Art Term

Rococo

Light, sensuous, intensely decorative French style developed in the early eighteenth century following death of Louis XIV and in reaction to the Baroque grandeur of Versailles

Thomas Gainsborough, ‘Giovanna Baccelli’ exhibited 1782
Thomas Gainsborough
Giovanna Baccelli exhibited 1782
Tate
Philip Mercier, ‘A Music Party’ c.1737–40
Philip Mercier
A Music Party c.1737–40
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William Hogarth, ‘Lavinia Fenton, Duchess of Bolton’ c.1740–50
William Hogarth
Lavinia Fenton, Duchess of Bolton c.1740–50
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The name comes from French rocaille, rock-work, based on forms of sea shells and corals. In practice Rococo is a style of short curves, scrolls and counter curves, often elaborated with fantasy.

In fine art, Rococo prettiness, gaiety, curvaceousness and sensuality is exemplified in the work of François Boucher, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Jean-Antoine Watteau and in the sculpture of Clodion.

Rococo was brought to Britain by Philip Mercier, who was appointed as principal painter to the Prince and Princess of Wales. A robust British version of the style can be seen in the work of William Hogarth, but its influence in Britain is perhaps best exemplified in the dazzling female portraits of Thomas Gainsborough.

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