Thursday, April 5, 2007

French Pastry

Jean-Honore Fragonard, lead painter of the Rococo style in 18th century France, just before the French Revolution brought it all down, was born on this day in 1732. Turning 275 is not one of those nice, round anniversary numbers that museums like to commemorate, but I thought he was worth more than a passing mention.

Fragonard is one of those sweet, pleasant, subtly erotic, and almost always prolific (in a completely un-tortured artist kind of way) artist that enters and exits my imagination as quickly as I turn away from his works to something else, as filling for the soul as light French pastry is for the stomach. The Rococo style is such a sorbet of an artistic style, an intermezzo between the beefy Baroque and the robust Romantics, that I have trouble remembering anything of the genre. It was only when my wife and I visited Paris a few years ago and saw the opulence of the age that I could come to any kind of appreciation of his work as being totally a creation of its time and place.

Unfortunately, the only Fragonard work that has taken any purchase in my memory is his painting The Swing (shown above) because the scene is recreated as one of the vignettes of the Broadway musical Contact, which my wife and I saw years ago and came away from sorely unimpressed.

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