Impressions of the Italian Masters: Fragonard's Drawings for the Abbé de Saint-Non
Impressions of the Italian Masters: Fragonard's Drawings for the Abbé de Saint-Non highlights forty-three drawings the great French artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) completed for his patron the Abbé Jean-Claude-Richard de Saint-Non after important Italian Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces. The black chalk drawings were commissioned by Saint-Non when Fragonard accompanied him on his return voyage from Rome to Paris in 1761.
The Abbé de Saint-Non (1729-1791) was an amateur artist and patron who traveled extensively throughout Italy between 1759 and 1761. In 1760, he was introduced to Fragonard, then an art student at the French Academy in Rome. Saint-Non soon became Fragonard's patron and supporter, sending him to Naples to copy the works of the Neapolitan masters.
Pleased with Fragonard's ability to capture the works of the great Italian painters on paper, Saint-Non invited the artist to accompany him on his return voyage from Rome to Paris in 1761 to record the many artistic masterpieces they would encounter along their way. The six month journey took the two travelers through the artistic capitals of central and northern Italy, including Siena, Florence, Bologna, Venice, Vicenza, Mantua, Modena, Parma and Piacenza. The journey is well documented by Fragonard's drawings and by Saint-Non's journal of the voyage, which describes the important landmarks in the different cities.
In addition to serving as documentary evidence of a grand tour through Italy, the drawings are works of art that reveal Fragonard's talent as a draftsman, his creative abilities, and his artistic process. Although many of the drawings are faithful renderings after the masterpieces, others are details from larger compositions which Fragonard either rearranged or framed from viewpoints independent of the originals. Drawings in the exhibition include studies after the Carracci, Tiepolo, Caravaggio, Veronese, Tintoretto, and Guercino, among others.
This collection of drawings is the culmination of an important collaborative effort between artist and patron. The exhibition emphasizes their value as works of art and as documentary materials. Excerpts from Saint-Non's journal of the voyage and photographs of some of the original artworks are included.