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Rococo – History

Rococo (or Roccoco) Western Art style refers to a French Fine Art Movement, observed at peak during the eighteenth century, 1730s to be precise, during the reign of King Louis XV. The term ‘Rococo’ was derived from the French word ‘rocaille’ (pebble) and Italian term ‘Barocco (Baroque).’ Right from the ornamental objects of interior decoration such as furniture, to architecture, paintings, and sculpture, this novel French style touched all. Considered as a high fashion style, Rococo had some popular forms. In fact, Rococo can be labeled as the climax and the fall of Baroque Art.

The Details

In this Western Art style, grotesques were converted into lines, curves, and bands, all the while flirting safely with imaginary, fantasy, and game playing. Rococo was the dominant choice of the then modern and aristocrat society, which focused more on the unreflective and indulgent living style, rather than morality, piety, discipline, and heroism. Graceful & lighthearted romance, mythology, routine life, history, and religion were the key themes. Fanciful figures, a smart use of line, delicate curves, and pastel colors were the other evident key characteristics of this Western Art style. Focused on subjects, the art works were light in color, effects, and emotion. Rococo’s special attention to fine details in the purview of feminine taste made it a preferred choice for interior decoration. This style was also used in furniture, tapestry design, and portraiture.


Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) is considered as the first Rococo painter. He greatly influenced the later painters like Francois Boucher (1703-70), Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), and Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun (1755-1842 – especially in her portraits of Marie Antoinette). Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88) added uniqueness to the style through delicate and sensitive intricacies. Other Rococo artists include Jean-Baptiste van Loo (1684-1745), his two sons Louis-Michel van Loo (1707-71) & Charles-Amédée-Philippe van Loo (1719-95), & his younger brother Charles-André van Loo (1705-65); Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743); Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779); and Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805).

The Spread

Not only France, Rococo gained popularity in Germany, Bohemia, and Austria too. The German version of this French art style was introduced in churches and palaces in the southern part of the country, while Frederician Rococo was admired in the Kingdom of Prussia. In Italy, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770) was the frontrunner of this art movement. In England, Rococo was never adopted as an architectural style however; it significantly influenced Fine Arts zones, such as porcelain, silverwork, silk, and even some English furniture.

The End

Starting 1760s Rococo started to decline, as the critics condemned it as frivolous, tasteless, colorless art, and the sign of a corrupt society. Neo-Classicism eventually replaced this rich Western Art style, in 1785. 1820-70 witnessed the revival and another fall of Rococo.

Source by Annette Labedzki


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