Making Fritters
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Jean-Honoré Fragonard
French, about 1782
Brown wash over graphite
9 11/16 x 14 3/4 in.

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One of the greatest draftsmen of all time, Fragonard is most famous for wash drawings such as this one. The frenzied joy of the scene, with its roaring fire and roiling mound of forms and faces, is matched by the surging energy with which he applied the media.

Fragonard began with a flurry of rapid-fire graphite lines that map out the complex, multi-figured composition. In a second attack, he loaded his brush with numerous gradations of warm brown wash. A third vital component is his use of the white paper (called the reserve) for the highest lights. The three elements of the graphite, the wash, and the paper interact dynamically to create a sense of evanescent movement and enveloping atmosphere.