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Art movement

Rococo infused the world of art and interior design with an aristocratic idealism that favored elaborate ornamentation and intricate detailing. The paintings that became signature to the era were created in celebration of Rococo's grandiose ideals and lust for the aristocratic lifestyle and pastimes. The movement, which developed in France in the early 1700s, evolved into a new, over-the-top marriage of the decorative and fine arts, which became a visual lexicon that infiltrated 18th century continental Europe.

In painting Rococo was primarily influenced by the Venetian School's use of color, erotic subjects. The noted painters Giorgione and Titian, among others, influenced the Rococo period's emphasis on swirling color. Pastoral Concert (c. 1509), first attributed to Giorgione, though now credited by most scholars as one of Titian's early works, was classified as a Fête champêtre, or outdoor party, by the Louvre when it first became part of the museum's collection. The Renaissance work depicting two nude women and two aristocratic men playing music in an idealized pastoral landscape would heavily influence the development of Rococo's Fête galante, or courtship paintings. The term referred to historical paintings of pleasurable past times and became popularized in the works of Jean-Antoine Watteau. His "reception piece" for the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Embarkation for Cythera (1717), effectively launched the Rococo movement. The Academy coined the term Fête galante to refer to the work, thus establishing the category that was to be a dominant element of Rococo painting. Depiction of the aristocrats, dressed as if for a ball or wearing costumes, who would wine, dine, and engage in amorous pursuits within Arcadian gardens and parks, became an extremely popular subject. It not only appealed to private patrons, but its mythologized landscapes and settings met the standards of the Academy which ranked historical painting, including mythological subjects, as the highest category.

At the beginning of his artistic career, Watteau joined the studio of Claude Audran, who was a renowned decorator, where he met and became an artistic colleague of Claude Gillot, known for his decoration of commedia dell'arte, or comic theater productions. As a result, Watteau's work often expressed a theatrical approach, showing figures in costume amongst backdrop scenery, lit up with artificial light. Claude Audren was the official Keeper of the Luxembourg Palace and, while working with him, Watteau copied Peter Paul Rubens' series of twenty-four paintings of the Life of Marie de' Medici (1622-25), which was displayed at the palace. Ruben's series, combining allegorical figures and mythological subjects with depictions of the Queen and the aristocratic court, continued to inform Watteau's work. Rubens had pioneered the technique of trois crayons, meaning three chalks, a technique using red, black, and white, to create coloristic effects. Watteau mastered the technique to such a degree that his name became associated with it, and it was widely adopted by later Rococo artists, including François Boucher.

Influenced by Rubens and Watteau, Boucher became the most renowned artist of the mature Rococo period, beginning in 1730 and lasting until the 1760s. Noted for his painting that combined aristocratic elegance with erotic treatments of the nude, as seen in his The Toilet of Venus (1751), he was equally influential in decorative arts, theatrical settings, and tapestry design. He was appointed First Painter to the King in 1765 but is most known for his long time association with Madame de Pompadour, the official first mistress of King Louis XV and a noted patron of the arts.

Madame de Pompadour, born Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, has been called the "godmother of the Rococo," due to her centrality in promoting the style and establishing Paris as the artistic capital of Europe. She influenced further applications of Rococo due to her patronage of artists such as Jean-Marc Nattier, the sculptor Jean Baptiste Pigalle, the wallpaper designer Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, and the gemstone engraver Jacques Guay. She remained his confidant and trusted advisor of the King until her death at the age of 42 due to tuberculosis. Her role and status became the de facto definition of royal patronage. Other noted artists of French Rococo included Jean-Baptiste van Loo, and François Lemoyne. Lemoyne was noted for his historical allegorical paintings as seen in his Apotheosis of Hercules (1733-1736) painted on the Salon of Hercules' ceiling at Versailles. A noted feature of French Rococo painting was the manner in which a number of noted artist families, such as the van Loos, maintained a consistent style and subject matter in their workshops.

Painting took the lead in Italian Rococo, exemplified by the works of the Venetian artist Giambattista Tiepolo. Combining the Venetian School's emphasis on color with quadratura, or ceiling paintings, Tiepolo's masterworks were frescos and large altarpieces. Famed throughout Europe, he received many royal commissions, such as his Apotheosis of the Spanish Monarchy (1762-1766) in the Royal Palace in Madrid.

Italian Rococo was also noted for its great landscape artists known as "view-painters," particularly Giovanni Antonio Canal, known simply as Canaletto. He pioneered the use of a two-point linear perspective while creating popular scenes of the canals and pageantry of Venice. His works, such as his Venice: Santa Maria della Salute (c. 1740), were in great demand with English aristocrats. In the 1700s it became customary for young English aristocrats to go on a "Grand Tour," visiting the noted sites of Europe in order to learn the classical roots of Western culture. The trips launched a kind of aristocratic tourism, and Venice was a noted stop, famed for its hedonistic carnival atmosphere and picturesque views. These young aristocrats were also often art collectors and patrons, and most of Canaletto's works were sold to an English audience, and in 1746 he moved to England to be closer to his art market and lived there for almost a decade.

Rosalba Carriera's pastel portraits, both miniature and full-size, as well as her allegorical works, were in demand throughout Europe, as she was invited to the royal courts of France, Austria, and Poland. She pioneered the use of pastels, previously only employed for preparatory drawings, as a medium for painting, and, by binding the chalk into sticks, developed a wider range of strokes and prepared colors. Her Portrait of Louis XV as Dauphin (1720-1721) established the new style of Rococo portraiture, emphasizing visual appeal, and decorative effect.

English Rococo, which was called "French style," was more restrained, as the excesses of the style were met with a somber Protestantism. It can be traced in the work of British artists such as William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough, and the Swiss Angelica Kauffman. In his book The Analysis of Beauty (1753) Hogarth advocated for the use of a serpentine line, seeing it as both more organic and aesthetically ideal. Gainsborough first studied with Gravelot, a former student of Boucher, whose feathery brushwork and color palette influenced Gainsborough's portraiture toward fluidity of light and color. Though Swiss-born, Angelica Kauffman spent most of her life in Rome and London. From 1766 to 1781 she lived in London where influential Sir Joshua Reynolds particularly admired her portraiture. One of only two women elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in London, she played a significant role in both advancing the Rococo style and, subsequently, Neoclassicism.

In 1750 Madame de Pompadour sent her nephew Abel-François Poisson de Vandières to study developments in Italian art and archeology. Returning with an enthusiasm for classical art, Vandières was appointed director of the King's Buildings where he began to advocate for a Neoclassical approach. He also became a noted art critic, condemning Boucher's petit style, or "little style." Noted thinkers of the day, including the philosopher Voltaire, the art critic Diderot also critiqued Rococo as superficial and decadent. These trends, along with a rising revolutionary fervor in France caused Rococo to fall out of favor by 1780.

The new movement Neoclassicism, led by the artist Jacques-Louis David, emphasized heroism and moral virtue. David's art students even sang the derisive chant, "Vanloo, Pompadour, Rococo," singling out the style, one of its leading artists, and it most noted patron. As a result, by 1836 it was used to mean "old-fashioned," and by 1841 was used to denote works seen as "tastelessly florid or ornate." The negative connotations continued into the 20th century, as seen in the 1902 Century Dictionary description "Hence rococo is used... to note anything feebly pretentious and tasteless in art or literature."

Rococo design and painting would veer toward divergent paths, as Rococo design, despite the new trends in the capital, continued to be popular throughout the French provinces. In the 1820s under the restored monarchy of King Louis Philippe, a revival called the "Second Rococo" style became popular and spread to Britain and Bavaria. In Britain, the revival became known as Victorian Rococo and lasted until around 1870, while also influencing the American Rococo Revival in the United States, led by John Henry Belter. The style, widely employed for upscale hotels, was dubbed "Le gout Ritz" into the 20th century. However, in painting Rococo fell out of favor, with the exception of the genre paintings of Chardin, highly praised by Diderot, which continued to be influential and would later make a noted impact on Paul Cézanne, Édouard Manet, and Vincent van Gogh.

Edmund and Jules de Goncourt rediscovered the major Rococo painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard in L'Art du XVIIIe siècle (Eighteenth-Century Art) (1865). He subsequently influenced the Impressionists, especially Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Berthe Morisot, and has gone on to influence contemporary artists like Yinka Shonibare, Kent Monkman, and Lisa Yuskavage. Also rediscovered by the de Goncourt brothers, Watteau's commedia dell'arte subjects influenced Pablo Picasso, Cézanne, and Henri Matisse, as well as many poets such as Paul Verlaine and Guillaume Apollinaire, the composer Arnold Schoenberg, and the choreographer George Balanchine.

The term Rococo and the artists associated with it only began to be critically re-evaluated in the late 20th century, when the movements of Pop Art and the works of artists like Damien Hirst, Kehinde Wiley, and Jeff Koons created a new context for art expressing the same ornate, stylistic, and whimsical treatments. Rococo has had a contemporary influence as seen in Ai Weiwei's Logos (2017) where, as art critic Roger Catlin wrote, "What looks like a fancy rococo wallpaper design in black and white and in gold is actually an arrangement of handcuffs, chains, surveillance cameras, Twitter birds and stylized alpacas - an animal which in China has become a meme against censorship." The movement also lives on in popular culture, as shown in Arcade Fire's hit song "Rococo" (2010).

See also Rococo (style)

Sources: www.theartstory.org

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rococo

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