"his marvellous inheritance of Watteau's, Poussins and a pair of very special Fragonards"
Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) was a French artist, and was instrumental in the evolution of Baroque into Rococo. As a young man, he was an assistant to Claude Gillot. The older artist designed theatre sets, and passed on this pasion - including ballet - to Watteau. He also used the Commedia dell'arte for inspiration, which can be seen in his portrait of Pierrot. The many scenes of rural idyll that he painted were known as 'fête galante', and showed well dressed, wealthy groups of people enjoying themselves in the countryside.
Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) was also a French painter, and was born in Normandy. He painted in the Classical style, as opposed to Baroque, which dominated at the time. At the court of Louis XIII of France he served as First Painter to the king, but spent the greater portion of his life working in Rome. The Renaissance influences in his work are clear, and influenced his choice of subject; he painted many biblical themes such as 'The Destruction of Jerusalem' and 'Adoration of the Golden Calf'. Classical figures including Cacus and Phocion were also favoured by him.
Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) was a prolific French painter, born in the Alpes-Maritimes. He worked in a lush, sumptuous Rococo style, and was greatly influenced by his travels in Italy. He attained a good number of private clients in France, many of them from the court of Louis XV, including the king himself. He was also commissioned by Madame du Barry. The French Revolution put paid to this; luckily Fragonard was able to leave Paris just before the Reign of Terror hit its peak. His son, Alexandre-Évariste, also became a well known artist.