04-Rococo - READINGS: ROCOCO Background: In 1715 the French...

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READINGS: ROCOCO Background: In 1715 the French greeted a new king for the first time in seventy-two years. Louis XV, a boy only five years old, succeeded his great-grandfather Louis XIV, the Sun King, who had made France the preeminent power in Europe. For the next eight years the late king's nephew, the duc d'Orléans, governed as regent. His appetite for beauty and vivaciousness was well known, and he set aside the piety enforced by Louis XIV at Versailles. France turned away from imperial aspirations to focus on more personal -- and pleasurable -- pursuits. As political life and private morals relaxed, the change was mirrored by a new style in art, one that was intimate, decorative, and often erotic. THE ROCOCO STYLE Louis XIV's desire to glorify his dignity and the magnificence of France had been well served by the monumental and formal qualities of most seventeenth-century French art. But members of the succeeding court began to decorate their elegant homes in a lighter, more delicate manner. This new style has been known since the last century as "rococo," from the French word, rocaille, for rock and shell garden ornamentation. First emerging in the decorative arts, the rococo emphasized pastel colors, sinuous curves, and patterns based on flowers, vines, and shells. Painters turned from grandiloquence to the sensual surface delights of color and light, and from weighty religious and historical subjects -- though these were never ignored completely -- to more intimate mythological scenes, views of daily life, and portraiture. Similarly, sculptors increasingly applied their skills to small works for the appreciation of private patrons. Antoine Watteau and the Fête Galante Though several painters of the preceding generation had experimented with the ingredients of rococo -- emphasizing color, a lighthearted approach, and close observation -- Antoine Watteau merged them into something new. Born near the Flemish border, Watteau was influenced by the carefully described scenes of everyday life popular in Holland and Flanders. Arriving in Paris in 1702, he first made his living by copying these genre paintings, which contained moralizing messages not always fully understood by French collectors. He worked for a painter of theatrical scenes and encountered the Italian commedia dell'arte and its French imitators. The stock characters of these broadly drawn, improvised comedies appear often in Watteau's paintings, and the world of the theater inspired him to mingle the real and imagined in enigmatic scenes. Through work with a fashionable rococo decorator, Watteau came eventually to the attention of patrons and established artists. He began studies at the official Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture -- membership in which was necessary for important commissions - - and gained access to new art collections being amassed by aristocrats and members of the expanding bourgeoisie. Influenced by his study of Rubens and Venetian Renaissance artists, Watteau developed a free, delicate painting technique and a taste for warm,
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04-Rococo - READINGS: ROCOCO Background: In 1715 the French...

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