Overview

Perhaps more than the work of his two teachers, Boucher and Chardin, Jean-Honoré Fragonard's bravura handling of brushwork and color embodies eighteenth-century painting aesthetics. In A Young Girl Reading, the subject is shown in profile holding a book in her right hand and completely absorbed in her reading. She appears to be sitting in a window as light illuminates her face and body, casting a faint shadow against the wall. She wears a lemon-yellow dress with a white collar and cuffs accented with lilac ribbons at her bodice, neck, and hair. She is resting on fluffy pillows rendered in warm brown tones and highlighted in light purple. Each texture is rendered in a different brushstroke: her dress a thick weave of yellow and white, the pillows more loosely sketched, and her collar edged with the handle of the brush.

As in Chardin's Soap Bubbles, the viewer has the illusion he is privy to an intimate moment. However, in Fragonard's work, the bright yellow of the girl's dress and the agitated strokes clash with the solitude associated with reading.

Inscription

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Possibly comte du Barry, Paris;[1] (Du Barry sale, Paillet at Hôtel d'Aligre, Paris, 11 March 1776 and days following, no. 80); purchased by Mailly or Neiully [sic]. (sale, Paillet at Hôtel d'Aligre, Paris, 7 February 1777, no. 15). Jean François Leroy de Sennéville [1715-1784], Paris; (his sale, Chariot and Paillet at Hôtel de Bullion, Paris, 5-11 April 1780, no. 59); purchased by Duquesnoy, Paris; (his sale, at his residence by Regnault, Paris, 1-3 March 1803, no. 19). (sale, Alliance des Arts, Paris, 26 April 1844, no. 14). Casimir Perrin, marquis de Cypierre [1783-1844], Paris; (his estate sale, at his residence by Thoré, Paris, 10 March 1845 and days following, no. 55). Comte Pierre de Kergorlay [1847-1919], by 1889.[2] (Gimpel and Wildenstein, Paris); sold 1899 to Ernest Cronier [1840-1905], Paris; (his estate sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 4-5 December 1905, 1st day, no. 8); purchased by Ducrey. Dr. Théodore Tuffier [1859-1929], Paris, by 1910 [or possibly purchased 1905 at Cronier sale through Ducrey], until at least 1928. (Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Paris, New York, and London); Alfred W. Erickson [1876-1936], New York, by 1930;[3] by inheritance to his wife, Anna Edith McCann Erickson [d. 1961], New York; (her sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 15 November 1961, no. 16); purchased by NGA with funds provided by Ailsa Mellon Bruce [1901-1969], New York.

Exhibition History

1909
Cent portraits de femme, Jeu de Paume, Paris, 1909, no. 64, repro.
1910
Ausstellung von Weken Französischer Kunst des XVIII. Jarhhunderts, Königliche Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 1910, no. 138 (no. 51 in French edition of catalogue).
1921
Exposition d'oeuvres de J.-H. Fragonard, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Pavillon de Marsan, Paris, 1921, no. 56.
1933
Three French Reigns (Louis XIV, XV & XVI), Sir Philip Sassoon's Residence, London, 1933, no. 517.
1935
French Painting and Sculpture of the XVII Century, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1935-1936, no. 45, repro.
1951
Wildenstein Jubilee Loan Exhibition, 1901-1951: Masterpieces from Museums and Private Collections, Wildenstein & Co., New York, 1951, no. 29, repro.
1969
In Memoriam, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1969, unnumbered checklist.
1980
Fragonard, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo; Kyoto Municipal Museum, 1980, no. 61, repro.
1987
Fragonard, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1987-1988, no. 136, repro.
2002
Painting Women: Fragonard to Bouguereau, San Diego Museum of Art, 2002-2003, no cat.
2003
The Age of Watteau, Chardin, and Fragonard: Masterpieces of French Genre Painting, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Altes Museum, Berlin, 2003-2004, no. 81, repro.
2007
Inspiring Impressionism: The Impressionists and the Art of the Past, High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Denver Art Museum; Seattle Art Museum, 2007-2008, no. 38, repro.

Bibliography

1905
Nolhac, Pierre de. J.-H. Fragonard. Paris, 1905: 146, repro.
1910
Glaser, Curt. "Ausstellung von Werken Französischer Kunst des 18. Jahrhunderts in der Königlichen Akademie der Künste zu Berlin." Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst 21 (March 1910):133, repro.
1929
Osborn, Max. Die Kunst des Rokoko. Berlin, 1929: repro. 227, 614.
1960
Wildenstein, Georges. The Paintings of Fragonard. New York, 1960: no. 391, repro.
1962
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Treasures from the National Gallery of Art, New York, 1962: 112, color repro.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 214, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 52
1966
Boucher, François. Fragonard. Paris, 1966: XII, repro.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:322, color repro.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 44, repro.
1969
Walker, John. Self Portrait with Donors. Boston & Toronto, 1969:45-46, repro.
1971
Cott, Perry B."The Ailsa Mellon Bruce Gifts." The Connoisseur 178 (Dcember 1971): 256-257, repro.
1972
Mandel, Gabriele. L'Opera completa di Fragonard. Milan, 1972: no. 419, repro.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 132, repro.
1978
King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 64, pl. 37.
1979
Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 87, pl. 75.
1979
Wilson, Michael. Eighteenth-Century French Painting. Oxford, 1979:8, repro. pl. 35
1984
Norton, Thomas E. 100 Years of Collecting. New York, 1984:174, repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 336, no. 451, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 160, repro.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 259, color repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 173, repro.
1995
Apostolos-Cappadona, Diane. The Spirit and the Vision: The Influence of Christian Romanticism on the Development of 19th-Century American Art. Atlanta, 1995: 83-85, fig. 11.
1997
Acton, Mary. Learning to Look at Paintings. London, 1997: 10-12, fig. 3.
1998
Faxon, Alicia Craig. "Reading." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography. 2 vols. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. Chicago and London, 1998: 2:768.
1999
Zuffi, Stefano and Francesca Castria, La peinture baroque. Translated from Italian by Silvia Bonucci and Claude Sophie Mazéas. Paris, 1999: 317, color repro.
2001
Southgate, M. Therese. The Art of JAMA II: Covers and Essays from The Journal of the American Medical Association. Chicago, 2001: 70-71, color repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 255, no. 207, color repro.
2005
The Arts of France from François Ier to Napoléon Ier. A Centennial Celebration of Wildenstein's Presence in New York. Exh. cat. Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York, 2005: 60 (repro. no. 61), 73 (not in the exhibition).
2009
Conisbee, Philip, et al. French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2009: no. 31, 160-166, color repro.
2009
Cooper, Harry. The Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection: Selected Works. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2009: 6-7.
2012
Hess, Jonathan M. "Reading and the Writing of German-Jewish History." In Literary Studies and the Pursuits of Reading ed. Eric Downing, Jonathan M. Hess, and Richard V. Benson. Rochester, 2012: 120-122, fig. 5.6.
2012
Percival, Melissa. Fragonard and the Fantasy Figure: Painting the Imagination. Burlington, Vt., 2012: viii, 23, 26, 29, 149-150 , color pl. 14.
2013
Harris, Neil. Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience. Chicago and London, 2013: 7, 67.

Technical Summary

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