Jean-Honore Fragonard was a great French painter of the 18th century who worked mainly in the Rococo style. He was a very active artist throughout his life with over 550 paintings to his name as well as numerous drawings and etchings. Fragonard is very well known even today, though perhaps not in the way he originally envisioned. Many of his paintings are used regularly for such things as greeting cards and the like.
The Swing is one of Fragonard’s most well-known works. A woman in a flowing salmon pink dress sits on a swing hanging from the branch of an ancient, gnarled tree. A man stands in the shadows and swings her back and forth by way of thin ropes which are tied to the swing. A second gentleman is in the foreground of the painting. He lounges amid the flowering plants and watches as the woman kicks a leg up revealing stockinged legs and the many layers of the petticoats underneath her dress. It is a somewhat fantasized scene. The location is an ancient garden with statues of cupids, flowers and truly ancient trees that reach towards the heavens, never seeming to end. Light streams down through a small opening in the canopy, illuminating the woman on the swing, almost making it seem as if she is glowing.
Another very famous painting by Fragonard is The Reader. This is a quieter scene that lacks the fantasy-like setting of that in The Swing. A young girl sings in a chair. A small book is open in her hands which she is reading with quiet intent. She doesn’t seem to notice the viewer, instead being completely consumed in what she is reading. The girl wears a bright yellow dress the immediately draws the eye. Light glints off the white ruffles about her neck and wrists as well as the bright white pages of the small book in hands. The background is not nearly as detailed as that in The Swing with the overgrown garden and forest. Instead it is plain, the walls of the room on shown in shadow and without decoration or any kind of adornment.This shows just how versatile a painter Fragonard was. Two paints that differ so vastly in subject and composition are two of his greatest works, still beloved today. Fragonard was the greatest of the Rococo painters, something that can be seen through the vast amount of paintings he produced in his lifetime. So famous was he, in fact, that even today he is known by only one name, Fragonard, despite having many relatives and descendants who were also artists. Today Fragonard remains one of the greatest artists of the Rococo style.