Unlike the majority of Fragonard's red chalk landscapes, made during a summer at Tivoli in 1760, this drawing is a work of the artist's maturity, probably dating to just before his second trip to Italy in 1773–74. Dense deciduous trees recall the forests around Paris rather than the Roman countryside. The unhesitating, even virtuoso, handling suggests that this is an independent work, probably created in the studio from a related plein-air study now in a private collection. A stand of mature trees, bursting with profuse sunlit foliage, guards the shady entrance to the woods. In a characteristic manipulation of scale, Fragonard presents small groupings of elegant figures, half lost in shadow, as restrained echoes of the vigor and fecundity of the overgrown landscape. The dramatic naturalism associated with the Dutch landscapists, especially Jacob van Ruisdael, is here merged with a vision of nature as a welcoming milieu for aristocratic dalliance, a legacy of Watteau's fêtes galantes.
Signature: Lower center, in red chalk: frago . . .
Jacques Doucet (French, Paris 1853–1929 Paris), his collection sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, June 5, 1912 (lot 14, repr.); Marius Paulme (per Ananoff); Maurice Fenaille; Mr. and Mrs. François Panafieu (daugher of M. Fenaille and her husband); M. Panafieu's anonymous sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, June 23, 1959 (lot 6); Vendor: Wildenstein & Co., Inc. (New York)
Jacques Seligmann et Fils. "Exposition de dessins de Fragonard, Paris, Jacques Seligmann et Fils," 1931.
National Museum of Western Art. "Fragonard," March 18, 1980–May 11, 1980.
Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. "Fragonard," May 24, 1980–June 29, 1980.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," August 21, 1995–November 26, 1995.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Eighteenth-Century French Drawings in New York Collections," February 3, 1999–April 25, 1999.
Morgan Library & Museum. "An Independent Draftsman: Fragonard and the French Tradition," October 13, 2006–January 7, 2007.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009.
Exposition d'oeuvres de J.-H. Fragonard Exh. cat., Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Paris, 1921, cat. no. 198, p. 56.
Georges Wildenstein Expositions d'oeuvres de J.-H. Fragonard.. Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, 1921, cat. no. 198, p. 56.
Expositions de dessins de Fragonard Exh. cat. Paris, Jacques Seligmann. 1931, cat. no. 101, p. 50.
J. Lejeaux Exposition de l'art français au XVIIIe siècle. Copenhagen, Palais de Charlottenborg, 1935, cat. no. 369, p. 113.