Painting Analysis “The Swing” Jean-Honore Fragonard


Painting Analysis “The Swing” Fragonard

In this Rococo painting, two lovers have conspired to make this older fellow push the young lady in the swing while her lover hides in the bushes. Their idea is that as she goes up in the swing, she can part her legs, and he can get a perfect view up her skirt. In some interpretations of the painting, the older man is described as a bishop, making the lovers’ conspiracy all the more sinful.

Mark Harden is awfully astute when he characterizes Fragonard, the artist, thus, “Although such works often had erotic overtones, they managed to escape accusations of vulgarity through the artist’s graceful and lighthearted handling of his subject matter.” So Fragonard delicately walks the line between crudeness and good humor.

Rococo is characterized by bright colors and playful scenes. The word Rococo is seen as a combination of the French rocaille, defined as stone, and coquilles, defined as shell, due to reliance on these objects as motifs of decoration.

The end of Fragonard’s life is a pretty sad tale. He was largely forgotten. Most of his wealthy patrons were executed during the French Revolution. Yet Fragonard’s realistic colors and confident brushstrokes would go on to influence many of the Impressionists like Manet, Renoir, and Monet. Some critics consider him one of the greatest French painters of all time.

At the bottom of the references is a link to Smart History. Smart History is a project by the critically acclaimed Khan Academy to explore great works of art. A lively, intriguing discussion follows the article on Fragonard in the comments section.


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