The Watering Place Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806)

The Watering Place, Ca. 1763-1765.

Oil on canvas, H. 0.515 m; W. 0.63 m

Provenance: Madame de Saint-Sauveur; her sale, Paris, February 12, 1776, lot 53
Randon de Boisset; his sale, Paris, February 22, 1777, lot 230, for 1 650 livres to Mercier
Anonymous sale, Paris, May 23, 1780, lot 40, for 800 livres
Possibly the comte de Choiseul Gouffier, by 1783
Duc de Choiseul; his sale, Paris, December 10, 1787, lot 67, for 610 livres to Dulac
Anonymous sale, Paris, July 8, 1793, lot 14
Laperlier; his sale, Paris, April 11-13,1867, lot 33
Hippolyte Walferdin; his sale, Paris, April 3, 1880, lot 14
Mme Charles Kestner, by 1889
G. de Lauverjat.
Arthur Vieil-Picard
Private Collection, Switzerland
Private Collection, New York.

  • Le Journal de Paris, 25 March 1777, no. 84, p. 2, no. 230.
  • Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Fragonard, Paris, 1865, p. 339.
  • Le Hir, « Compte-rendu de la vente du 11-13 April 1867 », Journal des amateurs d’objets d’art et de curiosité, 1867, p. 128.
  • Roger Portalis, Honoré Fragonard, sa vie, son oeuvre, Paris, 1889, p. 127, 269, 289.
  • Pierre de Nolhac, J.-H. Fragonard, 1732-1806, Paris, 1906, p. 140.
  • Georges Wildenstein, « L’Exposition Fragonard au pavillon de Marsan », Revue de l’art français, no. 7, July 1921, p. 20.
  • Jacques Wilhelm, « Fragonard as a Painter of Realistic Landscapes », Art Quaterly, no. 11, Fall 1948, p. 302.
  • Louis Réau, Fragonard, Paris, 1956, p. 183, 186.
  • Georges Wildenstein, The Paintings of Fragonard, Aylesbury and Paris, 1960, p. 226, no. 126 (fig. 78).
  • Jacques Thuillier, Fragonard, Geneva, 1967, p. 71-72.
  • Daniel Wildenstein and Gabriele Mandel, L’opera completa di Fragonard, Milan, 1972, p. 93, no. 158, fig. p. 92.
  • Jean-Pierre Cuzin, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Vie et oeuvre, Catalogue complet des peintures, Fribourg, 1987, p. 279-280, no. 110, p. 280.
  • Pierre Rosenberg, Fragonard, New York, 1988, p. 195, no. 92, repr. p. 196.
  • Pierre Rosenberg, Tout l’oeuvre peint de Fragonard, Paris, 1989, p. 86, no. 131 (ill.).

Fragonard was a pupil of Jean Siméon Chardin and François Boucher. He obtained the Prix de Rome in 1752 and worked under Carle Vanloo in the Ecole royale des élèves protégés for three years. From 1756 to 1761 he studied at French Academy in Rome, at this time directed by Natoire who encouraged his pupils to work out of doors and draw landscapes. In Rome Fragonard became a close friend of Hubert Robert and the Abbé de Saint-Non. Fragonard and Robert worked a lot together in the country side and influenced each other profoundly in style. During the summer of 1760 a visit to the villa d’Este at Tivoli was going to have a decisive impact on Fragonard’s artistic career.

On his return to Paris in 1761, Fragonard undertook a series of landscapes close in style to Dutch 17th century painting. The Watering Place reveals a direct influence of Dutch 17th century landscapes on the aesthetics of that time. Fragonard’s admiration for Jacob van Ruisdael, whose influence is evident in the present picture, was already brought to light. With great subtlety Fragonard shows condensed and sometimes threatening clouds that find an echo with the rough terrain and the silhouettes of trees. The artist adds rural figures, often heightened with lively red, and also animals at a watering place. Far from a simple imitation, Fragonard reinterprets the style of his predecessors according to his eighteenth century sensibility.

Whether or not Fragonard actually ever travelled to Holland remains uncertain. However, he could easily have studied Dutch 17th century landscapes in private collections in Paris. French collectors in the second half of the 18th century had a great passion for this genre and some of the finest examples could be found in their collections. Pierre-Louis-Paul Randon of Boisset, Receiver General Finance, who briefly owned our painting, had amassed one of the most important collections of 18th century Paris, including over a hundred Dutch paintings.

The Watering Place may at one time have been associated as a pendant with another painting by Fragonard, Stormy Weather, which belonged to the Comte de Choiseul Gouffier. The Comte lent two “landscapes with figures of men and animals” to the Salon de Correpondance in 1783, and some scholars believe these two paintings were, in fact, Stormy Weather and The Watering Place. In addition, watercolour versions of these two paintings were together in the Marquis de Lagoy collection in 1800, and their existence there together further suggests an association between these two compositions. Another Fragonard painting, entitled The Rock, has also been linked with The Watering Place as its possible pendant. The two paintings were in the Walferdin collection, though sold separately, and were again together in the de Lauverjat and Veil-Picard collections.