Friday, May 06, 2011

Arty Farty Friday ~ Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (self-portrait, left) was born on 5 April 1732 in Grasse, Provence, France. He became one of the last of the Rococo artists to make a mark in the artworld before the French Revolution deprived them of aristocratic, wealthy patrons. His work was neglected and forgotten by the time of his death in 1806.

He had travelled, studied and painted throughout France and Italy, his work had embraced religious, classical and other subject matter. The demand from wealthy art lovers of Louis XV's pleasure-oriented court led him to paint what have become his best known works. Scenes of playful love, light-hearted voluptuousness, mildly erotic, but delicate and beautifully detailed.

Rococo art portrayed a world of artificiality, make-believe, and game-playing - an art of the indulgent lifestyles of the aristocracy rather than piety, morality, self-discipline, reason, and heroism all of which was found in the earlier baroque style

Whereas in the cases of some painters it would seem they'd been "born too soon" into a world hardly ready for their style, in Fragonard's case it could be said that he was born a little too late.

Possibly Fragonard's best known painting is The Swing

(A little about its history and content)
The identity of the patron is unknown................ The picture was depersonalized and, due to Fragonard's extremely sensuous imagination, became a universal image of joyous, carefree sexuality.

The theme is that of love and the rising tide of passion, as intimated by the sculptural group in the lower centre of the picture. (Dolphins driven by cupids drawing the water-chariot of Venus symbolize the impatient surge of love).

Beneath the girl on the swing, lying in a great bush, a tangle of flowers and foliage, is the young lover, gasping with anticipation. The bush is, evidently, a private place as it is enclosed by little fences. But the youth has found his way to it. Thrilling to the sight now offered him, the youth reaches out with hat in hand. (A hat in eighteenth-century erotic imagery covered not only the head but also another part of the male body when inadvertently exposed.)

The feminine counterpart to the hat was the shoe and in The Swing the girl's show flies off her pretty foot to be lost in the undergrowth......... in French paintings of the period a naked foot and lost shoe often accompany the more familiar broken pitcher as a symbol of lost virginity.

However, all these erotic symbols would lie inert on the canvas had not Fragonard charged the whole painting with the amorous ebullience and joy of an impetuous surrender to love. In a shimmer of leaves and rose petals, lit up by a sparkling beam of sunshine, the girl, in a frothy dress of cream and juicy pink, rides the swing with happy, thoughtless abandon. Her legs parted, her skirts open; the youth in the rose-bush, hat off, arm erect, lunges towards her. Suddenly, as she reaches the peak of her ride, her shoe flies off.

A quick look at Fragonard's natal chart reveals that he had Sun/Mercury/Saturn close together in Aries. Venus, planet of the arts was in Taurus, it's home sign (a placement often found in the charts of artists). There's a configuration astrologers call a "Mystic Rectangle" here - I've highlighted it in the chart illustration because it does include planets which, together, reflect his chosen style.

The Sun/Mercury/Saturn group in Aries representing the essence of his "self" -an energetic go-getter, rather keen businessman too, links harmoniously via trines or sextiles to the three outer planets Neptune (creativity/imagination), Pluto (passion, sex), Uranus (the unexpected, rebelliousness). The two oppositions which form part of the Mystic Rectangle involve the Aries cluster in opposition to Pluto in Libra, and Neptune in Gemini opposite Uranus in Sagittarius. What this configuration could be said to represent is a largely free-flowing "energy" its details relating to the planets involved, with elements of difficulty arising from the two oppositions. It could be that while his skills in portraying such frivolous lightheartedness was fine for a while (the trines/sextiles) he found real life opposition to his style when the ruling regime changed after the French Revolution.

Other examples of his work:


Blind Man's Buff

The Stolen Kiss


Gian Paul said...

Agree with your comment that Fragonard arrived a bit late on the scene. But given for whom he worked, he probably was living in a "cosy cubicle", no need to imagine comming changes...

Hope that the beasts you encountered have gone by now and you've recovered from their bitings. Here in the tropics we tend not to use insecticides too much. Natural defenses are better: don't chase all the bats around your house, keep some ants alive (preferably the non-biting varieties). But your problem was different, "reserved for tourists", so to say. Nice to know you're back.

Wisewebwoman said...

Fragonard was mainly an idealist and sentimentalist, his paintings almost fairy tales.
Interesting chart, T.

Twilight said...

Gian Paul ~~~ Hi there! Yes, he must have been very well looked after by the high an mighty of his time.

Thanks, yes, bites fading - but only slowly - they seem to set one another off and a new one will appear of its own accord sometimes, without the aid of insect input!

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ He must have been both, yes! Also he was fulfilling the demands of his patrons - he couldn't have do so as successfully had he not had that inborn feel for the style.