An Analysis of The Swing

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An Analysis of The Swing

Jean-Honore Fragonard painted The Swing. The painting is also called the Happy Accidents of the Swing. It is an oil painting and was done in the 18th-century. The painting can be found in the Wallace collections in London. The painting is the Fragonard’s best-known work and is considered as the masterpiece of the rococo era.
A young man is seen in the painting, and he is hidden in the bushes. The man is watching a woman who is on a swing. The woman is being pushed by an older man who is unaware of the woman’s lover. The lady goes so high on the swing, and while doing so, she lets the young man have a peep under her dress. The woman is wearing a shepherdess hat.
The painting shows two lovers who have conspired to make an elderly man to push a lady in the swing. The lover of the woman is hiding in the bushes. The main idea of these people is that as the woman goes up in the air, she will part her legs, and the elderly man will get a perfect view into her dress. The painting can be interpreted as trying to show the sinful nature of humankind. The old man is described as a bishop trying to make the lover’s conspiracy look wicked.
According to Harden (1998), the painting manages to avoid the accusation of its vulgar nature despite having erotic overtones. This fact is made possible by the art’s knowledge on how to handle the subject with grace and a light heart. Fragonard is, therefore, in a position to turn what could arguably be seen as rude into good humour.
The painting is widely characterised by the use of bright colors. These bright colors are combined with playful scenes. The painting is seen as having used the combination of stone and a shell. The painting has a heavy reliance on the rocaille and coquilles. The paint is made using realistic colors and brushstrokes.
The main intention of Fragonard was to flatter the Baron and his mistress. He also wanted to provide the two with an intimate memento of their relationship. The painting is composed in a triangular shape. The lady is on air while the base of the pyramid is formed by the Baron and the husband. There is a soft light that seems to come from above. This light illuminates the lady. There are many trees that form an oval frame. The trees help in creating a conducive environment for the action that is taking place at the centre.
The painting involves several hidden details. These details include a stone dolphin and a lap dog, two putting embracing and a Cupid. The hidden details heighten the message of the secrets found in playful love. The lady’s slipper flies off her feet as she is swinging. This playful tactic that Fragonard employs in the painting serves in accentuating the erotic subject. The tactic also provides a visual focus of sunlight’s splash.
The work uses the Rococo style of painting. The style brings out more of the sensual rather than the intellectual side of painting. Fragonard uses a palette of color which is delicate. The colors used include minty green and juicy pink. The painting has an outdoor scene and, therefore, Fragonard uses the sunlight to illuminate the painting. The sunlight filters through the trees, and it provides a soft and seductive glow. The lady is hit by the light as she is swinging, and this makes her skin look fair and creamy. Fragonard creates a contrast by ensuring that all the other aspects of the painting are in shadow. An example of the aspects of the painting that are in shadow is the husband who is entirely in the shadow implying that the husband is in the dark as long as his wife’s affair is concerned.
The painting’s mood can be described as light-hearted and gay. The style used, Rococo, provides the work with an overall effect of erotic mirth and frivolity. The contrast that is created by the shadow and the light provides a feeling of an illicit thing going on in the painting. Fragonard uses loose brushstroke and a fluid to create an emphasis on the free nature of his subject matter. The edges of the painting are soft. A comparison of the painting and another work by Fragonard reveals that he painted the work with a finer detail than what he does in other works.

In conclusion, Fragonard’s work, The Swing, employs the use of Rococo style. The work’s mood is light-hearted and uses soft colors which make the work look decorative and appealing to the viewer. The work is concerned with the pleasure. The elderly man is placed in a position that allows him to see through the lady’s dress as she swings. The painting is one of its kinds. The painting shows the level of creativity that Fragonard employed in it.



Harris, B., & Zucker, S. (2015). Fragonard, The Swing.
Walker, M. (2013). Foliage as a Modifier of Erotica and Indicator of Politics in Fragonard            Paintings. Undergraduate Research Posters.


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