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Fragonard's scenes of frivolity and gallantry are considered the embodiment of the Rococo spirit. A pupil of Chardin and later Boucher, he won the Prix de Rome and from 1756 to 1761 was in Italy, where he developed a particular admiration for Tiepolo and the late Baroque style. In this period he specialized in large historical paintings.
He travelled and drew landscapes with Hubert Robert and responded with especial sensitivity to the gardens of the Villa d'Este at Tivoli, memories of which occur in paintings throughout his career. After returning to Paris, he adopted the erotic subjects then in vogue and for which he is chiefly known, but his landscapes remained popular.
The painting, Fête at Rambouillet, is from a later period in his life. Although a departure from the erotic and genre scenes that had made him so popular, this 1780 painting portrays an idealized and aristocratic view of nature, where overdressed courtiers go out in boats to partake in a picnic. It could almost be used as an illustration for the Enlightenment's obsession with combining rationality and nature. Significantly, nature here is not the formal gardens of Versailles, but a rather wild, untamed stretch of forest and river. Already, Fragonard is pushing his art toward Romanticism.