the swing (painting) colors
Interpretation of Other 18th Century Paintings
An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768) by Joseph Wright of Derby.
National Gallery, London.
Figure 1. Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, oil on canvas, 1767 (Wallace Collection, London)
Figure 2. Detail of The Swing
- One copy, once owned by Edmond James de Rothschild,  portrays the woman in a blue dress. 
- The other is a smaller version (56 × 46 cm), owned by Duke Jules de Polignac.  This painting became the property of the Grimaldi family in 1930 when Pierre de Polignac (1895-1964) married Princess Charlotte, Duchess of Valentinois (1898-1977). In 1966, the Grimaldi & Labeyrie Collection gave it to the city of Versailles, where it is currently exhibited at the Musée Lambinet, attributed to Fragonard’s workshop. 
This style of “frivolous” painting soon became the target of the philosophers of the Enlightenment, who demanded a more serious art which would show the nobility of man. 
In painting, this decorative style transferred to a love of whimsical narratives, pastel colors, and fluid forms. Both in aesthetics and subject matter, The Swing was clearly a work of this newer era of Rococo art.
Clearly Fragonard had no qualms in fulfilling the Baron’s bawdy requests as one glance at The Swing shows that the painting is bursting with incomparable glee and rapture. The star, wearing a fluffy, ballet-pink dress, flies on a luscious red-cushioned swing through the outlandish foliage until she kicks her pink mule off of her foot, letting the ecstatic gentleman below see up her skirt.
The garden was often used as a site for fantasy in 18 th century painting and games such as these were familiar to contemporary audiences as sexual allegories. This painting was completed while Fragonard was a student of Boucher, who was known for his own paintings of such scenes. Fragonard’s treatment of the scene is considerably subtler than those of Boucher, though audiences at the time would have recognized the double meaning in the ripe fruit and blossoming flowers alongside the see-saw itself and the posture of the young girl, who leans backward, her limbs outstretched; it is unclear, however, if the two children are intended as cupid figures or if they are included so as to imply the seduction of a governess. The painting showcases Fragonard’s early mastery of many of the elements that would come to distinguish his work, including his use of bright colors, strong tonal contrasts and foliage as a framing element.
Fragonard reportedly painted each of these portraits in only an hour and the speed with which they were executed contributes to the freshness and virtuosity of the brushstrokes. It is easy for the viewer to make out individual movements of the brush, capturing the loose folds of the shirt sleeve or the zig-zag of the cuff with fluidity. The colors are bright and intensely concentrated, particularly across the figure’s shirt. In The Writer and other works in this series, the energy of the painter’s process imbues the figures with a liveliness and immediacy of personality.