A French painter
of the eighteenth century, a follower of Watteau
in his scenes of gently elegant merrymaking
in pastoral scenes.
He was born at Grasse in 1732, and studied under Boucher; he won a Prix de Rome in 1752 and while studying in Italy was influenced by the great works he saw there. His early works were in the grander historical style, but he settled into his characteristically playful and intimate studies in never-never-land countryside. Fragonard died in 1806.
Perhaps his single most famous image is of the young lady in the swing. In a full-flowing pink dress, she is the centre of attention, while two gentlemen watch and assist. All around them the bosky woods enclose, unthreateningly. Until looking at it close up again today, I hadn't noticed that one of her pink shoes is flying off into the air as she swings. It's in the Wallace Collection in London.
Fragonard's light, unlike Watteau's, is very focused. It highlights the scene in a precise way, and comes intensely from a direction, such as the bright day sky visible outside the confines of the wood. But he positions it skilfully. The foreground figure may be in relative darkness, touched with a twilight glow as in the works of Caspar David Friedrich after him.