Grasse’s Stolen Kisses

On 01 July 2018, by Vincent Noce
Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) and Marguerite Gérard (1761-1837), «Le Bouquet», 1783-1784,
oil on canvas, 54 x 45.5 cm. Private collection.

Grasse can rejoice in being the home to a business that invests so much in its cultural life. The private museum opened in 2011 by the Fragonard perfume company is hosting an exhibition that marks a milestone in our collaborator Carole Blumenfeld's work on French genre painting. This time focusing on the 1780s, it features thirty-odd pictures whose theme is the sensuous intoxication and easy morals that returned in the reign of Louis XVI. Thanks to numerous loans from private collections, visitors can rediscover the light-hearted works of the town's two native artists, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and his sister-in-law and pupil, Marguerite Gérard. But above all, they can see lesser-known paintings by more or less forgotten artists, like Henri-Nicolas Van Gorp, Jeanne Élisabeth Chaudet and Pauline Ozou. The curator is keen to rehabilitate the so-called "painters of pans and petticoats", who were rapidly swept aside by the heroism of revolutionary regimes. In Carole Blumenfeld's eyes, love scenes were far more than pleasant diversions designed to titillate the bourgeoisie: this was in fact "politically committed painting" supported by a "taste for illusion", which drew its inspiration from literature, and expressed the aspirations of the "social woman" to escape the shackles of family life.

"Parfums d'interdit", until 23 September,
Musée Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Grasse.
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