Photo of the Week

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Bicycles in a Parisian courtyard. © Paris Update

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Paris Update What’s On

Links to events happening this week in Paris.

Stick up for science
> The Paris March for Science begins at 1pm at the Jardin des Plantes (Place Valhubert), April 22.

Silent films from Switzerland?
> They’re rare, but they do exist and can be seen at the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Paris, April 20-May 2.

Voices from the North
> The Pølar Festival celebrates Northern European culture with films, concerts, talks and more. Various locations, Paris, April 19-29.

Photo walk
> Eight Paris galleries hold special photography shows and events for Parcours Fotofever. Various locations, Paris, through May 1.

Photo shows galore
> Le Mois de la Photo has been moved from autumn to spring, with 96 exhibitions taking place all over the greater Paris area. See Web site for locations and dates.

Art videos
> The theme of this year’s Videobox Festival is “noise and movement.” Carreau du Temple, Paris, April 27-29.

Take home a winemaker
> Winemakers from Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux come to Paris to offer tastings of their products in wine bars and private homes for the event J’Irai Déguster chez Vous. Various venues, Paris, April 20-22.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Nicolas Bedos’s Monsieur & Madame Adelman preceded by a themed cocktail party (€4.50). Studio 28, Paris, April 21.

Polaroid pix
> The “Expolaroid” exhibition features Polaroid images by nine artists. La Maison des Ensembles, Paris, through April 25.

Binge-watching
> Festival Séries Mania shows TV series from around the world and holds debates, conferences and special guests like Julianna Margulies of “The Good Wife,” all for free. Forum des Images, Paris, through April 23.

Travel yarns
> Travel fanatics get together at the Paris Travelers Festival to swap tales of their adventures. FIAP, Paris, April 22-23.

Street art indoors

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The gallery Art in the Game will be showing works by Felipe Pantone at the Urban Art Fair.> Some 30 galleries show street art at the Urban Art Fair. Carreau du Temple, Paris, April 20-23.

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.

Before and after ecological disaster
> The Chic Planète festival presents two types of films, those celebrating the bounty of the earth and science-fiction views of what will happen after an ecopalypse. Forum des Images, Paris, through April 13.

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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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