Posted by: mkl325 | April 21, 2014

Fragonard and Frozen

One night, during a trip back to Washington, DC around Christmas, a friend and I gave into our love of Disney movies and went to go see Frozen. Flash forward a few months and my sister is randomly breaking into “Let it go” and “Do you want to build a snowman”. As it turns out, the two year olds that she teaches are obsessed with the movie and they calm down and sing along the minute those songs are played. Having heard the songs so many times she knows them by heart, Clare decided it was time that she finally see the movie. I was excited for her to see it because one of the greatest parts of this movie is its inclusion of different artworks, and we are both art history nerds.

M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and Zero (Tony Revolori) standing in front of Klimt's "Birch Forest I" in Wes Anderson's movie "The Grand Budapest Hotel".

M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and Zero (Tony Revolori) standing in front of Klimt’s “Birch Forest I” in Wes Anderson’s movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.

Using famous art in movies is not a new concept but it is a rarity outside of an art gallery/museum scene or artist biopic because securing the rights for the work is extremely difficult and expensive. However, every now and then it happens. For example, while watching Wes Anderson’s movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, I noticed Gustave Klimt’s Birch Forest I in the background of a scene (there is also a painting that looks like it is by Egon Schiele but I have been unable to verify that it is one of his and I don’t know his work well enough to be certain).

Birch Forest I 1902 Gustave Klimt

Birch Forest I
1902
Gustave Klimt

The paintings used in Frozen are amusing for a different reason. The main character, Anna, walks into her gallery (mid song, of course) and stands in front of the paintings, acting out a part in them. Some of them are based off of famous paintings but are changed enough to avoid copyright. One painting of two Spanish dancers (which I could not from a picture of) has the same feeling as John Singer Sargent’s El Jaleo.

El Jaleo, 1882 John Singer Sargent  Oil on canvas Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Boston, MA, USA

El Jaleo, 1882
John Singer Sargent
Oil on canvas
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Boston, MA, USA

Then there is the moment when Anna jumps in front of a painting of a woman on a swing and mimics her position. This painting is unmistakably Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Swing. Apparently this was done on purpose as the painting was the inspiration for the feel of the movie Tangled.

The Swing 1767 Jean-Honoré Fragonard Oil on canvas Wallace Collection London, United Kingdom

The Swing
1767
Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Oil on canvas
Wallace Collection
London, United Kingdom

Here is the problem: It is a rococo (late Baroque) painting; a style that was light and playful (perfect for Disney, right?) but could also be a little scandalous. This particular painting was commissioned by the French dramatist Charles Collé, who wanted a painting of his mistress. Fragonard painted the mistress being pushed on a swing in a swirl of flowers and flowing pastel fabric. The painting is gorgeous, but when you look closer there is a whole different feeling to the painting that maybe doesn’t make it the best choice for a Disney movie.

Blissfully unaware...

Blissfully unaware…

She playfully kicks off her shoe towards the Cupid statue in front of her while keeping her back on the cherubs and her chaperone. She is making eye contact with a man watching her, while hidden in the bushes. If you follow the sight line of the man spying on her, he is looking directly up her skirt, seemingly with her encouragement as she kicks her leg up. In one of my first Art History classes, our professor pointed out that women of the time didn’t really wear underwear. Basically, this is a painting of a man at a peep show. In the movie they cut out the man in the bushes, it is a kid’s film after all.

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