Les surprises de Fragonard
“It is high time to turn Fragonard into a deep painter”, Philippe Sollers wrote back in 1987 in an essay that accompanied the retrospective dedicated to the painter at the Grand Palais. Some thirty years later, when the painter comes back to the same venue, with paintings that are even more romantic, it is not a bad idea to publish this essay once again. Sollers juggles brilliantly between Diderot, Sade, the abbot de Saint-Non, light actresses such as Vestris or Guimard (who were the painter’s main admirers), the Grimm brothers or artist David, sprinkling his sentences with spicy words: “I will paint with my rear-end” is one of the only quotes unanimously attributed to Fragonard. We discover a painter who was quick, who went rarely to the court where Madame de Pompadour and Marie-Antoinette ignored him, who was in love with Italy, and who, unexpectedly is put in parallel with Manet and Picasso rather than with Watteau. A free man whose last joke played on others was his own death at the age of 74 when in the middle of the month of August he ate an ice cream and got a cold.
Review published in the newsletter #399 - from 24 September 2015 to 30 September 2015