Which art movement from the 18th century was considered light and airy, with ornate and curvy designs?

And the answer: Rococo.    

Photo credit: artincontext

Originating in Paris in the 1730s, Rococo was an exceptionally ornamental style of art and architecture. It featured asymmetry, scrolling curves, and white and pastel colors.

Deriving from the French word rocaille, meaning “rock and shell garden ornamentation," the Rococo art movement was known for its exaggerated beauty and fluid design. The movement began in Paris, after the French King Louis XIV demanded more youthful art be produced under his reign. In many ways, Rococo grew out of the Baroque style (and is even sometimes referred to as Late Baroque). While Baroque artists moved away from convention and symmetry, the Rococo style took hold.

Rococo pieces are characterized by excess, ornamentation, and bright colors. Artists of this time period focused on detail and even amusement in their pieces, moving away from the dramatic Baroque characterizations. Among the artists who emerged in this movement, Jean Antoine Watteau is perhaps the most impactful. Known as the father of Rococo art, Watteau painted innovative, asymmetrical works of idyllic scenes. His imagery came to be known as its own genre: fêtes galantes. Although he died at a young age, Watteau's lucid, fluid work is said to have revived the Baroque movement, invented the Rococo movement, and planted the seed for successive art movements such as Impressionism.

Rococo was also prevalent in architecture and decoration. French furniture of the period displayed curving forms, naturalistic shell and floral ornament, and a more elaborate, playful use of gilt-bronze and porcelain ornamentation. In architecture, walls, ceilings, and moldings were decorated with delicate inter-lacings of curves based on “C” and “S” shapes, as well as with shell forms and other natural shapes. Light pastels, ivory white, and gold were the predominant colors, and Rococo decorators frequently used mirrors to enhance the sense of open space.

Learn more about the Rococo art movement here.


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