Jean-Honoré Fragonard (?)
(Grasse, 1732-1806, Paris)
Portrait of the Painter Hubert Robert
Oil on paper on canvas, 42.5 x 34 cm

A half-length portrait (Louvre) done in 1788 by Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun aids us in identifying this painting of a man reading; he seems to be the friend of Fragonard’s first Roman sojourn, the painter Hubert Robert (1733-1808). In both pictures Robert wears his informal dress: brown cloth jacket, light blouse and white, carelessly knotted scarf – personifying the period’s conception of a genius. Beneath a light falling from the left, the colours of the right half of the painting emerge more strongly, with azure coatings in green, burnt Siena and ochre. The left half of the body, in shadow, is treated with greater chromatic reserve, the left hand only sketchily indicated. The head is chromatically differentiated beneath tangled, ashblond hair: rosy flesh tints highlighted in white, ochre and red. Colour application and the age of the subject, who is about forty, suggest a date around the beginning of the 1770s. It is stylistically and chromatically related to the "Portrait of the Abbé de Saint-Non" and four allegorical male portraits; it was probably done just before the second Italian journey in 1773/74. Fragonard often painted his friend (Washington, National Gallery of Art), who also appears in drawings showing a man of the same thickset type.