Fragonard, Jean-Honoré (1732-1806). French painter whose scenes of frivolity and gallantry are among the most complete embodiments of the Rococo spirit. He was a pupil of Chardin for a short while and also of Boucher, before winning the Prix de Rome in 1752. From 1756 to 1761 he was in Italy, where he eschewed the work of the approved masters of the High Renaissance, but formed a particular admiration for Tiepolo.

  He traveled and drew landscapes with Hubert Robert. In 1765 he became a member of the Academy with his historical picture in the Grand Manner "Coroesus Sacrificing himself to Save Callirhoe". He soon abandoned this style, however, for the erotic canvases by which he is chiefly known. After his marriage in 1769, he also painted children and family scenes. He stopped exhibiting at the Salon in 1767 and almost all his work was done for private patrons. Among them was Mme du Barry, Louis XV's most beautiful mistress, for whom he painted the works that are often regarded as his masterpieces. These, however, were returned by Mme du Barry and it seems that taste was already turning against Fragonard's lighthearted style. He tried unsuccessfully to adapt himself to the new Neoclassical vogue, but in spite of the admiration and support of David he was ruined by the Revolution and died in poverty.

Fragonard was a prolific painter, but he rarely dated his works and it is not easy to chart his stylistic development. Alongside those of Boucher, his paintings seem to sum up an era. His delicate coloring, witty characterization, and spontaneous brushwork ensured that even his most erotic subjects are never vulgar, and his finest work has an irresistible verve and joyfulness.


"The Reader" (circa 1770-72) Oil on canvas, 82 x 65 cm - 32.3 x 25.6 in. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC., USA.

"The Stolen Kiss" (late 1780s) Oil on canvas, 45 × 55 cm - 17.72 × 21.65 in. Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

"The Happy Accidents of the Swing" (1767-68) Oil on canvas, 81 × 64 cm - 31.89 × 25.2 in. Wallace Collection, London, UK.

"Coresus Sacrificing himself to Save Callirhoe" (1765) Oil on canvas, 309 x 400 cm - 121.7 x 157.5 in. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France.

"Jeroboam Offering Sacrifice for the Idol" (1752) Oil on canvas, 115 x 145 cm - in. École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France.

"Psyche showing her Sisters her Gifts from Cupid" (1753) Oil on canvas, 168.3 × 192.4 cm - 66.26 × 75.75 in. National Gallery, London, UK.

Text source: 'Webmuseum' (

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Related Term: Rococo.


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