Fragonard uses red chalk in the most skilful and dynamic way throughout this splendid composition, and its intensity and general effect is enhanced by the masterly distribution of light. This the artist achieves to a considerable extent through his subtle and instinctive use of the white surface of the paper: the areas that are left blank serve not only to create highlights, but also to suggest space and depth in the composition. A tentative date after 1774 has been suggested for this drawing, although no red chalk drawings are known from as late as this. Such a dating seems, however, to be supported by the mature style of the drawing, the absence of any black chalk mise-en-page, and especially by the vigorous and broad treatment of the trees and their branches, which can be found in particular in some black chalk sketches datable after 1774. In terms of style, the present sheet is not at all far from Fragonard’s view, in red chalk over traces of black chalk, of the Château de Nègrepelisse, near Montauban, which he visited in October 1773.1 An antique-style fountain with a round basin supported by female figures is also to be seen on the left of Fragonard’s painting, Blindman’s Buff, in Washington, which is datable circa 1775-1780.2
1 Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, inv. no. F-I-244; P. Rosenberg, Fragonard, exhib. cat., Paris, Grand Palais, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987-88, no. 171, reproduced
2 Ibid., p. 344, no. 163, reproduced p. 347
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