National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Young Girl Reading Jean-Honoré Fragonard (artist)
French, 1732 - 1806
Young Girl Reading, c. 1770
oil on canvas
overall: 81.1 x 64.8 cm (31 15/16 x 25 1/2 in.) framed: 104.9 x 89.5 x 2.2 cm (41 5/16 x 35 1/4 x 7/8 in.)
Gift of Mrs. Mellon Bruce in memory of her father, Andrew W. Mellon
On View
From the Tour: 18th-Century France — Boucher and Fragonard
Object 6 of 8

Fragonard painted several young girls in moments of quiet solitude. These works are not portraits but evocations, similar to the "fantasy portraits" Fragonard made of acquaintances as personifications of poetry and music. He painted these very quickly—in an hour, according to friends—using bold, energetic strokes. A Young Girl Reading is painted over such a fantasy portrait and shares its brilliant technique. The girl's dress and cushion are painted with quick and fluid strokes, in broad unblended bands of startling color: saffron, lilac, and magenta. Her fingers are defined by mere swerves of the brush. Using the wooden tip of a brush, Fragonard scratched her ruffed collar into the surface of the paint. This is the "swordplay of the brush" that Fragonard's contemporaries described, not always with universal approval. His spontaneous brushwork, rather than the subject, becomes the focus of the painting. Fragonard explored the point at which a simple trace of paint becomes a recognizable form, dissolving academic distinctions between a sketch and finished painting.

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