Rococo

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Rococo was a movement in the arts that emerged in France in the early eighteenth century and spread throughout Europe during the next few decades. It affected most forms of visual art and design during its period of popularity and even reached music, with early works by Haydn and Mozart being described as “Rococo”. (A popular work by Tchaikovsky is “Variations on a Rococo Theme” written as a tribute to Mozart.)

The Rococo painters rejected the themes of heroes and mythology and focused on representing scenes of frivolity and gaiety from the carefree life of the aristocratic patrons of the arts.

Watteau, The Bird Nester.

Main Rococo painters were: Jean François de Troy, Jean-Antoine Watteau, François Boucher, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Andrea Casali and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. These painters used delicate colors and curving forms. They used to decorate their canvases with cherubs and myths of love. Portraiture was also a popular subject among Rococo painters.

The term comes from the ornate shell-coverings (rocaille) on the walls of artificial grottoes so popular among the rich and noble at the time. Before that, the English word “rococo” meant "taudry or tastelessly florid". Today, the Oxford English Dictionary has “antique” as one of its definitions.

The style grew from a reaction to the earlier, heavier, “Boroque”. An unattested comment in “The Oxford Companion to Music” states: "…the aim of baroque is to astound, that of rococo to amuse".

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