The Love Letter

Artist: Jean Honoré Fragonard (French, Grasse 1732–1806 Paris)

Date: early 1770s

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 32 3/4 x 26 3/8 in. (83.2 x 67 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: The Jules Bache Collection, 1949

Accession Number: 49.7.49


In the work of Fragonard, by comparison, for example, with that of Boucher, finish is a relative term. Here, over a brown tone, Fragonard shapes the composition in darker shades of brown, drawing and modeling with the tip of the brush and with strokes of varying thickness. Color and white are confined to passages under strong light toward the center of the canvas: the young woman's powdered face, her dress and cap, writing surface and stool, flowers and dog. This famous canvas from the early 1770s should be read not as a portrait but as a genre scene.