ALEXANDRE-ÉVARISTE FRAGONARD (1780-1850)
THE BATH OF VENUS
Signed to mount l.r.
Pen & ink with bistre wash on paper
14.5 x 20.5 cm
Private Collection, France
Alexandre-Évariste Fragonard was the son of the renowned rococo painter Jean Honoré Fragonard, and studied first under his father. He later received instruction from Jacques-Louis David, and was a contemporary of Ingres in the David studio. The younger Fragonard's reputation inevitably was unfairly eclipsed by these illustrious peers, and he is only now beginning to be revaluated as a considerable talent in his own right. Fragonard was prolific and remarkably versatile across media and subjects, painting large decorative subjects, working as a sculptor, designing for prints, costumes and Sévres porcelain, and showing himself to be a gifted draughtsman.
Fragonard's time under David was during his enrolment at the age of just twelve at the Academy’s école des Eléves Protégés. He first exhibited at the Salon in Paris a mere year later, aged thirteen, and his early subjects were indebted to his teacher, with the subjects largely revolutionary and neo-classical in style. Fragonard followed the general critical reaction against the rococo manner made famous by his father; however, as his career progressed, he assimilated many of the older Fragonard's techniques that had been passed down to him in his youth.
By the first decade of the nineteenth century, Fragonard had begun to receive important Napoleonic commissions, including the designs for the Colonne de la campagne de Pologne. Although Fragonard did not send works to the Salon between 1812 and 1819, he nevertheless becae an eminent member of the artistic establishment and, in 1815, received the decoration of Chevalier de Légion d'honneur.
Fragonard was always willing to adapt to current tastes and was especially versatile in this regard: by the 1820's, historical genre painting had become hugely fashionable, with the emergence of the 'Troubadour' school of artists who drew on Medieval and Renaissance subjects. Fragonard would put his own stamp on the genre, retaining his rich palette, painterly flourishes (the natural evolution of his father's manner), and dramatic lighting, all of which made him in a sense a forerunner to the later Romantic artists such as Delacroix or Bonington.
During the Restoration and July Monarchy Fragonard received important commissions for decorations in the Louvre, Versailles, and a number of important churches in Paris and Strasbourg. This later period also yielded a fruitful collaboration with the Sévres Manufactory, with Fragonard designing both decoration and objects themselves.