Monday, April 4, 2011

Fragonard's Stolen Kisses and Love Letters...

The Stolen Kiss, c. late 1780's
By Raine Miller

Do you ever use art as inspiration for your writing? I do. In fact it was a painting that got me started on my very first story. People have asked me about the paintings featured on my website, so I thought I'd share the one in my header image. I actually have this print on a canvas on the wall above my laptop. I used it for inspiration for a scene in a WIP where the hero, Colin, goes after Elle and gets exactly what he was after, thank you very much!

 The artist, Jean-HonorĂ© Fragonard, (pronounced without the /d/ at the end) was a French painter whose work became all the rage for the wealthy art patrons of Louis XV's pleasure-loving, licentious court. Let’s face it, these people were all about the sex and this very tenet of the culture influenced what Fragonard painted: mostly scenes of love and voluptuousness. Even though his painting was considered scandalous, it remained hugely popular with the hedonists of the day. History lesson: Louis the 15th was the French king just before the one who lost his head in the French Revolution. So, the wild revelry was great while it lasted.
A Young Girl Reading, c. 1776

The Swing, 1767

The reading girl in the yellow dress is an image much copied and reprinted, so you may have seen it before. Another vastly popular painting is the one of the girl swinging while her lover checks under her skirts. Ahem, yes, those French boys were naughty that way. 

The lady composing what appears to be a secret letter is also inspiring. What scandalous prose has she written? We are left only to ponder. The last one is my favorite. Aptly named, The Bolt, we get a clear understanding of the urgency of the scene and why he’s in such a hurry. As a device for creating tension in writing, the sliding or latching of a bolt always works well.

The Bolt, 1778

The Love Letter, 1770
So what happened to Fragonard, you ask? Well, the French Revolution happened, that's what. And it cost him his private patrons (they got the axe, or guillotine as it were) and he decided it would be a good time to get the hell out of France himself. Fragonard didn't return to Paris until early in the 19th c. where he died in 1806, almost completely forgotten.

For a half century after that he was ignored, not even mentioned in the 1873 edition of History of Art. Reevaluation by later scholars have changed that though, confirming his position among the all-time masters of French painting and one whose works will continue to inspire this writer every time she sets out to work on her stories.

All best history lovers,

Raine Miller loves exploring history from most any time. She finds herself best entertained by writing fiction based on the truth of the past. You can learn more about her writing and upcoming book by stopping by her blog:

Raine Miller Romance~where history comes...unlaced


Anita Davison said...

It was a painting of James Scott, Duke of Monmouth in the National Portrait Gallery in London that inspired me to write my first novel. A tortured, misguided young man who came to a sticky end!

Maggi Andersen said...

My mother's painting inspired me to write my gothic mystery, Night Garden. She also found the title.
Fragonard is a favourite of mine, he so perfectly captures the world of Louis XV's licentious court, but with a delicate beauty.