new light on one of the most forward-looking and inventive artists of the 18th century. Now on view through January 8, 2017 at the Met Fifth Avenue, Galleries 691-693,  the exhibition celebrates the artist's achievements as a master draftsman. 
The Armoire (Lover discovered( 1778
    Among the 100 works on paper on view, nearly half are from private collections, some of which will be shown publicly for the first time. Now is your chance to re-discover Fragonard in this rare opportunity to see well-loved masterpieces alongside new discoveries and works that have long been out of the public eye.  The exhibit reveals how Fragonard, one of the most forward-looking and inventive artists of the 18th century was equally skilled in drawing and etching. In this genre, Fragonard explored the potential of chalk, ink and wash to create sheets that were works of art in their own right. As displays of virtuosity and an imaginative spirit, Fragonard's drawings were highly prized from his own day to the present.
     The Armoire was Fragonard's first print and his most accomplished, the culmination of many months immersion in printmaking. A technical tour de force, it would have appealed to contemporary audiences for its entertaining subject.  Furious parents have stormed into their daughter's bedroom, she weeps into her apron while her lover is discovered shame-faced in the armoire.
      The freedom and speed afforded by chalk or wash on paper were particularly suited to Fragonard's improvisational talents and allowed his creative genius to shine.  Among the other subjects for which he is best known are joyful images of daily life, portraits, and landscapes, as well as episodes from the Bible and diverse works of literature from the fantastic to the licentious. The frolicking children, young lovers, and sunlit gardens that spring from his imagination are not weighted down by detail, but rather speak to the viewer's sensitivity and appreciation of the subject.
    The exhibition follows the chronology of the artist's life, from his early training in Paris in 
Fragonard Triumph-Works from New York Collections
the studio of Francois Boucher to his training at the French Academy in Rome, to his return to the French capital, and ultimately to his break with the official arts establishment.  A highlight is the display of all five of the works on paper, three drawings, an etching,  and a gouache, related to the famous composition The Little Park (Le petit parc). Also on view, are many pairs of works whose compositions echo one another, experimental variations on themes, often in different media.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!!  Re-connecting with Fragonard as a master draftsman and printmaker is a challenging experience. Do go with an open mind and find new reverence in Fragonard's genius. Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com.  In addition, visit Polly's Blogs at www.pollytalk.com and click on the links in the left hand column to subjects that resonate with your interest.

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