Fragonard’s Fantasy Figures
Yuriko Jackall, John Delaney, Michael Swicklik et al.
Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s Young Girl Reading, given to the National Gallery of Art by Ailsa Mellon Bruce in memory of her father, Andrew W. Mellon, remains one of the most widely beloved examples of the artist’s virtuosic style. In 2012 a newly discovered drawing by Fragonard further confirmed its rarity. The drawing was covered with a series of rapidly executed, thumbnail sized sketches, identifiable with a group of paintings by Fragonard known as his “fantasy figures” — quickly painted, vibrantly colored portraits of identical dimensions, each showing its model in extravagant fancy costume. All but four of the thumbnails can be matched to known paintings in private and public collections around the world.
At the National Gallery, the discovery of the drawing prompted a two-year collaborative study of Young Girl Reading by members of the curatorial, conservation, and scientific research departments. The team’s findings, published in the spring 2015 issue of Burlington Magazine, enabled them to establish Young Girl Reading as a fully fledged member of the fantasy figure series and also to shed light upon Fragonard’s approach to the ensemble as a whole.
The exhibition and catalog will bring together all of the known fantasy figures with the newly found drawing. The exhibition will mark the first time these paintings have been in the same setting in more than a generation. Situated at the intersection of social history, fashion history, and new scientific technologies, this unique project and its accompanying catalog will serve as an important compendium of information on Fragonard’s fantasy figures.
160 pages | 190 illustrations | 8 x 10.5 inches
Coming September 2017