French Studies, Vol. 0, No. 0, 1 REVIEW Fragonard: Drawing Triumphant. Works from New York Collections.By PERRIN STEIN; with contributions by MARIE-ANNE DUPUY-VACHEY,EUNICE WILLIAMS, and KELSEY BROSNAN. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. xix þ 301 pp., ill. As Perrin Stein points out in one of the introductory essays to this catalogue, which ac- companied the show of the same title at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Jean-Honore´ Fragonard’s graphic practice cannot be separated from the aesthetic interests of the period into which he was born. If, during the Renaissance, drawings were considered primarily disposable working tools for painters, by the seventeenth century they had blos- somed into a collecting category among amateurs, and by the eighteenth had migrated from a collector’s portfolio to being framed and displayed on walls as works of art in their own right. (Stein and her co-authors do valuable work in tracking down eighteenth- century auction catalogues, in which drawings were indicated as being sold framed, and other documentation of this tendency towards display.) This goes a long way to explaining Fragonard’s drawing practice: as calculated by Stein’s co-author, Marie-Anne Dupuy- Vachey, less than ten per cent of his graphic output can be related to ﬁnished paintings, while the rest consists of landscapes, copies from old masters, original genre scenes, illustrations — mostly never engraved or published — to books such as Orlando Furioso or Don Quixote, and more. Fragonard, that is, did not conceive of drawing as adjunct to his painting production, as many others of his contemporaries still did, but as parallel to it. Drawing enabled him to explore his interest — also visible in the brushwork of many of his paintings — in the graphic trace, whether this manifested itself as glorious smears of red chalk, zigzags of black chalk, delicate bistre washes, or nearly abstract strokes of black ink. The graphic trace was also prized by amateurs, who learned, through the newly developed aesthetics of the sketch, to see in an unﬁnished rendering proof of an artist’s ﬁery artistic genius and to prefer such works to more ﬁnished ones, which were consid- ered appropriate for less sophisticated collectors. In turn, as shown by Dupuy-Vachey, such notions led to some of Fragonard’s drawings selling during his lifetime for higher prices than some of his paintings, a situation inconceivable a century before. Despite the geographical limitations of the exhibition concept, Stein and her collaborators have managed to compile a representative corpus of Fragonard drawings, illustrating all the periods of his career and genres in which he worked. The drawings shone on the walls of the museum and they still do in excellent colour reproductions in this publication. (It is a great blessing that print technology has evolved to make reproducing drawings in colour affordable, while as recently as two decades ago — further testimony to the continuing perception of drawing as an adjunct art — most exhibition catalogues still opted to reserve colour for paintings and relegate drawings to black-and-white plates.) Particularly notable is Stein’s decision to exhibit and discuss Fragonard’s small body of original etchings side by side with his drawings, as embodiments of a similar mark-making impulse. Stein’s essay, ‘Originals, Copies, Mirrors, and Multiples’, analysing Fragonard’s use of counterproofs and other copying methods, is perhaps this publication’s most valuable scholarly contribution. ANDREI MOLOTIU doi:10.1093/fs/knx253 INDIANA UNIVERSITY # The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: email@example.com Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/fs/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/fs/knx253/4817090 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 12 July 2018
French Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 18, 2018
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