Photo of the Week

ParisUpdate-ParisNight

The view from the Théâtre de l"Odéon at dusk. Photo: Françoise Deberdt-Meunier

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Paris Update What’s On

Links to events happening this week in Paris.

Left Bank gallery crawl
> Open house at 50 galleries for Art Saint Germain des Prés. Various venues, Paris, May 18-June 3.

Gold in galleries

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“Passage” ((2017), by Aude Herlédan. At 1831 Art Gallery during Carré Rive Gauche.

> The Carré Rive Gauche, an association of Left Bank galleries, celebrates its 40th anniversary with an event called ExtrORdinaire, featuring gold in works of art. Various venues, Paris, May 18-June 3.

Literary evening
> The Nuit de la Littérature in Belleville and Ménilmontant presents 20 foreign authors reading their work in French. Various venues, Paris, May 27.

 English-language theater festival
> Paris Fringe returns for its second year of English-language theater and comedy. Various venues, Paris, May 18-28.

Hollywood glam
> Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich and more in classic films from Hollywood's Golden Age for the Glamour cycle. Forum des Images, Paris, May 3-31.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Etienne Comar’s Django, preceded by a themed cocktail party (€4.50). Studio 28, Paris, May 26.

Virtual reality
> Drop in on Saturday or Sunday from 2pm to 8pm for a free virtual trip at the VR Express festival. Forum des Images, Paris, through June 30.

Dance in historic sites
> Monuments en Mouvement offers free dance performances in national monuments like the Pantheon in Paris, the Abbaye de Cluny and châteaux. Various locations, through Oct. 21.

African culture festival
> The 100% Afriques festival showcases dance, theater, music, fashion, design, art, food and more from all over the continent. La Villette, Paris, through May 28.

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Art - Temporary Exhibitions

 

Fragonard: Amoureux, Galant et Libertin

Soft Porn for
Lusty Libertines

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“Le Verrou” (c. 1777-78). © Photo RMN-
Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre)/Daniel Arnaudet

When his pictures weren't downright naughty, they were often breathlessly passionate, but apparently Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-
1806), the illustrator of the libertine era par excellence, didn't practice what he painted. Falsely credited with passionate liaisons with famed courtesans, he was actually a steady, faithful husband and doting father. When he painted the often risqué and sometimes licentious works shown in the exhibition “Fragonard Amoureux, Galant et Libertine” at the Musée du Luxembourg, he was just giving the public of his time what it wanted (and perhaps taking vicarious pleasure in the eroticism of his pictures?).

Some of those pictures can be almost offensive to our modern mores. “Les Suites de l'Orgie” (1765-70), primly titled “Festive Meal” in English by its owner, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam (I would

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“Les Suites de l'Orgie (c. 1765-70). © Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam/photo: Studio Tromp

translate it as “Aftermath of the Orgy”) shows a mass of entangled bodies with raised skirts of what appear to be children. Titles of other works like “La Résistance Inutile” (“Useless

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“La Résistance Inutile” (1770-73). © Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

Resistance”) seem to imply that a rape is in progress. In "Le Verrou" (pictured at the top of this page), a young man reaches up with his right arm to lock the door while the distressed-looking young woman he has firmly gripped in his left arm tries ineffectually to stop him and push him away (French art historian Daniel Arasse saw symbols of both male and female genitals in the jumbled mass of bedclothes and draperies that take up over half the painting).

Voyeurs were well served by such works as a series of drawings of girls sporting in a dormitory in various states of undress, or “Deux Femmes sur un Lit Jouant avec Deux Chiens ou Le Lever” (“Two Women on a Bed Playing with Two Dogs,” c. 1770), in which one woman lies on her stomach with her generous buttocks uncovered while the other stands on the bed, raising her skirt up above her waist and exposing her genitals.

As highly suggestive as many of Fragonard's paintings and drawings were, however, sometimes verging on soft porn, they were never really explicit, unlike works by some of his contemporaries included in the show. In “Etreinte” (c. 1730), attributed to Jean-Baptiste Pater, for example, the couple depicted are clearly having sex, whereas in Fragonard's works, even those with the most nudity, the lovers are caught in that moment of intense

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“L'Instant Désiré” (c. 1770) © collection George Ortiz/photo: Maurice Aeschimann

heat just before the act, as in “L'Instant Désiré” (c. 1770).

The exhibition, with some 80 works, makes the point that even though he was not really a libertine, he was in every other way a man of his time, influenced by fellow artists, including François Boucher, Pierre-Antoine Baudouin and Jean-Baptiste Greuze, and writers like Denis Diderot and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

While Fragonard's frothy style does not appeal to my own sensibilities, his works have their charms and serve as a sort of relic of a time and place and lifestyle that were soon to disappear as Louis XV's libertine reign gave way to the less-licentious era of Louis XVI and then the upheaval of the Revolution.

Heidi Ellison

Musée du Luxembourg: 19, rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris. Métro: Saint-Sulpice or Odéon. RER: Luxembourg. Tel.: 01 40 13 62 00. Open daily, 10am-7pm, until 10pm on Mondays. Closed May 1. Admission: €12. Through January 24, 2016.

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More reviews of Paris art shows.

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