Rococo is a term used in the visual arts to characterise the light, elegant, and sensuous style that emerged in France in the early 18th century reached its apogee in the 1730s and was gradually replaced in the 1760s by the strict, moralising characteristics of Neoclassicism.
Like so many stylistic or period definition words, it was initially pejorative: it was said to have been coined in the 1790s by one of the pupils of the great neo-classical painter Jacques-Louis David to make a disparaging reference to the art created during the reign of Louis XV.
The word Rococo was a combination of rocaille and barocco (Baroque). It was formally used as an art-historical term in the middle of the 19th century. It is now generally accepted, although there has been much debate on its exact definition. Purists might argue that Rococo, with its love of shell-like curves and S-and C-curves, was essentially a decoration style and should be applied to art forms such as woodwork, metalwork, furniture and porcelain.
Today, however, its wider use is generally considered and applied to painting, sculpture and architecture. Watteau is widely regarded as the first great Rococo painter, and Boucher and Fragonard are the masters of his mature style. Falconet was often believed to be the pre-eminent Rococo practitioner in sculpture. Many of his designs were reproduced in porcelain.
In architecture, its influence spread rapidly abroad, particularly to southern Germany and Austria, where it is evident in churches such as Vierzehnheiligen and Die Wies. Some architectural historians, however, would argue that this Germanic Rococo was, in fact, a manifestation rather than a modern stylistic creation of the late Baroque.
Clarke, M. (2010). Rococo. In The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 6 Feb. 2021, from https://www-oxfordreference-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/view/10.1093/acref/9780199569922.001.0001/acref-9780199569922-e-1457.
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