What is Rococo?

Jean-Honoré Fragonard - Colonel Acland and Lord Sydney, The ArchersRococo comes from the word “rocaille”, which in french means “Rock” or shell. This movement was named for its use of curves and lights similar to those represented in shells. The Rococo movement began in the 17th century in France and continued through the 18th century evolving from the Baroque era. This was a time full of optimism in French society and French politics, and the painting of the time reflected this. The style reflects the joy and optimism of the times. Rococo affected many areas within the arts including painting, architecture, sculpture and interior design. Rococo was the chosen artistic style by the rising middle class.

As all art movements reflected the times and the political social atmosphere, so did Rococo. It was the end of a more stagnate and strict period of time and an era full of optimism for the future. The arts began to pursue themes of interest and of amusement.

Among the most famous Rococo painters were Jean Antoine Watteau, Francois Boucher & Jean-Honoré Fragonard. The style was meant to appeal to the emotions and themes were related to mythology, romance, fantasy and everyday life. This movement was extremely off the wall, and modern for the times. After all, previous art work had dealt solely with religious and historical subjects and ideas. Rococo was light, entertaining and ornamental - totally against all previous traditional art work.

The elements that stand out in this movement are gracefulness, femininity, light and furtive colors, all extreme changes from the previous periods.

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