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.
Marks and Labels
Verrier; (his 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. (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; 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.
- Cent portraits de femme, Jeu de Paume, Paris, 1909, no. 64, repro.
- Ausstellung von Weken Französischer Kunst des XVIII. Jarhhunderts, Königliche Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 1910, no. 138 (no. 51 in French edition of catalogue).
- Exposition d'oeuvres de J.-H. Fragonard, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Pavillon de Marsan, Paris, 1921, no. 56.
- Three French Reigns (Louis XIV, XV & XVI), Sir Philip Sassoon's Residence, London, 1933, no. 517.
- French Painting and Sculpture of the XVII Century, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1935-1936, no. 45, repro.
- Wildenstein Jubilee Loan Exhibition, 1901-1951: Masterpieces from Museums and Private Collections, Wildenstein & Co., New York, 1951, no. 29, repro.
- In Memoriam, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1969, unnumbered checklist.
- Fragonard, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo; Kyoto Municipal Museum, 1980, no. 61, repro.
- Fragonard, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1987-1988, no. 136, repro.
- Painting Women: Fragonard to Bouguereau, San Diego Museum of Art, 2002-2003, no cat.
- 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.
- 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.
- Nolhac, Pierre de. J.-H. Fragonard. Paris, 1905: 146, repro.
- 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.
- Osborn, Max. Die Kunst des Rokoko. Berlin, 1929: repro. 227, 614.
- Wildenstein, Georges. The Paintings of Fragonard. New York, 1960: no. 391, repro.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Treasures from the National Gallery of Art, New York, 1962: 112, color repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 214, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 52
- Boucher, François. Fragonard. Paris, 1966: XII, repro.
- 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.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 44, repro.
- Walker, John. Self Portrait with Donors. Boston & Toronto, 1969:45-46, repro.
- Cott, Perry B."The Ailsa Mellon Bruce Gifts." The Connoisseur 178 (Dcember 1971): 256-257, repro.
- Mandel, Gabriele. L'Opera completa di Fragonard. Milan, 1972: no. 419, repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 132, repro.
- King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 64, pl. 37.
- Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 87, pl. 75.
- Wilson, Michael. Eighteenth-Century French Painting. Oxford, 1979:8, repro. pl. 35
- Norton, Thomas E. 100 Years of Collecting. New York, 1984:174, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 336, no. 451, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 160, repro.
- Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 259, color repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 173, repro.
- 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.
- Acton, Mary. Learning to Look at Paintings. London, 1997: 10-12, fig. 3.
- Faxon, Alicia Craig. "Reading." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography. 2 vols. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. Chicago and London, 1998: 2:768.
- Zuffi, Stefano and Francesca Castria, La peinture baroque. Translated from Italian by Silvia Bonucci and Claude Sophie Mazéas. Paris, 1999: 317, color repro.
- 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.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 255, no. 207, color repro.
- 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).
- 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.
- Cooper, Harry. The Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection: Selected Works. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2009: 6-7.
- 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.
- Percival, Melissa. Fragonard and the Fantasy Figure: Painting the Imagination. Burlington, Vt., 2012: viii, 23, 26, 29, 149-150 , color pl. 14.
- 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.
- Dupuy-Vachey, Marie-Anne. "Fragonard's 'fantasy figures': prelude to a new understanding." The Burlington Magazine 157 (April 2015): 241-247, figs. 8, 12.
- Goulemot, Jean M. Le petit dictionnaire: Fragonard, en 16 plaisirs. Paris, 2015: 51-52, color repro.
- Jackall, Yuriko, John K. Delaney, and Michael Swicklik. "'Portrait of a woman with a book': a 'newly discovered fantasy figure' by Fragonard at the National Gallery of Art, Washington." The Burlington Magazine 157, no. 1345 (April 2015): 248-254, figs. 17, 19-22, 27.
Work of Art
Work of Art
- Event Name
- March 1–June 1
- Mon, Tues, and Wed at 1:00
- March 5, 2012 at 2:00
March 7, 2012 at 4:00
- East Building, Auditorium
- Name of docent
- 60 minutes
- Registration for this event begins on April 1, 2012 at noon.
- Download the program notes (100k)
- Italian Collection