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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

From the Collection— Bacchanals by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

The current exhibition in the European works on paper rotation space (on view until April 2) is Gods and Heroes: Classical Mythology in European Prints. The show features 21 prints that cover the Renaissance through the early twentieth century and are by artists from Germany, Holland, France, Italy, and England. Each print offers insight into why European artists used the narratives of classical mythology. This is the first in a series of posts focusing on the exhibition.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (French, 1732–1806), Nymph Supported by Two Satyrs, from the series Bacchanals, 1763. Etching. Plate and sheet: 5 7/16 × 8 1/8 in. (13.81 × 20.64 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the DASS Fund M2010.65.1. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.
Jean-Honoré Fragonard (French, 1732–1806), Nymph Supported by Two Satyrs, from the series Bacchanals, 1763. Etching. Plate and sheet: 5 7/16 × 8 1/8 in. (13.81 × 20.64 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the DASS Fund M2010.65.1. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

For most visitors to the Milwaukee Art Museum, the French artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806) is known as a painter. He painted The Shepherdess (pictured below), which is the focal point of our Rococo gallery.

And it is the centerpiece of this gallery for good reason! It is a perfect example of the elegant and amorous style so popular in eighteenth century France.

A beautiful young lady, dressed in a fashionable and revealing costume (we can see her ankles!), sits in the countryside awaiting her lover, who enters the scene over the distant hill. The composition is full of delicate curlicues and pastel colors, creating a frothy vision of the pastoral ideal.

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Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Chestnut Bowl and Stand

Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory (Sèvres, France, established in 1756), painted by Denis Levé (French, active 1754–1805). Covered Chestnut Bowl and Stand (marronière), 1757–58. Soft paste porcelain, vert ground color, polychrome enamels, and gilding tureen. Bequest of Mrs. Arthur J. Riebs given in memory of her father C.W. George Everhart, and her mother Lillian Boynton Everhart. Photo credit John R. Glembin
Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory (Sèvres, France, established in 1756), painted by Denis Levé (French, active 1754–1805). Covered Chestnut Bowl and Stand (marronière), 1757–58. Soft paste porcelain, vert ground color, polychrome enamels, and gilding
tureen. Bequest of Mrs. Arthur J. Riebs given in memory of her father C.W. George Everhart, and her mother Lillian Boynton Everhart. Photo credit John R. Glembin

What do you know about chestnuts?  You might think of the opening lines of The Christmas Song (“chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”).  The song is a sure sign that Christmas is coming, but how many of us have actually eaten a chestnut?

For thousands of years, chestnuts have been a nourishing food around the world.  They can be eaten raw, dried, boiled, baked, and roasted, or even ground into flour.  The ancient Greeks and Romans ate chestnuts. Roasted ones could be found for sale on the streets of Rome in the 1500’s and in America in the early 20th century; you can still find them offered by street vendors in countries such as China, the Philippines, Japan, and Turkey, and in Europe during the winter. (They are less familiar in the United States today because of chestnut blight, a fungus that killed off the chestnut trees in America during the early 20th century.)

But our subject today is the chestnut in France–18th century France, to be specific.

Categories
Art Exhibitions

From the Collection–Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Shepherdess

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Shepherdess, ca. 1750/52. Bequest of Leon and Marion Kaumheimer. Photo credit John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Shepherdess, ca. 1750/52. Bequest of Leon and Marion Kaumheimer. Photo credit John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls

In my high school art history class, my teacher, having covered with reverence the high-contrast drama of the Baroque, flipped the slide machine to show Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Swing and paused, glaring at the slide in the darkened room. Then she pronounced: “The Rococo. I loathe the Rococo! The Rococo is art history’s porn!”