Journal de Paris, March 25, 1777, no. 84, p. 2, no. 230 (the text is incomplete);
C. Blanc, Histoire des peintres de toutes les écoles depuis la Renaissance jusqu'à nos jours, Vol. II, Paris 1862, p. 15;
E. and J. de Goncourt, Fragonard, Paris 1865 (republished in L'Art du XVIIIe siècle, 1906), p. 339;
Le Hir, "Compte-rendu de la vente du 11-13 avril 1867," Journal des amateurs d'objets d'art et de curiosité, 1867, p. 128;
R. Portalis, Honoré Fragonard: Sa Vie, son oeuvre, Paris 1889, pp. 127, 269, 289;
P. de Nolhac, J.-H. Fragonard, 1732-1806, Paris 1906, p, 140;
G. Wildenstein, "L'Exposition Fragonard au pavillon de Marsan," Revue de l'art français, no. 7, July 1921, p. 20;
J. Wilhelm, "Fragonard as a Painter of Realistic Landscapes," Art Quarterly 11, Fall 1948, p. 302;
L. Réau, Fragonard, Paris 1956, pp. 183 and 186;
G. Wildenstein, The Paintings of Fragonard, Aylesbury and Paris 1960, p. 226, no. 126, reproduced fig. 78;
J. Thuillier, Fragonard, Geneva 1967, pp. 71-72;
D. Wildenstein and G. Mandel, L'opera completa di Fragonard, Milan 1972, p. 93, no. 158, reproduced p. 92;
J.-P. Cuzin, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Vie et oeuvre, Catalogue complet des peintures, Fribourg 1987, pp. 279-80, no. 110, reproduced p. 280 (as circa 1763-65);
P. Rosenberg, in Fragonard, exhibition catalogue, New York 1988, p. 195, no. 92, reproduced p. 196 (as tentatively datable to the 1770s);
P. Rosenberg, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Fragonard, Paris 1989, p. 86, no. 131, reproduced (as circa 1763-65).
This subtle and atmospheric work by Fragonard belongs to a distinct group of his paintings that show the direct influence of the great Dutch landscape painters of the 17th century, most notably Jacob van Ruisdael. Whether or not Fragonard actually ever traveled to Holland has long been the subject of debate. However, he would not necessarily have had to go to there in order to seek inspiration. French collectors of the second half of the 18th century had a great passion for Dutch 17th century landscapes and some of the finest works of this genre could be found in their collections and in the Paris salesrooms. It has even been suggested that Fragonard may have painted specific pictures to act as pendants to Dutch paintings already in French collections (see C. Bailey, “Conventions of the Eighteenth Century Cabinet de Tableaux,” Art Bulletin, September 1987, p. 431 passim). It is interesting to note that The Watering Place once belonged to Pierre-Louis-Paul Randon de Boisset (see Provenance below), Receiver General of Finance, who amassed one of the most important collections in Paris in the 18th century, and one that contained well over a hundred Dutch paintings. In his sale in 1777, which offered the most important group of works by Fragonard to be auctioned in the 18th century, The Watering Place made the substantial sum of 1,650 livres.
The Watering Place may at one time have been associated as a pendant with a painting by Fragonard entitled Stormy Weather (present whereabouts unknown). We know that Stormy Weather belonged to the Comte de Choiseul Gouffier based on an engraving after the painting made by Jean Mathieu when it was in that collection. The Comte lent two “landscapes with figures of men and animals” to the Salon de Correspondance in 1783, and some scholars believe these two paintings were, in fact, Stormy Weather and The Watering Place. In addition, watercolor versions of the The Watering Place (see Figure 1) and of Stormy Weather were together in the Marquis de Lagoy collection in 1800, and their existence there together further suggests an association between these two compositions. Pierre Rosenberg (see Literature below) believes the watercolors to have been done after the paintings, rather than as preparatory sketches, though it is difficult to know whether they were done at the same time as the paintings or at a later date.
Another Fragonard painting, entitled The Rock (see Figure 2), has also been linked with The Watering Place as its possible pendant. The two paintings were in the Walferdin collection (see Provenance below), though sold separately, and were again together in the de Lauverjat and Veil-Picard collections. Rosenberg (op cit., p. 198) points out that in terms of composition, date and overall sensibility, these two paintings are very close.
A preparatory study for The Watering Place, in bister wash, is in the collection of the British Museum.
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