Jean-Honore Fragonard:
The Bathers


Click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

    • Oil on Canvas
    • Louvre

Fragonard's scenes of frivolity and gallantry are considered the embodiment of the Rococo spirit. This picture was exhibited in 1765 shortly after his return from Rome, and is characteristic of a whole series of works noted for their delicate coloring and spontaneous brushwork. These virtues ensure that even his most erotic subjects are never vulgar, and this painting, considered one of finest, has an irresistible verve and joyfulness.

After 1767 he stopped exhibiting publicly and almost all his later work was done for private patrons. Among them was Mme du Barry, Louis XV's most beautiful mistress, for whom he painted the works that are often regarded as his masterpieces-the four canvases representing The Progress of Love (Frick Collection, New York, 1771-73). These, however, were returned by Mme du Barry and it seems that public taste was already turning against Fragonard's lighthearted style, even before the arrival of the more puritanical Neoclassical school of painting.

What kind of values does this painting evoke? In what ways does it seem to represent the aristocratic values of the ancien regime?

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