Rococo – 5 Interesting Facts

The Rococo period emerged in 18th century France as a reaction to the Baroque period. Many describe Rococo as the whimsical and carefree child of the somber and virtuous Baroque era. Without religious propaganda, Rococo became a symbol of status for the aristocracy. For more about this movement, here are the following facts:

1. Rococo began with interior decoration.

  • The name of the period comes from the French word “rocaille.” It refers to the shell and rock ornamentation used in man-made grottoes.
  • King Louis XV, like his predecessor, used art as a display of his power. His furniture was made to suit the intimacy of his apartments and reflect his self-indulgent lifestyle.

2. Rococo painting developed as a blend of two schools of thought.

  • Following the construction of the Versailles Palace, Louis XV sought more youthful art. He tasked artists to create works opposite the formal Baroque style of the Palace.
  • Two groups from the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture argued about the importance of drawing versus color. This resulted in a style that combined intricate detail and bright colors.

3. Frivolity and superficiality are defining characteristics of Rococo.

  • The figures depicted in paintings were usually dressed in extravagant French fashion. Backgrounds were typically pastoral or fantasy scenes.
  • Rococo is infamous for being the art of the wealthy for the wealthy. Like its king, it indulged in pleasure while majority of the French population underwent economic hardship.

4. Jean Antoine Watteau is the pioneer of Rococo painting.

  • He created the “fête galante” genre which depicted figures in outdoor gatherings. He often painted courtship parties where men and women enjoyed music and each other’s company.
  • Watteau fathered Rococo trends such as asymmetric composition, and the use of ‘C’ and ‘S’ curves to create form.

5. Francois Boucher introduced carnal and erotic themes in Rococo.

  • Boucher began his career engraving Watteau’s works. His sensual paintings were seen by many as tasteless compared to his predecessor.
  • He is a friend of Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV who convinced the king to patronize Rococo. She helped Boucher become the most in-demand painter in France.

Rococo art highlighted and further inspired high-class beauty and sophistication. It left a lasting legacy in painting and furniture design, making it a part of France’s national heritage.

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