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Jean-Honoré Fragonard (Grasse 1732-1806 Paris)
Jean-Honoré Fragonard (Grasse 1732-1806 Paris)

A wooded landscape with milkmaids and their cattle sheltering from a shower

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (Grasse 1732-1806 Paris)
A wooded landscape with milkmaids and their cattle sheltering from a shower
oil on paper, laid down on canvas
12¾ x 16 1/8 in. (32.4 x 41 cm.)
with Thomas Agnew and Sons, London, from whom acquired by
C.G. Hoare, M.C., by 1970, and by descent.
London, Colnaghi, Paintings by Old Masters, 1958, no. 12.
London, Royal Academy, France in the Eighteenth Century, Winter Exhibition, 1968, no. 235.
King's Lynn, The Fermoy Art Gallery, The Collection made by C.G. Hoare, M.C., and Family, 25 July-8 August 1970, no. 17.

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Lot Essay

A wooded landscape belongs to a body of work, made over a period of ten years, in which Fragonard reproduced the manner of 17th-century Dutch landscapes, especially those of Jacob van Ruisdael (1629-1682).
Although his travels are only sketchily documented, it is certain that Fragonard journeyed through Holland, probably several times, in the late 1760s and early 1770s. It seems equally clear that he painted 'Dutch' landscapes well before the journey, since the finest examples of 17th-century Northern landscape art were abundant in French collections and appeared with considerable frequency in the sales rooms. While Fragonard was undoubtedly drawn to Northern art by personal inclination, the popular taste for Dutch landscape surely influenced his decision to paint his own landscapes in "le gout hollandais."
As close as they may come to replicating the look of 17th-century Dutch painting, Fragonard's landscapes are never slavish imitations, but rather highly conscious and personal interpretations of Northern art, which find their roots in both his close study of Dutch painting and the careful observation of nature. Fragonard learned to create new 'Ruisdaels' suitable to a new age and a culture far removed from that of 17th-century Holland.
A wooded landscape is unusual, but not unique, in being executed in oil paint on paper. The Ford, a well-known Dutch-style landscape by Fragonard in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Chartres, is of almost identical dimensions to the present work, of similar date (perhaps 1766-1768) and is also oil on paper, mounted on panel. Fragonard is also known to have painted landscapes on paper en plein air; few of these survive, but a beautiful example was acquired in 1997 by the National Gallery of Art, Washington (R. Rand, in P. Conisbee, et. al., French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century, 2009, Washington, D.C., no. 30, pp. 156-9).

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