Rococo
(An artistic movement)

Dates: 1710-1780

The Rococo style dominated the arts, architecture and design during the reign of Louis XV of France (1715-1774); it started in France and Italy, then expanded to most of Europe.

1. Watteau and his fêtes galantes (1710-1730)

Commonly accepted as the creator of the movement, Jean-Antoine Watteau designed a new kind of genre scene, named fêtes galantes, which represented young couples dancing or making music in parks, with a coy eroticism. Watteau immediately gained success among the nobility, especially after the death of King Louis XIV, who had imposed a devout morality in the Court at the end of his reign. By now, freed from the watchful eye of the King, the aristocrats - led by the Regent - looked for happiness and pleasure, as depicted by Watteau. For the first time in modern history, art was made only to please, whereas previous movements were charged with a Christian morality of repentance or austerity. This new paradigm flourished under Rococo, which was the expression of the libertine spirit in painting.

Watteau and his main followers Pater and Lancret represented the first stage of the style, which lasted until the 1730s.

Pilgrimage to Cythera by Watteau (Left) and The Swing by Pater (right)

2. Boucher and the golden age of Rococo (1730-1760)

The golden age of Rococo started with the maturity of the artists born in the 1700s, such as Carle Van Loo, Natoire, and Boucher, the most famous painter of the style. The sketched eroticism of Watteau now became apparent. Indeed, following the path of Lemoyne and Jean Raoux, their subjects taken from the Greco-Roman mythology were principally a pretext to show depictions of passionate love (with the subject of Venus and Adonis) or nudity (with countless representations of Venus and Artemis), which they highlighted with bright and warm colours, and a luxurious vegetation made of flowers and grapes.

Venus and Adonis by Natoire (left), Diana Bathing by Boucher (centre) and The Rape of Europa by Noël-Nicolas Coypel (right).

Apart from their mythological scenes, which were included under the title of "history" painting, they made numerous pastorales - genre scenes of lovers in the countryside - and humoristic compositions with fat and naughty putti (little cupids). These artworks served as decorative panels, especially as dessus-de-porte (above the door), in royal or noble palaces.

Pastorale (left), Love's Target (centre) by Boucher, Cupid and his Troops by Carle Van Loo (right).

In France, these artists were largely patronized by Madame de Pompadour, the official mistress of Louis XV, who bought many pieces to embellish the palaces of Versailles and Marly (destroyed by Napoleon). They also looked abroad to sell their artworks, notably to Frederick II of Prussia and Augustus III of Saxony, who battled to get their best paintings.

On the other hand, Spanish monarchs preferred to call Italian painters directly to their Court, due to the lack of good painters in the country at the time. Thus, Giaquinto and Tiepolo both crossed the sea to work in Madrid, where they produced numerous frescos and large canvas for Spanish palaces. However, Italian Rococo was more a continuation of Baroque - with some innovations - than a break from the Baroque style as pronounced as in France, since its members remained mostly focused on biblical subjects and painted with less frivolity than their French counterparts.

Sunrise with The Triumph of Bacchus by Giaquinto (left) and Study for Allegory of the Planets and Continents by Tiepolo (right)

Lesser patrons essentially commissioned their own portraits, as prices had reduced thanks to the diffusion of pastel, which also shortened the time of production. Since the triumphal journey made in France by the Venetian Rosalba Carreira in 1720, the prevalent type in portraiture was to idealize the sitter, or to represent him in the guise of divinities or allegories. Her most famous followers were Quentin de la Tour and Perronneau. Oil portrait painters also followed in her steps; the most successful in France being Nattier, who painted all the French aristocracy under the traits of allegorical characters.

Portrait of a Woman with a Mask by Rosalba Madame de Pompadour as Diana by Nattier

Portrait of a Woman with a Mask by Rosalba (Left), Portrait of Magdalene Pinceloup de la Grange by Perronneau (centre) and Portrait of Madame de Pompadour as Diana by Nattier (right).

3. Fragonard (1760-1780)

Finally, the last stage of Rococo (1760-1780) was dominated by Fragonard and his followers Lafrensen, Trinquesse, Baudouin and Schall, who painted with an easy brush stroke which gave to their works an unfinished aspect. They were smaller in size in order to be easier to engrave and exhibit in private cabinets. Indeed, many of these works were too explicit to be shown to the public, although engravers widely spread their reproductions. Incidentally, Fragonard remained outside of the French Academy and Salon.

The Lock The Match to Powderkeg by Fragonard

The Lock (left), The Match to Powderkeg (centre) and The Lover Crowned (right) by Fragonard.

The Three Graces (left), Young Lady in a Garden (centre) by Schall, and Night (right) by Baudouin.

The Rococo style came to an end in the 1780s due to its frivolousness and it appeared as a symbol of the aristocratic decadence and corruption. The rising bourgeoisie favoured instead the severe neoclassical style embodied by David, which triumphed with the French Revolution. Besides, the pejorative term of "Rococo" is said to have been coined by Quays, who was perhaps the most resolute proponent of Neoclassicism.

Nevertheless, even at its climax, the movement was never completely dominant, since several painters - lead by Chardin and Oudry - pursued the Dutch realist tradition. However, the movement did not have much influence on English painters, with the possible exception of some of Hogarth's output.

People associated with this movement
Jacopo AmigoniItalian, 1682-175257 artworks
Antonio BalestraItalian, 1666-174021 artworks
Pierre Antoine BaudouinFrench, 1723-17699 artworks
Francois BoucherFrench, 1703-1770298 artworks
Rosalba CarrieraItalian, 1675-1757106 artworks
Pierre-Jacques CazesFrench, 1676-17549 artworks
Charles-Michel-Ange ChalleFrench, 1718-177813 artworks
Jacques CourtinFrench, 1672-17523 artworks
Charles-Antoine Coypel IVFrench, 1694-1752126 artworks
Noël-Nicolas Coypel IIIFrench, 1690-173425 artworks
Donato CretiItalian, 1671-17493 artworks
Maurice Quentin de La TourFrench, 1704-17886 artworks
Jean-Baptiste Deshays de CollevilleFrench, 1729-176516 artworks
Gaspare DizianiItalian, 1689-176744 artworks
François-Hubert DrouaisFrench, 1727-177562 artworks
Jean-Honore FragonardFrench, 1732-1806152 artworks
Corrado GiaquintoItalian, 1703-1766112 artworks
Francisco Jose de Goya y LucientesSpanish, 1746-1828206 artworks
Jean-Baptiste GreuzeFrench, 1725-1805147 artworks
Noel HalléFrench, 1711-178116 artworks
William HogarthEnglish, 1697-176465 artworks
Niklas LafrensenSwedish, 1737-18072 artworks
Nicolas LancretFrench, 1690-174331 artworks
Sébastien-Jacques LeclercFrench, 1734-17858 artworks
Pierre-Charles Le MettayFrench, 1726-17593 artworks
Franҫois LemoyneFrench, 1688-173715 artworks
Jean-Étienne LiotardSwiss, 1702-1789106 artworks
Auger LucasFrench, 1685-17652 artworks
Franz Anton MaulbertschAustrian, 1724-17967 artworks
Philipe MercierGerman, 1689-176065 artworks
Martin van MeytensSwedish, 1695-17706 artworks
Charles-Joseph NatoireFrench, 1700-1777243 artworks
Jean-Marc NattierFrench, 1685-176691 artworks
Jean-Baptiste PaterFrench, 1695-173642 artworks
Giovanni Antonio PellegriniItalian, 1675-174110 artworks
Jean-Baptiste PerronneauFrench, 1715-178329 artworks
Antoine PesneFrench, 1683-175717 artworks
Jean-Baptiste Marie PierreFrench, 1714-178921 artworks
Pierre-Antoine QuillardFrench, 1700-17336 artworks
Jean RancFrench, 1674-17352 artworks
Jean RaouxFrench, 1677-173447 artworks
Alexander RoslinSwedish, 1718-179311 artworks
Pietro Antonio RotariItalian, 1707-176210 artworks
Jean-Frédéric SchallFrench, 1752-182569 artworks
Pierre SubleyrasFrench, 1699-174916 artworks
Jean Thierry the YoungerFrench, 1669-17392 artworks
Giandomenico TiepoloItalian, 1727-18044 artworks
Giovanni Battista TiepoloItalian, 1696-1770106 artworks
Gaspare TraversiItalian, 1722-17704 artworks
Pierre Charles TrémolièresFrench, 1703-17394 artworks
Louis de TrinquesseFrench, 1746-18006 artworks
Jean-Franсois de TroyFrench, 1679-175237 artworks
French School 18th Century - UnknownFrench, 1700-18003 artworks
Carle Van LooFrench, 1705-176533 artworks
Charles-Amédée-Philippe Van LooFrench, 1719-17957 artworks
Nicolas VleughelsFrench, 1688-173719 artworks
Jean-Antoine WatteauFrench, 1684-172191 artworks
Francesco ZuccarelliItalian, 1702-17882 artworks
Random artworks by artists related to this movement

Alexander VIII Blessing
Charles-Joseph Natoire

The Unequal Couple
Noël-Nicolas Coypel III

The Bathers
Jean-Baptiste Pater

Four Seasons 03, Automn
Rosalba Carriera

Maja and Celestina on a Balcony
Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes

The Banquet of Cleopatra
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

The Coquettes
Jean-Antoine Watteau

Apotheosis of Aeneas
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

The Triumph of Galatea
Corrado Giaquinto

Day
Jean-Honore Fragonard

Bacchus and Ariadne
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

A Girl Knitting
Philipe Mercier

The Rape of Europa (second version)
Noël-Nicolas Coypel III

Entertainment in the Open Air
Jean-Antoine Watteau

Dream of Lying and Inconstancy
Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes
Top 10 museums with Rococo art
Musée du Louvre - ParisFrance (Paris)147 artworks
Museo del Prado - MadridSpain (Madrid)134 artworks
Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York, NYUnited States (New York)103 artworks
Hermitage Museum - St-PetersburgRussian Federation (St. Petersburg)95 artworks
National Gallery of Art - Washington DCUnited States (Washington)81 artworks
Wallace Collection - LondonUnited Kingdom (London)60 artworks
Château de VersaillesFrance (Versailles, Greater Paris)54 artworks
National Gallery - LondonUnited Kingdom (London)53 artworks
Musée Fabre - MontpellierFrance (Montpellier)37 artworks
Château de CompiègneFrance (Compiègne)35 artworks
Important dates
Founding date:  1710

End date:  1780