Jean-Honoré Fragonard (French, Grasse 1732 - 1806 Paris)
View of a Park, ca. 1760-67
10 13/16 x 15 1/2 in. (27.5 x 39.4 cm)
Black chalk and grey wash on white laid paper
R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund, 1951
This delightfully rococo view is based on Fragonard's experience of Italian parks during his sojourn in Rome in 1756-61. Lush vegetation swallows up the architecture and tiny figures in a complex, somewhat irrational composition. The white of the paper imbues the leafy space with light, which is intensified by the crisp graphic marks in black chalk that ripple playfully over the surface of the drawing.
The Italian park or garden is an essential element in Fragonard's paintings, etchings, and drawings. The gardens of the Villa d'Este at Tivoli, which had been constructed in the late sixteenth century, were overgrown and neglected (and hence more "picturesque" than any contemporary French gardens) when Fragonard spent the summer of 1760 there as the guest of the amateur artist and collector, the Abbé de Saint-Non (1727-1791). 1 Fragonard produced many red-chalk sketches in situ that summer, 2 and repeatedly referred to the gardens' crumbling architecture and overgrown shrubbery in his later landscapes and pastoral scenes. Indeed the sheer abundance of such elements in Fragonard's drawings makes the precise dating of these works extremely difficult.
Although the Oberlin drawing presents an imagined garden, several of its architectural elements have been observed in other drawings from the Rome and Tivoli period: the circular temple, the fountain with lions, and the stairways and arbors with urns. 3 The drawing also reveals Fragonard's Roman relationships with Saint-Non as well as Hubert Robert (1733-1808). Two works by Saint-Non have been compared to the Oberlin drawing: 4 an etching inscribed "Fragonard del Roma" after a lost drawing by Fragonard, and a landscape drawing, which includes the two lions and the leafy arcade and is inscribed "Rac[c]olta di vedute...Roma 1760." 5 More generally the complex composition of the Oberlin work reflects the work of Robert, with whom Fragonard spent much time drawing the environs of Rome. 6
Although Tivoli, Saint-Non, and Robert are accepted as essential elements in the genesis of the Oberlin drawing, the dating of the work itself is controversial. Writing in 1951, before the publication of the Ananoff catalogue raisonné and before Williams's chronology of Fragonard's techniques and media, Johnson dates the drawing to the 1770s. 7 Eunice Williams rejects this late date when, in her view, Fragonard would have been more apt to describe the foliage with the point of his brush rather than with black chalk as in the Oberlin drawing. 8
Williams links the Oberlin drawing to its putative pendant, the View of a Park (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art), a drawing of similar size, media, subject, and composition, and in the same private collection until 1951 (see Provenance). The Metropolitan drawing was done, she posits, shortly after Fragonard's return to Paris in 1761, 9 whereas the Oberlin drawing, which exhibits a more skillful use of wash and greater precision and delicacy in the details, was done several years later. Williams finds in the Oberlin drawing the graphic equivalents of The Swing (1766-77, London, Wallace Collection), and she dates it similarly.10
Jean Massengale considers the drawing to have been done during the fall or winter of 1760-61, following Fragonard's summer at Tivoli, and before his trip around Italy with Saint-Non and subsequent return to Paris. 11 She compares Fragonard's use of black chalk and wash, a new technique for the artist, to his reworking in wash of counterproofs of several red-chalk drawings done at Tivoli. 12 She also cites another Fragonard drawing of this period, which includes figures similar to the couple in the background of the Oberlin drawing. 13 Finally, she relates the drawing to Fragonard's Le Petit Parc in the Wallace Collection, London, an imaginary garden landscape probably painted shortly after the artist's return to Paris in 1761. 14
Rosenberg accepts Williams's grouping of the Oberlin and Metropolitan drawings, but tentatively assigns them Massengale's date of 1760-61. He concludes: "If these works postdate the red-chalk drawings of Tivoli, but predate the copies of old masters that were also made for the Abbé de Saint-Non, then they would be proof of Fragonard's versatility and talent, and of his ability to change styles rapidly." 15
The technique in the Oberlin drawing does not seem that different from the Tivoli counterproofs or even the red-chalk drawings. In the counterproofs, Fragonard reworked hatched areas with wash; in the Oberlin and Metropolitan drawings he substituted wash for hatched tone. He began by freely sketching in a black chalk underdrawing, as he did in the red-chalk drawings; these faint lines can still be seen in the sky, in the fountain, and in the recesses of the temple. He then added tonal washes, in a range from palest greys to near black, but leaving much of the paper untouched. He finally drew the dark and spirited foliage, similar in style and technique to that found in the Tivoli drawings.
J. S. Wilker
Fragonard, the only child of tradesmen, was born in the south of France and moved with his family to Paris when he was six. He studied briefly with Chardin and from about 1749 with François Boucher, whom he assisted on decorative commissions and tapestry designs. After winning the Prix de Rome in 1752, he prepared for his trip at the École des Élèves Protégés and then traveled to Italy in late 1756. He remained in Italy through 1761. A pensionnaire at the French Academy in Rome, he copied Italian paintings and sketched en plein air in the Roman campagna with his friend and fellow student Hubert Robert (1733-1808). During the summer of 1760 Fragonard was the guest of the Abbé de Saint-Non (1727-1791) at the Villa d'Este, near Tivoli, and made numerous drawings of the overgrown park and gardens. In 1761 he traveled around Italy with the Abbé, copying recent Italian paintings, and drawing architectural views and landscapes.
Fragonard returned to Paris in 1761 and was accepted as an agréé by the Académie Royale in 1765 for his painting of Coresus and Callirrhoë. Although this painting was a great success at the Salon of that year, Fragonard did not pursue further a career as a history painter within the official salon system. Instead he exploited his talent for rapidly brushed easel paintings and decorative works for private collectors. He worked up several of his Italian sketches into oil paintings and painted and drew genre scenes, amorous pastorales, mythological subjects, and portraits de fantaisie. He made a second extended trip to Italy in 1773-74 with the collector Bergeret de Grancourt (1715-1785). Back in Paris he continued to produce easel paintings and drawings, decorative landscapes, scenes of family life, and portraits of his wife, Marie-Anne Gérard, and his children. The family moved to Grasse in 1789, but returned to Paris in 1792. During the last decade of his life, Fragonard served as the head of the new museum at the Louvre and oversaw the establishment of another at Versailles.
An intuitive and highly original draftsman, Fragonard produced nearly three thousand drawings, autonomous works which were collected by friends and patrons. His drawn oeuvre includes all the subjects of his paintings, plus several series of drawings for book illustrations. The two Italian trips resulted in many sketches done in situ and inspired many more souvenirs de mémoire done back in Paris. The influence of these picturesque scenes of Italy is felt throughout his varied oeuvre, from 1761 until the end of his career.
Ananoff, A. L'Oeuvre dessiné de Jean-Honoré Fragonard. 4 vols. Paris, 1963.
Williams, Eunice. Drawings by Fragonard in North American Collections. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1978.
Rosenberg, Pierre. Fragonard. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1988.
Collection Comte de Montesquiou (not in sales Montesquiou-Fézensac, Paris, 29 - 31 January 1872, or 19 March 1897)
With M. Knoedler & Company, Inc., New York, from whom purchased in 1951 16
Palm Beach, Fla., Society of the Four Arts, 1952-53. Eighteenth Century Masterpieces. 12 December - 4 January. No cat.
New York, M. Knoedler & Company, Inc., 1954. Paintings and Drawings from Five Centuries: Collection Allen Memorial Art Museum. 3 - 21 February. Cat. no. 53.
Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1956. Les Fêtes Galantes. 20 January - 5 March. No cat.
Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Museum of Art, 1956. Drawings and Watercolors from the Oberlin Collection. 11 March - 1 April. No cat.
Minneapolis, University Gallery, University of Minnesota, 1961. The Eighteenth Century. 24 January - 7 March. Cat. no. 24.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1966. Treasures from the Allen Memorial Art Museum. 21 July - 11 September. No cat.
London, Royal Academy of Arts, 1968. France in the Eighteenth Century. 6 January - 3 March. Cat. no. 272.
Cambridge, Mass., Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, 1979. Fragonard Drawings in North American Collections. 15 February - 1 April (also shown at Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; and New York, The Frick Collection). Cat. no. 20.
Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1981. Three Masters of Landscape, Fragonard,Robert, and Boucher. 10 November - 27 December. Cat. no. 7.
Johnson, Ellen H. "A Fragonard Drawing." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 9, no. 3 (1950-51), pp. 71-80.
Hamilton, Chloe. "Catalogue of R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund Acquisitions." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 16, no. 2 (Winter 1959), cat. no. 53; no. 3 (Spring 1959), ill. p. 254.
Ananoff, A. L'Oeuvre dessiné de Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Vol. 2. Paris, 1963, no. 949.
Stechow, Wolfgang. "Varieties of Landscape." Apollo 103, no. 168 (1976), p. 116, fig. 10.
Stechow, Wolfgang. Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolors in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College. Oberlin, 1967, p. 27, fig. 16.
Williams, Eunice. Drawings by Fragonard in North American Collections. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1978-79, pp. 68-69, ill.
Massengale, Jean Montague. "Review of Eunice Williams's Drawings by Fragonard in NorthAmerican Collections." The Burlington Magazine 121 (April 1979), pp. 271, 273, fig. 101, p. 274, fig. 106.
Near, Pinkney L. Three Masters of Landscape, Fragonard, Robert, and Boucher. Exh. cat., Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, 1981, p. 21, cat. no. 7.
Rosenberg, Pierre. Fragonard. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1988, pp. 116-17.
Massengale, Jean Montague. Jean-Honoré Fragonard. New York, 1993, p. 26, ill.
This drawing is executed in black chalk and grey wash on white laid paper. Over a lightly sketched underdrawing in black chalk, the work is delicately drawn with many small strokes, building to a complicated, detailed, and vigorous composition. The drawing was done on the screen side of the sheet and a distinct fine laid pattern is apparent in the chalk marks. The washes provide tonal variation, and there is also some point-of-brush work in the figures and foliage.
The watermark is a Crown with Posthorn, similar to Churchill 323, a Dutch paper made by the L. V. Gerrevink mill (active 1690-1819). 17 Stamped on the old mat was the letter "G," the sign of Jean-Baptiste Glomy, who mounted and framed works in the second half of the eighteenth century. He signed the work he did for Fragonard and Boucher.
In 1977 the drawing was removed from the mounting board, washed, and repaired. It is in good condition albeit with moderate planar distortions overall.
1. On Fragonard and the garden, see Kimerly Rorschach, "French Art and the Eighteenth-Century Garden," in Claude to Corot: The Development of Landscape Painting in France (exh. cat., Colnaghi, New York, 1990), pp. 114-16. See also David Coffin, The Villa d'Este at Tivoli (Princeton, 1960), and Dora Wiebenson, The Picturesque Garden in France (Princeton, 1978).
2. Most of Fragonard's Tivoli drawings are now at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Besançon.
3. Eunice Williams (Drawings by Fragonard in North American Collections [exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1979], cat. no. 4, with comparison on p. 68) compares the temple in the Oberlin drawing to the Doric temple in a black chalk and grey and brown wash drawing at the Baltimore Museum of Art, which she dates to about 1760. Ellen H. Johnson ("A Fragonard Drawing," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 9, no. 3 [1950-51], p. 75) discovered similar architectural details in the Vue du temple de Vesta à Tivoli, Les Jardins de la Villa d'Este à Tivoli, and Les Pins parasols de la Villa d'Este, all reproduced in Maurice Feuillet, Les Dessins d'Honoré Fragonard et de Hubert Robert au Musée de Besançon (Paris, 1926), cat. nos. 37, 35, and 28 respectively (A. Ananoff, L'Oeuvre dessiné de Jean-Honoré Fragonard [Paris, 1961-70], cat. nos. 864, 919, and 2389).
4. Jean Massengale, "Review of Eunice Williams' Drawings by Fragonard in North American Collections," The Burlington Magazine 121 (April 1979), p. 271; and idem. Jean-Honoré Fragonard (New York, 1993), p. 26.
5. The etching: Jardins et murs de la Villa d'Este, 1761, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale; reproduced in Pierre Rosenberg, Fragonard (exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1988), p. 117. The drawing: ca. 1760, graphite and wash, 21 x 13 cm, Houghton Library, Harvard University, where it is described as possibly by Fragonard or by Saint-Non.
6. Eunice Williams, Drawings by Fragonard in North American Collections (exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1978-79), p. 68.
7. Ellen H. Johnson, "A Fragonard Drawing," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 9, no. 3 (1950-51), pp. 71-80. Her dating is maintained by Wolfgang Stechow, Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolors in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College (Oberlin, 1967), p. 27; and by H. Thomas, in The Eighteenth Century (exh. cat., University of Minnesota, University Gallery, Minneapolis, 1961), cat. no. 24.
8. Eunice Williams, Drawings by Fragonard in North American Collections (exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1978-79), cat. no. 20. See also her discussion of Fragonard's technical development, op. cit., pp. 21ff.
9. Grey and bister wash on paper, over an underdrawing in black chalk, 27.8 x 39.7 cm, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. 52.14; A. Ananoff, L'Oeuvre dessiné de Jean-Honoré Fragonard [Paris, 1961-70], no. 2215; and Eunice Williams, Drawings by Fragonard in North American Collections (exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1978-79), cat. no. 6. Williams also mentions a third drawing, View of a Park with a Fountain (Paris, private collection), Ananoff, no. 944.
10. Eunice Williams, Drawings by Fragonard in North American Collections (exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1978-79), cat. no. 20.
11. This view is first expressed in a review of Eunice Williams's Drawings by Fragonard in North American Collections, in The Burlington Magazine 121 (April 1979), p. 271. The opinion is restated in Massengale's recent Jean-Honoré Fragonard (New York, 1993), p. 26.
12. For examples of the reworked counterproofs, Massengale cites Villa Aldobrandini (A. Ananoff, L'Oeuvre dessiné de Jean-Honoré Fragonard [Paris, 1961-70], no. 910) and Le Petit Parc (Ananoff, no. 2148).
13. Via Appia; see A. Ananoff, L'Oeuvre dessiné de Jean-Honoré Fragonard (Paris, 1961-70), no. 883, not illustrated. The reproduction of this work that appears in Saint-Non, Panopticon Italiano: Un diario di viaggio ritrovato, 1759-1761 (Rome, 1986), cat. no. 120, does not particularly support Massengale's suggestion.
14. Oil on canvas, 37 x 46 cm, London, Wallace Collection, inv. P379.
15. Pierre Rosenberg, Fragonard (exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1988), pp. 116-17.
16. The Oberlin drawing and that at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (see Main Text) were offered for sale as pendants at Knoedler's in 1951, with the information that they had been in the Montesquiou family for over one hundred years. According to Williams (Drawings by Fragonard in North American Collections [exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1978-79], cat. no. 20), the New York drawing had been offered for sale earlier in the year by Otto Wertheimer, Paris; it was purchased by the Metropolitan from Knoedler's in 1952.
17. W. A. Churchill, Watermarks in Paper in Holland, England, France, etc., in the XVII and XVIII Centuries and their Interconnection (Amsterdam, 1935).