Marguerite Gérard: artist, 1789 in Fragonard’s workshop, an exhibition at the Cognacq-Jay Museum in Paris from 10th September – 6th December 2009

This exhibition concentrates on the astonishing a little-known work of Marguerite Gérard (1761-1837), who was the sister-in-law of the great painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806). Having moved to Paris in the mid 1770s, living in Fragonard’s apartment in the Louvre, she became the painter’s student and subsequently collaborator…

Devised by José de Los Llanos, director of the Cognacq-Jay museum and Carole Blumenfeld, in charge of studies at the National Art History Institute – and a specialist on Marguerite Gérard – the exhibition shows a series of portraits that Gérard created with her brother-in-law – small format intimist works representing her family circle, artist friends and the Fragonard’s acquaintances.

Painted around 1789, at the beginning of the Revolution, these portraits show the unofficial image of the main personalities in the world of the arts at that time. There’s an especially striking portrait of Fragonard himself, one of his friend Hubert Robert, the composer Grétry, architects Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, Charles de Wailly, Mirabeau…

Le petit message. Photo : D.R.
The little messanger. Photo: all rights reserved

Becoming a recognised female painter in the society of the era was not simple at all. Knowing this, Marguerite made some clever marketing moves, taking advantage of the wobbling Old Regime to carve a niche for herself in this newly-formed society. Soon, her portraits, often donated to her models, carried her name far and wide, helping to make her well known and sought after.

The exhibition has sixty portraits and drawings borrowed from all over Europe and the United States. As well as the work of Marguerite Gérard and Fragonard, including one seminal collaborative effort, the exhibition will also show contemporary portraits which explain the artist’s sources and the success of the fashion of intimist portraits that took hold at the beginning of the 19th century, ending with the arrival of photography.

A catalogue will also be published to accompany the exhibition.

Le Baiser à la dérobée, Jean-Honoré Fragonard et Marguerite Gérard. Saint-Pétersbourg, musée de l’Ermitage. Photo : D.R
The stolen kiss. Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Marguerite Gérard. Saint-Petersburg, Hermitage Museum. Photo: all rights reserved

The exhibiton Marguerite Gérard : artiste en 1789 dans l’atelier de Fragonard rune from 10th September – 6th December 2009 at the Musée Cognacq-Jay (map here). Open every day except Mondays from 10am – 6pm. Admission 5€/3.50€ (2.50€ for 13-26 year-olds). Free for under-13s.

For more information (in French):