Jean-Honore Fragonard:
Education is Everything

Click on the picture to see an inlarged version.

    • Oil on Canvas
    • Museum of Art
    • San Paolo

 Although Fragonard's scenes of frivolity and gallantry are considered the embodiment of the Rococo spirit, like most painters of the day, he worked in a number of areas.

After his marriage in 1769, although he continued to churn out the erotic "private pictures" for which he is best known, Fragonard increasingly began painting children and family scenes. These are usually called "genre painting", and were modeled on the "everyday" subjects favored by Dutch artists in the 17th century. Among these subjects, children playing games, such as dressing up dogs, were extremely popular.

In this charming work, Fragonard seems to be mocking the new Enlightenment theories of Education then popularly associated with the works of Rousseau. But genre painting is not out to make a philosophical point; they are cute, sentimental, and frequently humorous vignettes of daily life.

What feelings does Fragonard intend to induce in the viewer? Compared to his erotic and "gallant" pictures, what does this work say about French life at the end of the 18th century?

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