fragonard the swing framed
But it is full of symbols, offering a window onto a particular moment in history. The girl on the swing represents the frivolity of the ancien regime before the excesses of the aristocracy were to bring about their own downfall.
In its context at Hertford House, hung on pale blue silk walls, this picture provides a perfect glimpse of mid-18th-century aristocratic France. But the importance of such iconic images is that they also inspire future artistic generations. Turner-prize nominee Yinka Shonibare recreated The Swing as a 21st century installation, the French coquette transposed into a headless mannequin wearing an African print dress, a reminder perhaps that the message of this painting is universal and timeless.
The Progress of Love series showcases Fragonard’s sense of rhythm in narrative and ability to create and resolve dramatic tension through the settings in which his figures are placed. In Love Letter, a break in the foliage above serves both to direct the audience’s eye toward the central couple and to illuminate them. The composition is framed by elements including flowers, foliage and statuary, all of which clarify the central meaning whilst retaining the viewer’s focus. This is the panel in which the narrative reaches resolution and this is reflected in the sky and trees; the dark clouds and rustling branches of earlier panels have given way to the restful glow of a calm twilight. It is this attention to mood, rendered through subtle shifts in light and the texture of brushstrokes, that set Fragonard’s work above that of his contemporaries.
Oil on canvas – Collection of the Wallace Collection, London, United Kingdom
- Natural white, matte, ultra smooth background
- 100% cotton, acid and lignin-free archival paper
- Custom trimmed with border for framing; 1″ for x-small and small, 2″ for all larger sizes
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The lady’s slipper, which flies off her foot as she swings so easily, is another playful touch which helps accentuate the erotic subject matter, as well as providing a visual focus in the splash of sunlight.
In the foreground the playboy Baron himself is depicted, reclining in the lush shrubbery, one arm outstretched towards the maiden’s skirts, his other arm holding his balance. He gave very specific instructions to Fragonard, stating “Place me in a position where I can observe the legs of that charming girl. “
Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806) was a prolific painter and draftsman, and is considered to be one of the most important French painters of the second half of the 18th century. Over four decades, he produced many brilliantly realized easel paintings, like The Swing (1767), and large-scale decorative works, like Progress of Love (1771–1772). These paintings marked Fragonard as a brilliant painter, but his apparently whimsical temperament and independent ways meant that he never realized the conventional rewards his talent deserved.
This framed print of Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s Young Girl Reading (1770) is part of the Gallery Shops’ Masterworks collection of reproductions, specially created using the Gallery’s finest quality digital imaging. The image was printed to Gallery specifications and the frame was selected as a style appropriate to the period.