“The criticism of Diderot and others stimulated artists to a new seriousness but did not change the pastel complexion of rococo overnight, as demonstrated by the works of Boucher and Fragonard in the Gallery, all done after 1750.
“Boucher was influenced by the subjects and delicate manner of Watteau’s fêtes galantes, which he had copied for published engravings. He soon came to the attention of the king’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour, and rose to prominence under her patronage. In addition to a productive career as a painter, he was also the principal designer for Sèvres porcelain and the Beauvais tapestry works, both projects dear to Madame de Pompadour. Boucher imparted the intimacy of the boudoir to all of his subjects, whether domestic scenes, pastoral idylls, or mythological themes.
“Fragonard began to study painting first with Chardin, then with Boucher, adopting the latter’s subjects but painting with a freer technique. He won both admiration for his fluid brushwork and criticism for the dashed, unfinished look of his canvases. During study in Italy he sketched Renaissance gardens, and these continued to haunt his expansive outdoor scenes peopled with tiny figures.
“Fragonard’s popularity made him wealthy, but he outlived his own era. Even before the revolution, sober neoclassical styles were replacing the giddiness of rococo. Fragonard was forced to flee France as the world he portrayed and the patrons he served fell to the guillotine.”
Insights into the works of two important French eighteenth-century painters, at the National Gallery of Art in the US – here.
‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ is freely available here.
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