Art: Visions of A Rococo Master

An extraordinary show reveals the versatility of Fragonard

In popular reputation, Jean-Honore Fragonard is often dismissed as a purveyor of teasingly erotic marzipan: images of rose-cheeked, button-eyed demimondaines in leafy bowers, often dallying with wan, wigged swains. The extraordinary exhibition of Fragonard's works that opened last week at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and that can be seen there until May 8, amply demonstrates the limiting inaccuracy of that view. In reality, Fragonard was probably the most versatile of the great masters of 18th century French art.

Astonishingly, the exhibition is the first major retrospective in North America for Fragonard. (The show, organized with the Louvre, appeared...

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