Jean-Honore Fragonard:
Useless Resistance


Click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

    • Oil on Canvas
    • c. 1770
    • San Francisco Museum of Art

  Although trained in the artistic tradition of large historical and religious paintings, Fragonard, upon his return to France, quickly took up the new genre of "erotic" private pictures. Designed to be sold quickly to a growing clientel of rich non-nobles, these paintings are relatively small, and suitable for hanging in the bedrooms, or private sitting rooms, of the emerging bourgeoisie.

After 1767, Fragonard concentrated almost entirely upon these celebrations of lustful beauty. They are distinguished, however, from the perennial popular works of pornography (such as one used to find in the back areas of filling stations) by their sheer beauty, witty characterization, and experimental brushwork. Thus even his most erotic subjects, and few exceed this little scene of lovers engaged in a pillow fight before or after other activities, they are never vulgar, and always seem to have an irresistible verve and joyfulness, almost bordering on naivete.

What kind of reaction does the artist expect from this work? What makes the scene erotic, and yet somewhat innocent and peaceful?

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