The Rococo palette is softer and paler than the rich primary colors and dark tonalities favored in Baroque tastes.
Rococo is a style of 18th century French art and interior design. Rococo rooms were designed as total works of art with elegant and ornate furniture, small sculptures, ornamental mirrors, and tapestry complementing architecture, reliefs, and wall paintings. It was largely supplanted by the Neoclassic style.
The word Rococo is seen as a combination of the French rocaille, or stone garden (referring to arranging stones in natural forms like shells), 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 modish; 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.
Architecture & Interior Design
The lighthearted themes and intricate designs of Rococo presented themselves best at a smaller scale than the imposing Baroque architecture and sculpture. It is not surprising, then, that French Rococo art was at home indoors. Metalwork, porcelain figures,frills and especially furniture rose to new pre-eminence as the French upper classes sought to outfit their homes in the now fashionable style.
Rococo style took pleasure in asymmetry, a taste that was new to European style. This practice of leaving elements unbalanced for effect is called contraste.
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.
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