These are the 12 most famous paintings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, who was a French painter and printmaker whose work was distinguished by remarkable hedonism and facility. He produced more than 550 paintings and among his most popular works are genre paintings conveying an atmosphere of intimacy and delicacy, with veiled eroticism.
The Swing (1767)
The Swing is one of the most famous paintings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, and together with Blinman’s Buff are counted among Fragonard’s greatest achievements and as one of the top paintings of the 18th-century French landscape paintings. The myriad details of the painting, bubbling fountain, shadowy sculptures, and overgrown flower beds put the viewer’s focus in constant motion.
Blindman’s Buff (1775–1780)
This painting depicts well-dressed men, women, and children playing a game in a romanticized and picturesque garden. Landscapes but particularly gardens formed a significant aspect of the artists’ oeuvre. This painting was intended to hang left to The Swing so that when seen side by side, these paintings can be appreciated as one panoramic composition, centered on a mound.
The See-Saw (1750–1752)
This French Rococo painting was one of Fragonard’s early works. Together with Blindman’s Buff, The See-Saw forms a pair and while it focuses on courtship, the See-Saw suggests that the relationship has been consummated.
The Birth of Venus (1753–1755)
Fragonard used red chalk and other media to sketch the work before transferring it onto canvas. This painting shows a frequent motif of 18th-century artists – the birth of Venus. The painting itself and the sketch of it are an example of Fragonard’s habit of reversing scene direction and figure positions with the goal of achieving an ideal composition.
The Musical Contest (1754–1755)
This painting was mistakenly thought to be by François Boucher, but it is an early work by Fragonard dating from the period immediately following his time in Boucher’s studio. Even though the subject is inspired by Boucher’s pastorals, the handling is characteristic of Fragonard, because of the warmer palette combined with attention to surface effect and twisting poses with drapery.
The Bathers (1765)
This genre, oil on canvas painting depicts the frequent theme that appeared in the careers of many famous artists of the 18th century. It shows five figures of entwined, nude women enjoying their time in a natural setting.
Aurora Triumphing over Night (1755-1756)
Fragonard painted the goddess of the dawn just as the ancient writer described her – with rosy fingers. He has depicted sprinkling rose petals from the morning sky onto the sleeping figure of Night. The scene embodies the 18th-century Rococo style, and the horizontal format of the canvas indicates that it originally served as an over-door decoration, probably in a Parisian townhouse.
The Love Letter (1770)
This painting depicts a seated woman and a dog, but this painting should not be read as a portrait, but as a genre scene that takes up a key 18th-century theme – the love letter. Ina brown tone, the artist seems to sketch with the tip of his brushes of various thicknesses to capture sunlight that lands on the center of the canvas, along the lady’s cap and dress.
A Young Girl Reading (1776)
This painting shows a model in a yellow dress seated at a window ledge, holding up a book in her right hand. The girl seems remote and absorbed in her book and her costume, with an elaborate collar, evokes contrast to her lemon-colored dress.
The Stolen Kiss (1780s)
This painting depicts a young couple in a secretive romance set in the foreground, a subject that was favored before the French Revolution (1789-1799) among the aristocracy. This painting was a part of the Russian imperial collection, as it was owned by Tsar Alexander I, the first emperor of Russia.
The Grape Gatherer (1754–1755)
Fragonard painted an entire series of similar paintings in 1755, such as The Gardener, The Reaper, or The Shepherdess. They are all single figures, done in similar colors showing the characteristics of the Rococo style.
The Bolt (1777)
This scene is one of the most famous Fragonard paintings. It depicts two lovers entwined in a bedroom, while the male figure is locking the door. This painting is a symbol of the free spirit of the 18th century and reflects the state of mind of the artists of the era.
What famous paintings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard do you think we should add to this list? Comment below.