From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

"The beginning of the end for Rococo came in the early 1760s as figures like Voltaire and Jacques-François Blondel began to voice their criticism of the superficiality and degeneracy of the art. Blondel decried the "ridiculous jumble of shells, dragons, reeds, palm-trees and plants" in contemporary interiors."--Sholem Stein

"Leblanc, too, like Mariette, preceded Winckelmann in urging a noble simplicity, from which the French of his time had departed"--The Creation of the Rococo (1943) by Fiske Kimball

"With the dainty and measured minuets of Watteau the ball had begun, at midnight under the leadership of Boucher they danced the can-can, and now at dawn the cotillon follows. They had danced and loved too much. Instead of exerting themselves they now wished only to observe, as the pasha smoking opium sits apathetically in his harem. Even to have the ballet-girls dance no longer affords pleasure. Thus begins at the close of the Rococo the really gallant art — the living pictures."--The History of Painting: From the Fourth to the Early Nineteenth Century (1893/94) by Richard Muther

"Therein lies the strength of the painters of _rococo_, that they painted the artificiality of the time with such unsurpassable naturalness. It is just these infinitely various manners of paying court to nature--unceasingly throughout the course of centuries, now violently, now softly and tenderly, at times, too, not without passing infidelity,--it is just these which determine the beauty and value, the mystery and essence of art, and are in the history of art all that tends to its variety and unsurpassable charm."--The History of Modern Painting (1893/94) Richard Muther

Related e



The Rococo style of art emerged in France in the early 18th century as a continuation of the Baroque style. In contrast to the heavier themes and darker colors of the Baroque, the Rococo style was characterized by an opulence, grace, playfulness, and lightness. Rococo motifs focused on the carefree aristocratic life and on lighthearted romance rather than heroic battles or religious figures; they also revolve heavily around nature and exterior settings. In the mid-late 18th century, Rococo was largely supplanted by the Neoclassic style.

The word Rococo is seen as a combination of the French rocaille, or shell, and the Italian barocco, or Baroque style. Due to Rococo love of shell-like curves and focus on decorative arts, some critics used the term to derogatively imply that the style was frivolous or merely fashion; interestingly, when the term was first used in English in about 1836, it was a colloquialism meaning "old-fashioned". However, since the mid 19th century, the term has been accepted by art historians. While there is still some debate about the historical significance of the style to art in general, Rococo is now widely recognized as a major period in the development of European art.



Sculpture was another area where the Rococo was widely adopted. Étienne-Maurice Falconet (1716–1791) is widely considered one of the best representatives of French Rococo. In general, this style was best expressed through delicate porcelain sculpture rather than imposing marble statues. Falconet himself was director of a famous porcelain factory at Sèvres. The themes of love and gaiety were reflected in sculpture, as were elements of nature, curving lines and asymmetry.

The sculptor Bouchardon represented Cupid engaged in carving his darts of love from the club of Hercules; this serves as an excellent symbol of the Rococo style—the demigod is transformed into the soft child, the bone-shattering club becomes the heart-scathing arrows, just as marble is so freely replaced by stucco. In this connection, the French sculptors, Robert Le Lorrain, Michel Clodion, and Pigalle may be mentioned in passing.


Though Rococo originated in the purely decorative arts, the style showed clearly in painting. These painters used delicate colors and curving forms, decorating their canvases with cherubs and myths of love. Portraiture was also popular among Rococo painters. Some works show a sort of naughtiness or impurity in the behavior of their subjects, showing the historical trend of departing away from the Baroque's church/state orientation. Landscapes were pastoral and often depicted the leisurely outings of aristocratic couples.

Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684–1721) is generally considered the first great Rococo painter. He had a great influence on later painters, including François Boucher (1703–1770) and Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806), two masters of the late period. Even Thomas Gainsborough's (1727–1788) delicate touch and sensitivity are reflective of the Rococo spirit. Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun's (1755-1842) style also shows a great deal of Rococo influence, particularly in her portraits of Marie Antoinette. Other Rococo painters include: Jean François de Troy (1679-1752), Jean-Baptiste van Loo (1685-1745), his two sons Louis-Michel van Loo (1707–1771) and Charles-Amédée-Philippe van Loo (1719–1795), his younger brother Charles-André van Loo (1705–1765), Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743), and both Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779) and Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805), who were important French painters of the Rococo era who are considered Anti-Rococo.

During the Rococo era Portraiture was an important component of painting in all countries, but especially in England, where the leaders were William Hogarth (1697-1764), in a blunt realist style, and Francis Hayman (1708-1776), Angelica Kauffman who was Swiss, (1741-1807), Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), in more flattering styles influenced by Antony Van Dyck (1599-1641). While in France during the Rococo era Jean-Baptiste Greuze who was the favorite painter of Denis Diderot (1713-1785), Maurice Quentin de La Tour (1704-1788), and Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun were highly accomplished Portrait painters and History painters.


Examples of buildings:

Main works

See also

18th century French art

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Rococo" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools