WHEN THE GREAT eighteenth-century French painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard died in 1806, he had long ceased to be a central figure in the Parisian art world. His most characteristic work—brightly hued and fluidly painted pictures of courting aristocrats, scenes of rustic life, pleasure gardens, and erotic mythologies made in the 1760s and 1770s—seemed irrelevant after the political, social, and cultural upheavals of the French Revolution. Yet his obituary in the Journal de Paris lamented that, "the French school has lost a justly admired painter," whose works associated him with "the very idea of the Graces." The writer cited in particular two paintings, The Fountain of Love and The Sacrifice of the Rose, pictures from Fragonard's late career that are relatively little known today.
This exhibition explores a less familiar aspect of Fragonard's career. The Fountain of Love and The Sacrifice of the Rose are shown together with related paintings, drawings and prints produced in the 1780s, when his work underwent a profound change. Darker in palette, emotionally rich, obscure in meaning, these mysterious works differ radically from the artist's most famous pictures. They demonstrate how his painting evolved as he responded to new stylistic trends during this tumultuous period of French history.
This exhibition was organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum in association with the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.