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Title: Fragonard - Masterpieces in Colour Series
Author: MacFall, Haldane, 1860-1928
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Masterpieces in Colour

Edited by--T. Leman Hare

FRAGONARD

      *      *      *      *      *      *

IN THE SAME SERIES

    ARTIST.                AUTHOR.
  VELAZQUEZ.             S. L. BENSUSAN.
  REYNOLDS.              S. L. BENSUSAN.
  TURNER.                C. LEWIS HIND.
  ROMNEY.                C. LEWIS HIND.
  GREUZE.                ALYS EYRE MACKLIN.
  BOTTICELLI.            HENRY B. BINNS.
  ROSSETTI.              LUCIEN PISSARRO.
  BELLINI.               GEORGE HAY.
  FRA ANGELICO.          JAMES MASON.
  REMBRANDT.             JOSEF ISRAELS.
  LEIGHTON.              A. LYS BALDRY.
  RAPHAEL.               PAUL G. KONODY.
  HOLMAN HUNT.           MARY E. COLERIDGE.
  TITIAN.                S. L. BENSUSAN.
  MILLAIS.               A. LYS BALDRY.
  CARLO DOLCI.           GEORGE HAY.
  GAINSBOROUGH.          MAX ROTHSCHILD.
  TINTORETTO.            S. L. BENSUSAN.
  LUINI.                 JAMES MASON.
  FRANZ HALS.            EDGCUMBE STALEY.
  VAN DYCK.              PERCY M. TURNER.
  FRAGONARD.             C. HALDANE MACFALL.
  LEONARDO DA VINCI.     M. W. BROCKWELL.

    _In Preparation_

  WHISTLER.              T. MARTIN WOOD.
  RUBENS.                S. L. BENSUSAN.
  BURNE-JONES.           A. LYS BALDRY.
  J. F. MILLET.          PERCY M. TURNER.
  CHARDIN.               PAUL G. KONODY.
  HOLBEIN.               S. L. BENSUSAN.
  BOUCHER.               C. HALDANE MACFALL.
  VIGÉE LE BRUN.         C. HALDANE MACFALL.
  WATTEAU.               C. LEWIS HIND.
  MURILLO.               S. L. BENSUSAN.
            AND OTHERS.

      *      *      *      *      *      *


[Illustration: PLATE I.--CHIFFRE D'AMOUR. Frontispiece

(In the Wallace Collection)

Fragonard, like his master Boucher, soon found that the pompous,
historical, and religious pictures which the critics demanded of him,
pleased no one but the critics. It was a fortunate day for him when he
turned his back upon them, and employed his charming gifts upon the
statement of the life of his day. And in few paintings that created
his fame has he surpassed the fine handling of this scene, in which
the girl cuts her lover's initials on the trunk of a tree--the dainty
figure silhouetted against the dreamlike background of sky and tree
that he loved so well. There is over all the glamour of the poetic
statement supremely done.]


Fragonard

by

HALDANE MACFALL

Illustrated with Eight Reproductions in Colour



[Illustration]

London: T. C. & E. C. Jack
New York: Frederick A. Stokes Co.



TO

MY FRIEND

WALTER EMANUEL



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  Plate
     I. Chiffre d'Amour                     Frontispiece
          In the Wallace Collection
                                                    Page
    II. The Music Lesson                              14
          In the Louvre

   III. L'Etude                                       24
          In the Louvre

    IV. The Schoolmistress                            34
          In the Wallace Collection

     V. Figure de Fantasie                            40
          In the Louvre

    VI. Le Voeu à l'Amour                             50
          In the Louvre (new acquisition)

   VII. The Fair-haired Boy                           60
          In the Wallace Collection

  VIII. Le Billet Doux                                70
          In the Collection of M. Wildenstein, Paris



[Illustration]



I

THE BEGINNINGS


High up, amongst the Sea-Alps that stretch along the southern edge of
France, where romantic Provence bathes her sunburnt feet in the blue
waters of the Mediterranean, high on the mountain's side hangs the
steep little town of Grasse, embowered midst grey-green olive-trees.
In as sombre a narrow street as there is in all her dark alleys, on
the fifth day of April in the much bewigged and powdered year of 1732,
there was born to a glovemaker of the town, worthy mercer Fragonard, a
boy-child, whom the priest in the gloomy church christened Jean Honoré
Fragonard.

As the glovemaker looked out of his sombre house over the sunlit
slopes of the grey-green olive-trees that stretched away to the deep
blue waters of the sea, he vowed his child to commerce and a thrifty
life in this far-away country place that was but little vexed with the
high ambitions of distant, fickle, laughing Paris, or her splendid
scandals; nay, scarce gave serious thought to her gadding fashions or
her feverish vogues--indeed, the attenuated ghosts of these once
frantic things wriggled southwards through the provinces on but
sluggish feet to the high promenades of Grasse--as the worthy mercer
was first in all the little town to know by his modest traffic in
them; and that, too, only long after the things they shadowed were
buried under new millineries and fopperies and fantastic riot in the
gay capital. As a fact, the dark-eyed, long-nosed folk that trudged
these steep and narrow thoroughfares were a sluggish people; and
sunlit Grasse snored away its day in drowsy fashion.

But if the room where the child first saw the light were gloomy enough
within, the skies were wondrous blue without, and the violet-scented
slopes were robed in a tender garment of silvery green, decked with
the gold of orange-trees, and enriched with bright embroidery of
many-coloured flowers that were gay as the gayest ribbons of distant
Paris. And the glory of it bathed the lad's eyes and heart for sixteen
years, so that his hands got them itching to create the splendour of
it which sang within him; and the wizardry of the flower-garden of
France never left him, casting its spell over all his thinking, and
calling to him to utter it to the world. It stole into his colour-box,
and on to his palette, and so across the canvas into his master-work,
and was to lead him through the years to a blithe immortality.

The small boy with the big head was born in the year after François
Boucher came back to Paris from his Italian wanderings on the eve of
his thirties and won to academic honour. The child grew up in his
Provençal home, whilst Boucher, turning his back upon academic art on
gaining his seat at the Academy, was creating the Pastorals,
Venus-pieces, and Cupid-pieces that changed the whole style of French
art from the pompous and mock-heroic manner of Louis Quatorze's
century of the sixteen hundreds to the gay and elegant pleasaunces
that fitted so aptly the elegant pleasure-seeking days of Louis the
Fifteenth's seventeen hundreds.

Gossip of high politics came trickling down to Grasse as slowly as the
fashions, yet the eleven-year-old boy's ears heard of the death of the
minister, old Cardinal Fleury, and of the effort of Louis to become
king by act. Though Louis had small genius for the mighty business,
and fell thenceforth into the habit of ruling France from behind
petticoats, raising the youngest of the daughters of the historic and
noble house of De Nesle to be his accepted consort under the rank and
honours of Duchess of Chateauroux. All tongues tattled of the
business, the very soldiery singing mocking songs; when--Louis
strutting it as conqueror with the army, got the small-pox at Metz,
and sent the Chateauroux packing at the threat of death. He recovered,
to enter Paris soon after as the Well-Beloved, and to be reconciled
with the frail Chateauroux before she died in the sudden agony in
which she swore she had been poisoned.

[Illustration: PLATE II.--THE MUSIC LESSON

(In the Louvre)

Fragonard had a profound admiration for the Dutch painters. Whether he
went to Holland shortly after his marriage is not known; but he seems
suddenly to have employed his brush as if he had come across fine
examples of the Dutch school. "The Music Lesson" at the Louvre is one
of these, and the Dutch influence is most marked both as to subject,
treatment, and handling of the paint, if we allow for Fragonard's own
strongly French personality.]

At thirteen the boy listened to the vague rumours of a new scandal
that set folk's tongues wagging again throughout all France. The
king raised Madame Lenormant d'Etioles, a daughter of the rich
financier class, to be Marquise de Pompadour, and yielded up to her
the sceptre over his people.

The nations, weary of war, agreed to sign the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle
in 1748. In this, our artist's sixteenth year, the Pompadour had been
the king's acknowledged mistress for three years. From this time, the
peace being signed, Louis the Fifteenth laid aside all effort to
fulfil the duties of the lord over a great people; gave himself up to
shameless and riotous living, and allowed the Pompadour to usurp the
splendour of his throne and to rule over the land.

For the next sixteen years she was the most powerful person at court,
the greatest personality in the State--making and unmaking ministers
like a sovereign, and disposing of high offices, honours, titles, and
pensions. The king squandered upon her some seventy odd millions of
the public money as money is now valued. Her energy and her industry
must have been colossal. Her intelligence saved the king from the
boredom of decision in difficult affairs. She made herself a necessity
to his freedom from care. Every affair of State was discussed and
settled under her guidance. Ministers, ambassadors, generals,
transacted their business in her handsome boudoirs. She dispensed the
whole patronage of the sovereign with her pretty hands. The prizes of
the army, of the church, of the magistracy, could only be secured
through her good-will. As though these things were not load enough to
bow the shoulders of any one human being she kept a rein upon every
national activity. She created the porcelain factory of Sèvres,
thereby adding a lucrative industry to France. She founded the great
military school of Saint Cyr. She mothered every industry. She was
possessed of a rare combination of talents and accomplishments, and of
astounding taste. But her deepest affection was for the arts.

The Pompadour had gathered about her, as the beautiful Madame
d'Etioles, the supreme wits and artists and thinkers of her day;
Voltaire and Boucher and Latour and the rest were her friends, and the
new thought that was being born in France was nursed in her
drawing-rooms. As the Pompadour she kept up her friendships. She was
prodigal in her encouragement of the arts, in the furnishment of her
own and the king's palaces and castles. And it was in the exercise and
indulgence of her better qualities that she brought out the genius
and encouraged to fullest achievement the art of Boucher, and of the
great painters of her time. So Boucher brought to its full blossom the
art that Watteau had created--the picture of "Fêtes galentès"--and
added to the artistic achievement of France the Pastorals wherein
Dresden shepherds and shepherdesses dally in pleasant landscapes, and
the Venus-pieces wherein Cupids flutter and romp--a world of elegance
and charm presided over by the Goddess of Love.



II

ROME


All this was but Paris-gossip amidst the olive-trees and steep streets
of far-away Grasse, where the large-headed, small-bodied lad was
idling through his fifteen summers, living and breathing the beauty of
the pleasant land of romance that bred him, when, like bolt from the
blue, fell the news upon him that his father, tearing aside the fabric
of the lad's dreams, had articled him as junior clerk to a notary.

But the French middle-class ideal of respectability meant no heaven
for this youth's goal, no ultimate aim for his ambition. He idled his
master into despair; "wasting his time" on paint-pots and
pencil-scribblings until that honest man himself advised that the lad
should be allowed to follow his bent.

So it came about--'twas in that year of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle,
the year that saw the Pompadour come to supreme power (she had been
for three years the king's acknowledged mistress)--the youth's mother,
with all a French mother's shrewdness and common-sense, gathered
together the sixteen-year-old lad's sketches, and bundled off with him
in a diligence to Paris.

Arrived in Paris she sought out the greatest painter of the day, and
burst with the shy youth into the studio of the dandified favourite
artist of the king's majesty, Pompadour's Boucher--large-hearted,
generous, much-sinning, world-famed Boucher, then at the very
summit of his career--he was at that time living in the Rue
Grenelle-Saint-Honoré, which he was about to leave, and in which
Fragonard in his old age was destined to end his days.

The lad glanced with wonder, we may be sure, at the great "Rape of
Europa" that stood upon the master's easel, whilst his mother poured
out in the rough accent of Provence the tale of the genius of her
son--stole, too, a stealthy scrutiny of the Venus-pieces and Pastorals
that stood about the studio, and was filled with awed admiration. The
mother besought the genius of France to make a genius of her son; and
Boucher, with kindly smile upon his lips, glancing over the immature
work of the prodigy, told the lad that he might come back to him in
six months' time, pointing out to him, with all that large-hearted
friendliness and sympathy that made him the loved idol of the
art-students, that he lacked sufficient dexterity in the use of his
tools to enter his studio or to benefit by apprenticeship to him, and
advising the anxious mother to take him to Chardin as the supreme
master in France from whom to learn the mastery of his craft.

To Chardin the youth went; and France's consummate master in the
painting of still-life, putting the palette on the youngster's thumb
straightway, from the very first day--as his custom was--and making
him use sienna upon it as his only pigment, advising him as he went,
set him to the copying of the prints from the masterpieces of his own
time, insisting on his painting large and broad and solid and true.

Young Fragonard made so little progress that Chardin wrote to his
parents that he could get nothing out of him; and sent the lad, bag
and baggage, out of his studio.

Thrown upon his own resources, the young fellow haunted the churches
of Paris, brooded over the masterpieces that hung therein, fixed them
in his mind's eye, and, returning to his lodging, painted them, day by
day, from memory.

At the end of six months he called again upon Boucher, his sketches
under his arm; and this time he was not sent away. Astounded at the
youth's progress, struck by his enthusiasm, Boucher took him into his
studio, and set him to work to prepare the large decorative cartoons
that artists had to make from their paintings for use at the Gobelins
and Beauvais looms. The artist painted his picture "in little"; he was
also required to paint an "enlargement" of the size that the weavers
had to make into tapestry--this enlargement was mostly done by pupils,
the State demanding, however, that the artist should work over it
sufficiently to sign his name upon it--the head of the factory keeping
custody of the "painting in little" to guide him; the weavers working
from the enlargement. This work upon the enlargement of Boucher's
paintings was an ideal training for Fragonard.

The Director-General of Buildings to the king (or, as we should
nowadays call him, Minister of Fine Arts), Lenormant de Tournehem,
kinsman to the Pompadour, died suddenly in the November of 1751; the
Pompadour promptly caused to be appointed in his place her brother
Abel Poisson de Vandières--a shy, handsome youth, a gentleman, a man
of honour, who brought to his office an exquisite taste, a loyal
nature, and marked abilities. The king, who liked him well, and called
him "little brother," soon afterwards created him Marquis de
Marigny--and Fragonard, like many another artist of his day, was to be
beholden to him.

After a couple of years' training under Boucher, Fragonard's master,
with that keen interest that he ever took in the efforts and welfare
of youth, and particularly of his own pupils, urged the young fellow
to compete for the Prix de Rome, pointing out to him the advantages of
winning it. At twenty, without preparation, and without being a pupil
of the Academy, Fragonard won the coveted prize with his "Jeroboam
Sacrificing to Idols." It was in this year that Boucher was given a
studio and apartments at the Louvre.

For three years thereafter, Fragonard was in the king's school of six
_élèves protégés_ under Carle Van Loo. He continued to work in
Boucher's studio, as well as painting on his own account; and it is to
these years that belong his "Blind Man's Buff" and several pictures
in this style.

Meanwhile the quarrels between priests and parliaments had grown very
bitter. The king took first one side, then the other. It was in 1756,
Louis having got foul of his Parliament, that the unfortunate and
foolish Damiens stabbed the king with a penknife slightly under the
fifth rib of his left side, as he was stepping into his carriage at
Versailles, and suffered by consequence the terrible tortures and
horrible death that were meted out to such as attempted the part of
regicide.

This was the year when, at twenty-four, Fragonard was entitled to go
to Rome at the king's expense--the Italian tour being a necessary part
of an artist's training who desired to reach to academic distinction,
and honours in his calling. He started on his journey to Italy with
Boucher's now famous farewell advice ringing in his ears: "My dear
Frago, you go into Italy to see the works of Raphael and Michael
Angelo; but--I tell you in confidence, as a friend--if you take those
fellows seriously you are lost." ("Lost" was not the exact phrase,
Boucher being a Rabelaisian wag, but it will pass.)

[Illustration: PLATE III.--L'ETUDE

(In the Louvre)

The picture of a young woman sometimes known as "L'Etude" (but perhaps
better known as "La Chanteuse" or "Song") at the Louvre is another of
those little canvases painted by Fragonard under the strong influence
of the Dutch school, as we may see not only in the handling of the
paint, and in the arrangement of the figure, but in the very ruffle
about the girl's neck, the lace cuffs to the sleeves, and the
treatment of the dress.]

Arrived in Rome, Fragonard, like his master before him, was torn with
doubts and uncertainties and warring influences. For several months he
did no work, or little work; and though he stood before the
masterpieces of Michael Angelo and Raphael, stirred by the grandeur of
their design, and eager to be busy with his brush, he was too much of
a Frenchman, too much in sympathy with the French genius, too much
enamoured of the art of his master, to be affected creatively by them.
His hesitations saved him, and won France a master in her long roll of
fame. He escaped the taint of learning to see through the eyes of
others, evaded the swamping of his own genius in an endeavour to utter
his art in halting Italian. Rome was not his grave, as it has been the
grave of so many promising young sons of France; and he came out of
the danger a strong and healthy man. Tiepolo brought him back vision
and inspiration, and the solid earth of his own age to walk upon. And
the French utterance of his master Boucher called back his dazed wits
to the accents of France. At last the genius that was in him quickened
and strove to utter itself.

The bright colours of Italy, the glamour of her landscapes, these
were the living lessons that bit deeper into his art than all the
works of her antique masters; and the effort to set them upon his
canvas gave to his hand's skill an ordered grace and dignity that were
of more vital effect upon his achievement than the paintings of the
great dead.

So it came about that Natoire, then director of the royal school in
the Villa Mancini, having written his distress to Marigny at the young
fellow's beginnings, was soon writing enthusiastically about him, and
procured a lengthening of his stay in Rome.

Here began that lifelong friendship with Hubert Robert, already making
his mark as an artist, and with the Abbé de Saint-Non, a charming
character, who was to engrave the work of the two young painters, and
greatly spread their names abroad thereby. Saint-Non's influential
relations procured him free residence in the Villa d'Este, where the
other two joined him, and a delightful good-fellowship between the
three men followed--the Abbé's artistic tastes adding to the bond of
comradeship. So two years passed pleasantly along at the Villa d'Este,
one of the most beautiful places in all Italy--the ancient ruins hard
by, and the running waters and majestic trees leaving an impression
upon Fragonard's imagination, which passed to his canvases, and never
left his art--developing a profound sense of style, and a knowledge of
light and air that bathed the scenes he was to paint with such rare
skill and insight. Here grew that love of stately gardens which are
the essence of his landscapes, and which won to the heart of a child
of Provence.

In distant Paris the making of history was growing apace. Gossip of it
reached to Italy. A backstairs intrigue almost dislodged the Pompadour
from power. D'Argenson and the queen's party threw the beautiful and
youthful Madame de Choiseul-Romanet, not wholly unflattered at the
adventure, into the king's way to lure him from the favourite. The
king wrote her a letter of invitation. The girl consulted her noble
kinsman, the Comte de Stainville, of the Maurepas faction or queen's
party, a bitter enemy to the Pompadour. De Stainville, his pride of
race wounded that a kinswoman of his should be offered to the king,
went to the Pompadour, exposed the plot, and forthwith became her
ally--soon her guide in affairs of State.

In the midst of disasters by sea and land the Pompadour persuaded the
king to send for De Stainville, and to make him his Prime Minister.
He was created Duc de Choiseul in December 1758. He had as ally one of
the most astute and subtle and daring minds in eighteenth-century
France--his sister Beatrice, the famous Duchesse de Grammont. The king
found a born leader of men. Choiseul brought back dignity to the
throne. He came near to saving France. Choiseul was the public opinion
of the nation. He founded his strength on Parliament and on the new
philosophy. He became a national hero. He could do no wrong. He rose
to power in 1758; and at once stemmed the tide of disaster to France.

The Parliament men took courage. Philosophy, with one of its men in
power, spoke out with no uncertain voice. All France was listening.

Fragonard had at last to turn his face homewards; and dawdling through
Italy with Saint-Non, staying his feet at Bologna and Venice awhile,
the two friends worked slowly towards Paris, Fragonard entering his
beloved city, after five wander-years, in the autumn of 1761, in his
twenty-ninth year, untainted and unspoiled by academic training, his
art founded upon that of Boucher, enhanced by his keen study of
nature. He reached Paris, rich in plans for pictures, filled with
ardour and enthusiasm for his art, ambitious to create masterpieces,
and burning to distinguish himself.



III

THE DU BARRY


When Fragonard came back to Paris on the edge of his thirtieth year it
was to find that a great change had come over his master Boucher. The
old, light-hearted, genial painter was showing signs of the burning of
the candle of life at both ends. His art also was being bitterly
assailed by the new critics--the new philosophy was asking for
ennobling sentiments from the painted canvas, and the teaching of a
moral lesson from all the arts. Boucher stood frankly bewildered,
blinking questioning eyes at the frantic din. Old age had come upon
him, creeping over the shrewd kindly features, dulling the exquisite
sight. He could not wholly ignore the change that was taking place in
public taste. The ideas of the philosophers were penetrating public
opinion. The man of feeling had arisen and walked in the land. They
were beginning to speak of the great antique days of Greece and Rome.
Fickle fashion was about to turn her back upon Dresden shepherds and
shepherdesses and leafy groves, and to take up her abode awhile with
heroes and amongst picturesque ruins.

Arrived in Paris, Fragonard at once set himself to the task of
painting the historic or mythologic Academy-piece expected from the
holder of the Prix de Rome on return from the Italian tour. He painted
"The High Priest Coresus slaying himself to save Callirhoë," which,
though badly hung at the Salon, and still to be seen at the Louvre,
was hailed with high praise by the academicians and critics. The only
adverse criticisms of coldness and timidity levelled against it sound
strange in the light of his after-career, which, whatever its
weaknesses, was not exactly marked with coldness nor eke with
timidity.

For two years thereafter he essayed the academic style.

But the praises of Diderot and Grimm failed to fill his pockets; and
he decided to paint no more academic pieces for the critics' praise.
He had indeed no taste for such things, no sympathy with ancient
thought nor with the dead past. He was, like his master, a very son
of France--a child of his own age, glorying in the love of life and
the beauty of his native land.

Having done his duty by his school, he turned his back upon it
gleefully, as Boucher had also done before him, and set himself
joyously to the painting of the life about him.

His great chance soon came, and in strange guise.

It so happened that a young blood at the court, one Baron de
Saint-Julien, went to the painter Doyen with his flame, and asked him
to paint a picture of the pretty creature being swung by a bishop
whilst he himself watched the display of pretty ankles as the girl
went flying through the air. Doyen had scruples; but recommended
Fragonard for the naughty business.

Fragonard seized the idea readily enough, except that he made the
frail girl's husband swing the beauty for her lover's eyes, using the
incident, as usual, but as the trivial theme for a splendid setting
amidst trees, glorying in the painting of the foliage--as you may see,
if you step into the Wallace galleries, where is the exquisite thing
that brought Fragonard fame--the world-famous "Les hazards heureux de
l'Escarpolette."

The effect was prodigious. De Launay's brilliant engraving of it
popularised it throughout the land. Nobles and rich financiers, and
all the gay world of fashion besides, now strove to possess canvases
signed by Fragonard. Boucher was grown old and ailing; and just as
Boucher had been the painter of the France of fashion under the
Pompadour, so Fragonard was now to become the mirror of the court, of
the theatre, of the drawing-room, of the boudoir, of the age of Du
Barry.

Finding a ready market for subjects of gallantry, he gave rein to his
natural bent, and straightway leaped into the vogue. Pictures were the
hobby of the nobility and the rich; and France under the Pompadour,
and particularly at this the end of her reign, was madly spendthrift
upon its hobbies and fickle fancies. The pretty house, delicately
tinted rooms, fine furniture, dainty decorations, and charming
pictures, were a necessity for such as would be in the fashion.

[Illustration: PLATE IV.--THE SCHOOLMISTRESS

(In the Wallace Collection)

After his marriage Fragonard's brush turned to the glorification of
family life; and one of the most beautiful designs he conceived in
this exquisite series was the picture of the schoolmistress and her
small pupils--here chasteness of feeling has taken the place of
levity; and purity of statement is evidenced even in the half-nude
little fellow who is receiving his first lesson in culture.]

You shall look in vain for the affected innocence, the naïve
mawkishness, the chaste sentimentality of Greuze in the master-work of
Fragonard. He knew nothing of these things--cared less. His was an
ardent brush; and he used it ardently; but always you shall find him
using his subject, however naughty, as the mere excuse for a
glorious picture of trees. He is one of the great landscape-painters
of France.

He had many qualities that go to make a decorative painter. Indeed, it
is to the Frenchmen of the seventeen-hundreds to whom we may safely go
for pictures that make the walls of a drawing-room a delight. Unlike
the Italians, they are pleasing to live with. His painting of "La Fête
de St. Cloud," in the dining-room of the Governor of the Bank of
France, is one of the decorative landscapes of the world.

He was now producing works in considerable numbers--it is his first,
his detailed period, somewhat severe in arrangement and style as to
composition and handling--the years of "Love the Conqueror," the
"Bolt," the "Fountain of Love," of "Le Serment d'Amour," the
"Gimblette," "Les Baigneuses," the "Sleeping Bacchante," the "Début du
modèle," and the like.

His master, Boucher, was grown old; he could not carry out the
commissions for the decoration of rooms and for paintings with which
he was overwhelmed; and it was in order to help forward his brilliant
pupil, his "Frago," that he now introduced him to his old friend and
patron the farmer-general Bergeret de Grandcour--a man of great
wealth, a lover of art, and an honorary member of the Royal
Academy--who became one of Fragonard's most lavish patrons and most
intimate friends. Bergeret de Grandcour commissioned several panels in
this, Fragonard's thirty-fifth year--the year of his painting the
superb "Fête de St. Cloud." This is towards the end of that period of
minute and detailed painting which he did with such consummate skill,
yet without bringing pettiness into his largeness of conception.

Meantime, Choiseul's masterly mind, having secured peace abroad, saw
that France, if she were to keep her sovereign State, must be first
cleansed from the dangers that threatened from within. He turned to
the blotting out of the turbulent order of the Jesuits, whose
vindictive acts against, and quarrels with, the Parliaments, and whose
galling and oppressive tyranny, had roused the bitter hatred of the
magistracy and of the people throughout the land. Choiseul they
treated as their bitterest enemy. He decided to blot them out, root
and branch, from France. The popular party closed up its ranks.
Choiseul had not long to wait. The chance came in odd fashion enough.
An attempt by the Order to end the Pompadour's scandalous relations
with the king was the quaint thing--the match that started the
explosion. With all his skill of state-craft, Choiseul leaped to the
weapon. In secret concert with the king's powerful favourite he struck
at them through the bankruptcy of their banking concerns in the West
Indies, caused by their losses in the wars with England; and Louis
abolished the society out of the land, secularising its members, and
seizing its property.

The Pompadour lived but a short while to enjoy her triumph. Worn-out
by her vast activities, and assailed by debt, she fell ill of a cough
that racked her shrunken body. She died, transacting the king's
business and affairs of State, on the 15th of April 1764, in her
forty-second year.

Whatever may be said of this cold-blooded, calculating, grasping
woman, who crushed down every nice instinct of womanhood to win a
king's favour, who knew no scruple, who was without mercy, without
pardon or forgiveness, without remorse; bitter and adamant in revenge;
who turned a deaf ear to the cries from the Bastille; whose heart knew
no love but for self; it must be allowed that at least for Art she did
great and splendid service. She not only encouraged and brought out
the best achievement of her age; she did Art an even more handsome
benefit. She insisted on artists painting their age and not aping the
dead past.

To Fragonard personally she rendered no particular service. His real
achievement began on the eve of her death, when she was a worn-out and
broken woman. Nor had Fragonard ever that close touch with the royal
house or its favourites during any part of his lifetime that meant so
much to the fortunes of his master, Boucher.

There were two patrons for whom Fragonard was about to create a series
of masterpieces in the decoration of their splendid and luxurious
homes--works of Art which were to have strange adventures and
histories. They were both women.

[Illustration: PLATE V.--FIGURE DE FANTASIE

(In the Louvre)

Here we have one of the rare examples of Fragonard's painting of a
man's portrait. It is in strange contrast to his more delicate
handling of domestic subjects.]

For the prodigal and eccentric dancer, the notorious Mademoiselle
Guimard, he undertook the painting of a series of panels. The Guimard
was the rage of Paris--she of the orgic suppers and the naughty dances
with her comrade Vestris. Frago, who is said to have been more than a
friend of the reckless one of the nimble feet, undertook the
decoration of her house in the Chaussée d'Antin, known to the bloods
as the Temple of Terpsichore. He painted for the same room a portrait
of the frail beauty as an opera-shepherdess--the simple pastoral
life was the pose of this unsimple age. He was engaged upon the
business, off and on, for several years; and the many delays at last
fretted the light one. Fragonard, anything but energetic, liked always
to take his own time at his work. The Guimard got to pestering
him--she had a sharp tongue--and at last, one fine day, upbraided him
roundly, taunting him with a sneer that he would never get the work
finished. Fragonard lost patience and temper, goaded by her
ill-manners, her abuse, and her biting tongue. "It _is_ finished,"
said he; and walked out of the house. The Guimard could never get him
back; but one day he slipped in alone, painted the set dancer's-smile
from the dancer's mouth, and placed there instead a snarl upon her
lips.

Before this breach between them Fragonard had painted several
portraits of the Guimard.

However, the work for the lady was to have far-reaching results little
dreamed of. For the completion of the room, Fragonard procured the
commission for David, then twenty-five; and David never forgot the
service rendered. He was to repay it tenfold when black days
threatened; and with rare courage, when even the courage of gratitude
was a deadly dangerous commodity.

However, this was not as yet; the sun shone in the skies; and all was
gaiety and laughter still.

The "Chiffre d'Amour," the picture of a pretty girl who cuts her
lover's monogram in the bark of a tree's trunk, the shadowed tree and
figure telling darkly against the glamorous half light beyond, was one
of Fragonard's happiest inspirations of these years, as any one may
see who steps into the Wallace galleries. Here also may be seen to-day
the exquisite "Fair-haired Boy." The boldly painted "L'Heure de
Berger" was wet upon the canvas about this year, though its boldness
of handling foretells his later manner, whilst the spirit of Boucher
is over all.

Four years after the death of the Pompadour the patient neglected
queen, amiable dull Marie Leczinska, followed her supplanter to the
grave. The king's grief and contrition and his solemn vows to mend his
ways came somewhat over-late; they lasted little longer than the
drying of his floods of tears over the body of his dead consort.

On the Eve of Candlemas, the first day of February 1769, at a
convivial party in Paris that was not wholly without political
significance, a Jesuit priest raised his glass _To the Presentation!_
adding after the toast--"To that which has taken place to-day, or will
take place to-morrow, the presentation of the new Esther, who is to
replace Haman and release the Jewish nation from oppression!"

He spoke figuratively--it was safer so. But 'twas understood. Indeed,
the pretty sentiment was well received by the old aristocrats and
young bloods about the table; and they drank a bumper to the pretty
Madame du Barry. For the Jesuits had no love for the king's minister
Choiseul--and the madcap girl was but the lure whereby the king was to
be drawn from his great minister. So religion rallied about the frail
beauty, and hid behind her extravagant skirts--one of which cost close
on £2000--and, with the old nobility, drank damnation to the king's
minister and To the devil with the new thought and with parliaments.
Long live the king and the divine right of kings!

Our worthy priest seems to have had the ear of destiny, though he
dated his certainty near upon a couple of months too soon.

So it came about that before a year was out the old king was become
the doting creature of a light-o'-love of Paris, the transfigured
milliner and street-pedlar, Jeanne, natural child of one Anne Béqus,
a low woman of Vaucouleurs. This Jeanne, of no surname and unknown
father, a pretty, kindly, vulgar child of the gutters, with fair hair
and of madcap habits, was some twenty-six years of age, when--being
reborn under a forged birth-certificate at the king's ordering, as
Anne de Vaubernier, and being married by the same orders to the Count
du Barry, an obliging nobleman of the court--she appeared at
Versailles as the immortally frail Countess du Barry.

The remonstrances of Choiseul with the king against this new
degradation of the throne of France, and his unconcealed scorn and
disgust of the upstart countess, made a dangerous enemy for France's
great minister, and was to cost him and his France very dear.

The king's infatuation brought royalty into utter contempt amongst the
people. It was to cost France a terrible price--and Fragonard not
least of all.

One of the first gifts from the king to the Du Barry was the little
castle of Louveciennes; and she proceeded with reckless extravagance
to furnish her handsome home. Drouais, the artist, sold to her for
1200 livres (double florins), as overdoors for one of the rooms, four
panels that he had bought from Fragonard. They have vanished; but
they served Fragonard a good turn--he received an order to decorate Du
Barry's luxurious pavilion of Luciennes, which she had had built to
entertain the king at her "little suppers."

Thus it chanced that for this wilful light-o'-love Fragonard painted
the great master-work of his life--the five world-famous canvases of
the series of "The Progress of Love in the Heart of Maidenhood," or,
as they are better known, "The Romance of Love and Youth"--the old
king masquerading therein as a young shepherd, and the Du Barry as a
shepherdess. In "The Ladder" ("L'Escalade" or "Le Rendezvous") the Du
Barry plays the part of a timid young girl who starts as she sees her
shepherd-lover to be the king; the "Pursuit" follows; then the
"Souvenirs" and "Love Crowned." The last of the five, the discarded
mistress in "Deserted," was only begun; and was not completed by
Fragonard until twenty years later at Grasse, to complete the set.

What it was that struck a chill into the frail Du Barry's favour, so
that the masterpieces of Fragonard never entered within her doors, is
not fully known. Whatsoever the cause, these canvases were rejected by
her. It is said that the work was found to be disappointing, being
lacking as to the indecencies by the Du Barry and the king, who
preferred the more suggestive panels of Vien. It is true that
Fragonard's earlier four panels which she possessed were in
questionable taste, and that these five were pure; indeed, their
trivial story matters little amidst the massy foliage and the majestic
trees that spring into the swinging heavens. Fragonard suspected, and
somewhat resented the suspicion, that he was being made to paint in a
sort of artistic duel with Vien. At any rate, Vien was chosen. So it
came that the discarded pictures lay in Fragonard's studio for over
twenty years, when we shall see them, rolled up, making a chief part
of the strange baggage of Fragonard's flight from his beloved Paris.

The fact was that the Du Barry was of the gutter. She had the crude
love of fineries of the girl promoted from the gutter. She loved
display. But into her home she brought the vulgar singers of the
lowest theatres, where the Pompadour had brought the wits and leading
artists of her time. The old culture was gone. Louis laughed now at
ribald songs, and was entertained by clowns.

It is part of the irony of life that Fragonard, who never entered
into the favourite's friendship, should have become the recognised
artist of her day. It was a part of that grim irony that caused the Du
Barry, whose age he honours, to reject the most exquisite work of his
hands--in which his art is seen at its highest achievement, the tender
half-melancholy of the thing stated with a lyric beauty that displays
his genius in its supreme flight.

A search through the Du Barry's bills--and there are four huge bound
volumes of them--reveals the list of pictures painted by Boucher, by
Vien, by Greuze, and by others, for the spendthrift woman; but of
transaction with Fragonard there is no slightest hint.



IV

MARRIAGE


There lived in Grasse, with its rich harvests of flowers, and given to
the distilling of perfumes therefrom, a family that had come from
Avignon--its name, Gérard, and on friendly terms with the Fragonards.
It so chanced that a young woman of the family, the seventeen-year-old
Marie Anne Gérard, was sent to Paris, to the care of Fragonard, in
order to earn her living in the shop of a scent-seller, one Isnard.
The girl had artistic leanings, and fell a-painting of fans and
miniatures. She had need of a teacher; and who better qualified for
the business than her townsman, the famous Fragonard? What more
natural than that Fragonard should become her master? She was a jovial
girl. So they would talk of home, and the people amongst whom they had
been bred. She was no particular beauty, as her picture by Fragonard
proves; she had the rough accent of Provence; was thick-set and clumsy
of figure, and of heavy features, but she had the youth and freshness
and health of a young woman's teens, that hide the blemishes and full
significance of these coarsenesses. She and Fragonard fell a-kissing.
Fragonard, now thirty-seven, married Marie Anne Gérard in her
eighteenth year; and she bore him a much loved daughter, Rosalie--and
ten years later, in 1780, a son, Alexandre Evariste Fragonard.

There came to live with the newly married couple his wife's younger
sister Marguerite and her young brother Henri Gérard, who was learning
engraving.

[Illustration: PLATE VI.--LE VOEU À L'AMOUR

(In the Louvre)

This is an example of Fragonard in his grand-manner mood--a picture of
the large decorative years that produced such masterpieces as the
"Serment d'Amour," in which we see him ever interested above all
things in the painting of bosky leafage and the dignity of great trees
for background.]

Fragonard's marriage at once affected his habits and his art. The wild
oats of his artistic career were near sown. The naughtinesses of
girls of pleasure gave place to the grace and tenderness of the
home-life--the cradle took the place of the bed of light adventures;
and children blossomed on to his canvases. He set aside the
make-believe shepherds and shepherdesses of the vogue; and henceforth
painted the "real thing" in rural surroundings.

He brought to his homeliest pictures a beauty of arrangement, a sense
of style, and a dignity worthy of the most majestic subjects. He came
at this time under the influence of the Dutch landscapists, and stole
from them the solidity of their massing in foliage, the truth of their
character-drawing, the close observation of their cattle and
animal-life, their cloudy skies, and the finish and force of their
craftsmanship. Whether he went into Holland is disputed. He was too
keen an artist, his was too original a genius, to imitate their style
or take on their Dutch accent. He simply took from them such part of
their craftsmanship as could enter into the facile gracious genius of
France without clogging its grace. He is now content with his house
and garden for scenery, with his family for models. He realises that
an artist has no need to go abroad to find "paintable things."

The "Heureuse Fécondité," the "Visit to the Nurse" (the second one),
the "Schoolmistress," the "Good Mother," the "Retour au logis," the
"L'Education fait tout," the "Dites donc, si'l vous plaît," are of
this period.

In all he did he proves himself an artist, incapable of mediocrity,
bringing distinction and style to all that he touches.

Fragonard also excelled in the painting of miniatures. And there are
small portraits under fancy names to be seen at the Louvre, painted
with a breadth and force that prove him to have known the work of
Franz Hals. The figure of a man, known as "Figure de Fantaisie" or
"Inspiration," is stated with a directness and vividness worthy of the
great Dutch master. Indeed, there is much in the direct handling of
the paint and the life of the thing that recalls Franz Hals--the very
arrangement of the dress and the treatment of the hand being a
careless attempt to recall the habits and fashions of the Dutchman.
"La Musique" repeats the impression. And even the more pronouncedly
French style of the pretty woman in "La Chanteuse" does not disguise
the inspiration of Franz Hals in the painting of the bodice, the
cuffs, and the details--the high ruffle is "dragged in" from Hals's
day. The "Music Lesson" at the Louvre was painted about the same time.

Fragonard's old master, Boucher, for some time had been "going about
like a shadow of himself." The year after Fragonard's marriage the old
painter was found dead, sitting at his easel before an unfinished
picture of Venus, the brush fallen out of his fingers--the light of
the "Glory of Paris" gone out.

Boucher died a few months before that Christmas Eve of 1770 that saw
Choiseul driven from power by the trio of knaves who used the vulgar
but kindly woman Du Barry as their tool--indeed she refused to pull
the great minister down until she had made handsome terms on his
behalf; Choiseul was too astute a man not to recognise what lay beyond
the shadow of her pretty skirts--nay, does he not turn in the
courtyard as he leaves the palace to go into banishment, his _lettre
de cachet_ in his pocket, and, seeing a woman looking out from a
window at the end of an alley, bow and kiss his hand to the window
where gazes out of tear-filled eyes this strange doomed beauty who has
won to the sceptre of France? 'Twas four years before the small-pox
took the king--four years during which this same Du Barry, with her
precious trio, d'Aiguillon, Maupeou, and Terray, sent the members of
Parliament into banishment--years that launched royal France on its
downward rushing, with laughter and riot, to its doom, whilst the
apathetic Louis shrugged his now gross royal shoulders at all warnings
of catastrophe, which to give him due credit, he was scarce witless
enough or blind enough not to foresee. Nay, did he not even admit it
in his constantly affirmed, if cynical, creed that "things, as they
were, would last as long as he; and he that came after him must shift
for himself"? Ay; he came even nearer to the kernel of the
significance of things, when, shrugging his no longer well-beloved
shoulders, as the Pompadour had done, he repeated her cynical saying
of "_Après nous le déluge_." It was to be a deluge indeed--scarlet
red.

Wit and ruthless fatuity were the order of the day; these folk were
wondrous full of the neatly turned phrase and the polished epigram.
Most fatuous of them all, and as ruthless as any, was Terray--he who
tinkered with finance, with crown to his many infamies the scandalous
_Pacte de Famille_, that mercantile company that was to produce an
artificial rise in the price of corn by buying up the grain of France,
exporting it, and bringing it back for sale at vast profit--with
Louis of France as considerable shareholder. Had not the owners of the
land the right to do what they would with their own? 'Twas small
wonder that the well-beloved became the highly-detested of the
groaning people--he and his precious privileged class.

Yet Louis of France spake prophecy--if unwitting of it. The guillotine
was not to have him. In 1774 he was stricken down with the small-pox,
and the sick-room in the palace saw the Du Barry and her party fight a
duel with Choiseul's party for his possession--never, surely, was a
more grim, more fantastic warfare than that bitter intrigue to get the
confessor to the king's bedside, that meant the dismissal of the
favourite before he should be allowed to receive the Absolution--in
which the strange blasphemy was enacted of the Eucharist being
hustled about the passages, whilst the bigots strove against its
administration, and the freethinkers demanded the last consolation of
the Church. On the 10th of May the small-pox took his distempered
body, "already a mass of corruption," that was hastily flung into a
coffin and hurried without pomp, or circumstance, or pretence of
honours to St. Denis--being rattled thereto at the trot, the crowd
that lined the way showering epigrams not wholly friendly upon its
passing; and was buried amongst the bones of the ancient kings of his
race, unattended by the Court, and amidst the contempt and loud curses
of his people.

Even the poor weeping Du Barry was gone, hustled from the palace at
the wandering orders of the dying delirious king. D'Aiguillon also,
and Maupeou and Terray were gone. And the Court was hailing the new
king and his queen--ill-fated Louis the Sixteenth and tactless Marie
Antoinette.

The scandalous levity of the privileged class of the day, and its
ruthless vindictiveness when thwarted, had near done their work. A
proud and gallant people touched bottom in humiliation. The pens of
the wits and thinkers sent the new opinion broadcast amongst a people
wholly scandalised and punished by the corruption of their governors.
These writings made astounding and alarming way. The "intellectuals"
were all on the side of the people--Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot,
Rousseau, d'Alembert, Helvetius, Condillac, the Abbé Raynal. With wit
and sarcasm and invective and argument, they stirred passions,
appealing to self-respect and dignity and honour and the innate love
of freedom in the strong; they appealed to common-sense, to the
craving for liberty in man's being, to the rights of the individual;
and the printing-press scattered their wit and wisdom throughout the
land to the uttermost corners of France. They sneered away false
aristocracy, false religion. They wrought to overthrow the old order,
and brought it into contempt. And they needed to manufacture no
evidence. France had lain supine, a mighty people as they proved
themselves when their right arms were freed--lain in chains under the
heel of a king who had been capable of setting their necks under the
feet of a trivial and foolish woman, whose nursery had been the
gutter.

Yet Du Barry, when all her faults are set against her, suffered undue
execration. She had no grain of ill-will in her nature. During her
reign the Bastille received no prisoner at her ordering--vengeance was
not in her. She was the tool of unscrupulous men; but she came between
them and their base vengeances, and kept the Court free from the
brutalities that the Pompadour meted out to her enemies without a pang
of remorse. During the whole of her reign, she visited her old mother
every fortnight, and lavished benefits on her kin--whom most women,
thus suddenly raised to the noblesse, would have avoided like a
plague. The scoundrels who made her their toy were responsible for
every evil deed that she was accused of committing. And even the new
king, whose sharp _lettre de cachet_, written two days after he came
to the throne, banished her to a convent, soon relented, and allowed
her to go back to her home at Luciennes. The Du Barry had striven to
abolish the _lettre de cachet_; the new king brought it back,
inaugurating his reign by having one sent to the woman whose
gentleness and kindliness had shrunk from the accursed thing. It was a
fit omen of the well-meaning but incompetent king's tragic reign which
was about to begin.

To Fragonard these things were but tattle; yet the doing of them was
to reach to his hearth; the consequences of them were to strip him
bare and wreck him--he was to see his wife and womenkind dragging
through the streets of Paris to beg bread and meat at the gates of the
city. But the future was mercifully hidden from him. He was now at the
height of his career; and was to taste wider success.

[Illustration: PLATE VII.--THE FAIR-HAIRED BOY

(In the Wallace Collection)

To the visitor to the Wallace collection the picture by Fragonard next
best known after the "Chiffre d'Amour" and the "Swing," is this
exquisite study of a fair-haired boy--the child is painted with a
subtle grace and consummate delicacy rarely combined with the
directness and impressionism here displayed by Fragonard.]

Fragonard's name will always be linked with that of his friend and
patron, a wealthy man, the farmer-general Bergeret de Grandcour.
His family visited at the rich man's houses in town and country.

Now the career of a rich man was incomplete without the making of the
Grand Tour. At the least the gentleman of means must have roamed
through Italy. And it was thus that, with Bergeret de Grandcour,
Fragonard now made his second journey into Italy in his forty-second
year.

Fragonard was delighted at the prospect of seeing his loved Italy
again after twelve years. It was a family party--Fragonard and his
wife, with Bergeret de Grandcour and his son, to say nothing of
Bergeret's servants and cook and following. It was a happy, merry
journeying in extravagant luxury.

Fragonard had aforetime gone into Italy as a penniless student and an
unknown man; he now travelled in the grand style as the guest of a man
of affairs, visiting palaces and churches, received in state by the
highest in the land, dining with the Ambassador of France, having
audience of the Pope, advising Bergeret de Grandcour in the buying of
art-treasures. He tasted all the delights of great wealth. He went to
a concert "chez le lord Hamilton," seeing and speaking with _la belle
Emma_--Nelson's Emma. He stood in Naples; he tramped up Vesuvius. It
was at Naples the news came that Louis the Fifteenth lay dying of the
small-pox--a few days later the old king died.

The party at once turned their faces homewards, returning to Paris in
leisurely fashion by way of Venice, Vienna, and Germany, only to know,
at the journey's ending, one of those miserable and sordid quarrels
that seem to dog the friendships of men of genius. Going to Bergeret
de Grandcour's house in Paris to get his portfolios of sketches, made
throughout the journey, Fragonard found to his amazement and
consternation that Bergeret de Grandcour angrily refused to give them
up, claiming them as payment for his outlay upon him during the
Italian journey. The sorry business ended in the law-courts, and in
the loss of the lawsuit by Bergeret de Grandcour, who was condemned to
give up the drawings or to pay a 30,000 livres fine (£6000). The ugly
breach that threatened to open between them, however, was soon healed
by reconciliation; and Bergeret de Grandcour's son became one of
Fragonard's closest and most intimate friends.



V

THE TERROR


Louis the Sixteenth, third son of the Dauphin who had been Louis the
Fifteenth's only lawful son, ascended the throne in his twentieth
year, a pure-minded young fellow, full of good intentions, sincerely
anxious for the well-being of his people; but of a diffident and timid
character, and under the influence of a young consort, the beautiful
Queen Marie Antoinette, of imperious temper and of light and frivolous
manners, who brought to her counsels a deplorable lack of judgment.

The Du Barry sent a-packing, and d'Aiguillon and the rest of their
crew, the young king recalled the crafty old Maurepas who had been
banished by the Pompadour, an ill move--though the setting of Turgot
over the finances augured well. And when the great minister Turgot
fell, he gave way to as good a man, the worthy honest banker, Neckar.

In a happy hour Fragonard was granted by the king the eagerly sought
haven of the artists of his time--a studio and apartments at the old
palace of the Louvre, as his master Boucher had been granted them
before him.

Settling in with his wife, his girl Rosalie, his son Alexandre
Evariste, and his talented sister-in-law Marguerite Gérard, he lived
thereat a life almost opulent, making large sums of money, some eight
thousand pounds a year, at this time. He joyed in decorating his
rooms. He was the life and soul of a group of brilliant men who
gathered about him, having the deepest affection for him.

His sister-in-law, Marguerite Gérard, was as gay and distinguished in
manners, and as beautiful, as his jovial wife was dull and vulgar and
coarse--the vile accent of Grasse, that made his wife's speech
horrible to the ear, becoming slurred into a shadow of itself on
Marguerite's tongue, and turned by the enchanting accents of the
younger sister's lips into seduction. This girl's friendship and
companionship became an ever-increasing delight to the aging painter.
Their correspondence, when apart, was passionately affectionate. Ugly
scandals got abroad--scandals difficult to prove or disprove. The man
and woman were of like tastes, of like temperaments; it was, likely
enough, little more than that. The girl was of a somewhat cold nature;
and we must read her last letters as censoriously as her first--when,
in reply to Fragonard, evil days having fallen upon him, and being
old and next to ruined, on his asking her for money to help him, she,
who owed everything to him, refused him with the trite sermon: "to
practise economy, to be reasonable, and to remember that in brooding
over fancies one only increases them without being any the happier."
But this was not as yet.

Fragonard, happy in his home at the Louvre, free from cares, content
amongst devoted friends, reached his fifty-fifth year when he had
suddenly to gaze horrified at the first ugly hint that, in the years
to come, he must expect to hear the scythe of the Great Reaper--know
the passing of friends and loved ones. He was to reel under the first
serious blow of his life. His bright, witty, winsome girl Rosalie died
in her eighteenth year. It nearly killed him.

But there was a blacker, a vaster shadow came looming over the land--a
threat that boded ill for such as took life too airily.

In an unfortunate moment for the royal house, and against the will of
the king and of Neckar, the nation went mad with enthusiasm over
England's revolted American colonies; and the alliance was formed that
France swore not to sever until America was declared independent. It
started the war with England. The successes of the revolted colonies
made the coming of the Revolution in France a certainty. The fall of
Neckar and the rise of the new minister, Calonne, sent France rushing
to the brink. The distress of the people became unbearable. The royal
family and the Court sank in the people's respect, and the people were
no longer the people of the decade before--they had watched the
Revolution in America, and they had seen the Revolution victorious.
The fall of Calonne only led to the rise of the turbulent and stupid
Cardinal de Brienne; and the Court was completely foul of the people
when De Brienne threw up office in a panic and fled across the
frontier, leaving the Government in utter confusion.

The king recalled Neckar. The calling of the States-General now became
assured. Paris rang with the exultation of the Third Estate.

The States-General met at Versailles on the 5th of May 1789. The
monarchy was at an end. In little over a month the States-General
created itself the National Assembly. The Revolution was begun. The
14th of July saw the fall of the Bastille. On the 22nd the people
hanged Foulon to the street-lamp at the corner of the Place de
Grève--and _à la lanterne!_ became the cry of fashion.

Fragonard was in his fifty-seventh year when he heard in his lodging
at the Louvre the thunderclap of this 14th of July 1789--saw the dawn
of the Revolution.

The rose of the dawn was soon to turn to blood-red crimson. The storm
had been muttering and growling its curses for years before the death
of Louis the Fifteenth. It came up in threatening blackness darkly
behind the dawn, and was soon to break with a roar upon reckless
Paris. It came responsive to the rattle of musketry in the far West,
hard by Boston harbour.

Fragonard and his friends were of the independents--they were liberals
whom love of elegance had not prevented from sympathising with the
sufferings of the people, and who had thrilled with the new thought.
Fragonard's intelligence drew him naturally towards the new ideas;
indeed he owed little to the Court; and when France was threatened by
the coalition of Europe against her, he, with Gérard, David, and
others, went on the 7th of September with the artist's womenfolk to
give up their jewelry to the National Assembly.

But the storm burst, and soon affairs became tragic red.

There came, for the ruin of the cause of a constitutional monarchy and
to end the last hope of the Court party, the unfortunate death of
Mirabeau--the hesitations of the king--his foolish flight to
Varennes--his arrest.

The constitutional party in the Legislative Assembly, at first
dominant, became subordinate to the more violent but more able
_Girondists_, with their extreme wing of _Jacobins_ under Robespierre,
and _Cordeliers_ under Danton, Marat, Camille Desmoulins, and Fabre
d'Eglantine. The proscription of all emigrants quickly followed. It
was as unsafe to leave as to stay in Paris. The queen's insane enmity
towards Lafayette finished the king's business. On the night of the
9th of August the dread tocsin sounded the note of doom to the royal
cause--herald to the bloodshed of the morrow. Three days afterwards,
the king and the royal family were prisoners in the Temple.

The National Convention met for the first time on the 21st of
September 1792; decreed the First Year of the Republic, abolished
Royalty and the titles of courtesy, decreed in their place _citoyen_
and _citoyenne_, and the use of _tu_ and _toi_ for _vous_.

[Illustration: PLATE VIII.--LE BILLET DOUX

(In the Collection of M. Wildenstein, Paris)

Here we see Fragonard in his phase of sentimental recorder of
love-scenes so typical of the art of Louis the Fifteenth's day.]

The National Convention also displayed the antagonism of the two wings
of the now all-powerful Girondist party--the Girondists and the
Jacobins or Montagnards. The conflict began with the quarrel as to
whether the king could be tried. The 10th of January 1793 saw the
king's head fall to the guillotine--the Jacobins had triumphed. War
with Europe followed, and the deadly struggle between the Girondists
and Jacobins for supreme power. The 27th of May 1793 witnessed the
appointment of the terrible and secret Committee of Public Safety. By
June the Girondists had wholly fallen. Charlotte Corday's stabbing of
Marat in his bath left the way clear for Robespierre's ambition. The
Jacobins in power, the year of the Reign of Terror began--July 1793 to
July 1794--with Robespierre as the lord of the hellish business. The
scaffolds reeked with blood--from that of Marie Antoinette and Egalité
Orleans to that of the Girondist deputies and Madame Roland, and the
most insignificant beggar suspected of the vague charge of "hostility
to the Republic." In a mad moment the Du Barry, who had shown the
noblest side of her character in befriending the old allies of her
bygone days of greatness, published a notice of a theft from her
house. It drew all eyes to her wealth. And she went to the guillotine
shrieking with terror and betraying all who had protected her. Then
came strife amongst the Jacobins. Robespierre and Danton fought the
scoundrel Hébert for life, and overthrew him. The Hebertists went to
the guillotine, dying in abject terror. Danton, with his appeals for
cessation of the bloodshed of the Terror, alone stood between
Robespierre and supreme power. Danton, Camille Desmoulins, Eglantine
and their humane fellows, were sent to the guillotine. Between the
10th of June and the 27th of July, in 1794, fourteen hundred people in
Paris alone died on the scaffold.

Fragonard dreaded to fly from the tempest. It was as safe to remain in
Paris as to leave the city. Any day he might be taken. Sadness fell
upon him and ate into his heart. The old artist could not look without
uneasiness upon the ruin of the aristocracy, of the farmers-general,
and of the gentle class, now in exile or prison or under trial--his
means of livelihood utterly gone. Without hate for Royalty or for the
Republic, the artists, by birth plebeian and in manners bourgeois,
many of them old men, could but blink with fearful eyes at the vast
upheaval. Their art was completely put out of fashion--a new art,
solemn and severe, classical and heroic, was born. For half a century
the charming art of France of the eighteenth century lay wholly
buried--a thing of contempt wherever it showed above the ashes.

Fragonard's powerful young friend David, the painter, now stood
sternly watchful over the old man's welfare; and David was at the
height of his popularity--he was a member of the Convention. He took
every opportunity to show his friendship publicly, visited Fragonard
regularly, secured him his lodgings at the Louvre, brought about his
election to the jury of the Arts created by the Convention to take the
place of the Royal Academy.

But the old artist was bewildered.

The national enthusiasm was not in him. The artists were ruined by the
destruction of their pensions. The buyers of Fragonard's pictures were
dispersed, their power and their money gone, their favour dissipated.
Fragonard worked on without conviction or truth. The new school
uprooted all his settled ideals. He struggled hard to catch the new
ideas, and failed. He helped to plant a tree of liberty in the court
of the Louvre, meditating the while how he could be gone from
Paris--it was a tragic farce, played with his soul. The glories of the
Revolution alarmed the old man. He saw the kinsfolk of his friends
dragged off to the guillotine. He had guarded against suspicion and
arrest by giving a certificate early in 1794, the year of the Terror,
stating that he had no intention of emigrating, adding a statement of
residence, and avowing his citizenship. He felt that even these acts
were not enough protection in these terrible years. No man knew when
or where the blow might fall--at what place or moment he might be
seized, or on what charge, and sent to the guillotine. Friends were
taken in the night. Hubert Robert was seized and flung into Saint
Lazare, escaping death but by an accident. The state of misery and
want amongst the artists and their wives and families at this time was
pitiable.

Fragonard gladly snatched at the invitation of an old friend of his
family, Monsieur Maubert, to go to him at Grasse during these anxious
times of the travail that had come upon France.

Shortly after that Sunday in December when the Du Barry went shrieking
to her hideous death at the guillotine, Fragonard, turning his face to
the South of his birth, was rolling up amongst his baggage the four
finished canvases of "The Romance of Love and Youth," and the
unfinished fifth canvas, "Deserted," ordered and repudiated by the Du
Barry. He bundled his family into a chaise, and lumbered out of
Paris, rumbling on clattering wheels through the guards at the gates,
and making southwards towards Provence for his friend's house at
Grasse. Here, far away from the din and strife, Fragonard set up his
world-famous decorative panels in the salon of his host, which they
admirably fitted, painting for the overdoors, "Love the Conqueror,"
"Love-folly," "Love pursuing a Dove," "Love embracing the Universe,"
and a panel over the fireplace, "Triumph of Love." He also painted
during his stay the portraits of the brothers Maubert; and, to keep
his host safe from ugly rumours and unfriendly eyes, he decorated the
vestibule with revolutionary emblems, phrygian bonnet, axes and
faggots, and the masks of Robespierre and the Abbé Gregoire, and the
like trickings of red republicanism.... His host was the maternal
grandfather of the Malvilan, at whose death in 1903, the room and its
decorations were sold to an American collector for a huge sum of
money.

Meanwhile, able and resolute men had determined that Robespierre and
the Terror must end. Robespierre went to the guillotine. The
Revolution of the Ninth Thermidor put an end to the Terror in July
1794.

All this time the armies of France were winning the respect of the
world by their gallantry and skill. The 23rd of September 1795, saw
France establish the Directory--the 5th of October, the Day of the
Sections, saw the stiff fight about the Church of St. Roch, and
Napoleon Bonaparte appointed second-in-command of the army. The young
general was soon Commander-in-Chief. And France thenceforth advanced,
spite of the many blunders of the Directory, with all the genius of
her race, to the splendid recovery of her fortunes, and to a greatness
which was to be the wonder and admiration and dread of the world.

The Revolution of the 18th and 19th of Brumaire (9th and 10th of
November 1799) destroyed the Directory and set the people's idol,
Napoleon Bonaparte, at the helm of her mighty state.



VI

THE END


To Paris Fragonard crept back, he and his family, to his old quarters
at the Louvre, when Napoleon was come to power, and the guillotine was
slaked with blood. He returned to Paris a poor old man.

The enthusiasm was gone out of his invention, the volition out of his
hand's cunning, the breath out of his career. He was out of the
fashion; a man risen from the dead. His efforts to catch the spirit of
the time were pathetic. He painted rarely now. He won a passing
success with an historic canvas or so, done in the new manner. But
what did Fragonard know of political allegories? what enthusiasm had
he for the famous days of the Revolution? what were caricature or
satire to him, any more than the heroic splendour of Greece and Rome?
The gods of elegance were dead; a severe and frigid morality stood
upon their altars.

We have a pen-picture of the old painter at this time--short, big of
head, stout, full-bodied, brisk, alert, ever gay; he has red cheeks,
sparkling eyes, grey hair very much frizzed out; he is to be seen
wandering about the Louvre dressed in a cloak or overcoat of a mixed
grey cloth, without hooks or eyes or buttons--a cloak which the old
man, when he is at work, ties at the waist with it does not matter
what--a piece of string, a crumpled chiffon. Every one loves "little
father Fragonard." Through every shock of good and evil fortune he
remains alert and cheerful. The old face smiles even through tears.

Thus, walking with aging step towards the end, he saw Napoleon created
Emperor of the French, his triumphant career marred only at rare
intervals by such disasters as Trafalgar--heard perhaps of the suicide
of the unfortunate but gallant Villeneuve at the disgrace of trial by
court-martial for this very loss of Trafalgar.

In the year of 1806, on the New Year's Day of which were abolished the
Republican reckonings of the years as established at the Revolution,
suddenly came the suppression of the artists' lodging at the Louvre by
decree of the Emperor. The Fragonards went to live hard by in the
house of the restaurant-keeper Very, in the Rue Grenelle Saint-Honoré.
The move was for Fragonard but the prelude to a longer journey.

The old artist walks now more sluggishly than of old, his
four-and-seventy years have taken the briskness out of his step.
Returning from the Champ de Mars on a sultry day in August he becomes
heated--enters a café to eat an ice; congestion of the brain sets in.
At five of the clock in the morning of the 22nd day of August 1806,
Fragonard enters into the eternal sleep--at the hour that his master
Boucher had gone to sleep.

Thus passed away the last of the great painters of France's gaiety
and lightness of heart.

Madame Fragonard lived to be seventy-seven, dying in 1824. Marguerite
Gérard had a happy career as an artist under the Empire and the
Restoration, but never married--dying at seventy-six, loaded with
honours and in comfortable circumstances in the year that Queen
Victoria came to the throne of England. Thus peacefully ended the days
of Fragonard and his immediate kin after the turmoil and fierce tragic
years of the Terror.

Painting with prodigal hand a series of elegant masterpieces in a
century that made elegance its god, Fragonard disappeared, neglected
and well-nigh discredited for years, with Watteau and Boucher and
Greuze for goodly company; but with them, he is come into his own
again, lord of a very realm of beauty.

To understand the atmosphere of the France of the seventeen-hundreds
before the Revolution it is necessary to understand the art of
Watteau, of Boucher, of Fragonard, and of Chardin. Of its pictured
romance, Watteau and Boucher and Fragonard hold the keys. To shut the
book of these is to be blind to the revelation of the greater part of
that romance. Watteau states the new France of light airs and gaiety
and pleasant prospects, tinged with sweet melancholy, that became the
dream of a France rid of the pomposity and mock-heroics of the Grand
Monarque; Boucher fulfils the century; Fragonard utters its swan's
note. The art of Fragonard embodies astoundingly the pulsing evening
of a century of the life of France, uttering its gay blithe note,
skimming over the dangerous deeps of its mighty significance, yet not
wholly disregarding the deeps as did the art of his two great
forerunners. His is the last word of that mock-heroic France that
Louis the Fourteenth built on stately and pompous pretence; that Louis
the Fifteenth still further corrupted by the worship of mere elegance;
that Louis the Sixteenth sent to its grave--a suffering people out of
which a real France arose, from mighty and awful travail, like a
giant, and stood bestriding the world, a superb reality.


The plates are printed by BEMROSE & SONS, LTD., Derby and London

The text at the BALLANTYNE PRESS, Edinburgh





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