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Marguerite Gérard

An artist in Fragonard’s workshop in 1789
From 10 November to 06 December 2009

This exhibition at the Musée Cognacq-Jay invites visitors to share in a dual discovery: a rare opportunity to explore the work of a great neglected artist, and a selection of works never before put on public display.

Marguerite Gérard (1761-1837) était la belle-sœur du peintre Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806). Installée à Paris depuis le milieu des années 1770, dans l’appartement même de Fragonard au Louvre, elle devient l’élève, puis l’assistante et la collaboratrice du maître.

À la fin des années 1780, alors que la gloire de Fragonard faiblit, la jeune Marguerite lance sa carrière.

Marguerite Gérard (1761-1837) was the sister-in-law of Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806). Based in Paris from the mid-1770s onwards, and even living in Fragonard’s apartment at the Louvre, Gérard was to become first the pupil, then the assistant and ultimately the artistic partner of the celebrated master.

In the late 1780s, with Fragonard’s own reputation on the wane, the young Marguerite set out to launch her own artistic career.

Breaking with the themes of her collaboration with her brother-in-law, she produced a series of small, intimate portraits of her family, fellow artists, friends and relations of Fragonard.

Painted in and around 1789, in the early days of the Revolution, these portraits offer a glimpse into the private world of some of the leading figures in the contemporary arts. Of particular interest are the portraits of Fragonard himself, his friend Hubert Robert, the composer Grétry, the architects Claude-Nicolas Ledoux and Charles de Wailly, Mirabeau and more.

For a young woman in this period, building a career as an independent artist was a considerable challenge. The young Marguerite Gérard rose to this challenge with a remarkable commercial intuition. As the Ancien Régime was tottering towards its demise, Gérard carved out her own niche in the new society which was emerging from its ashes. Her portraits, often presented or sold to the sitters themselves, served as advertisements for her work. She soon began to acquire a reputation.

This exhibition features sixty paintings and sketches, on loan from various collections in Europe and the United States. In addition to works by Marguerite Gérard and Fragonard, including one major collaborative piece, the show features contemporary portraits which illustrate Gérard’s sources of inspiration and the great popularity of this intimate portrait style, a popularity which would endure throughout the early nineteenth century up until the advent of photography.

 

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