The son of the painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Evariste Fragonard studied with his father in Paris before entering the studio of Jacques-Louis David. In 1793, at the age of only thirteen, Evariste made his Salon debut exhibiting a drawing of Timoleon Sacrificing his Brother. He continued to show his works regularly at the Salon until 1842, exhibiting drawings, scenes from Napoleonic history and, from 1820 onwards, troubadour paintings. Equally adept at large-scale history pieces and intimate cabinet pictures, Evariste was in great demand throughout his career and received official commissions to paint a decorative series for the Palais Bourbon and for the museum at Versailles.
This delightful painting shows Zeus' three daughters Aglaia, Euphrosyne and Thalia, otherwise known as the Three Graces. This sketch is characteristic of Evariste's early works which adhere to the Neoclassical taste of the time. Many of the artist's drawings of this type, produced during the Consulate and Empire, were exhibited at the Salons between 1793 and 1812, and were often reproduced as prints.1 This painting was almost certainly a commission Evariste received from a private patron, given its scale and subject matter.
1. One highly finished black chalk drawing of this type, showing Psyche before Venus (c.1797), includes the Three Graces (reproduced in A.L. Clark ed., Mastery & Elegance: Two Centuries of French Drawings from the collection of Jeffrey E. Horvitz, exh. cat., Cambridge (Mass.) 1998, p. 344, under no. 112, fig. 3.
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