The 18th Century: From Rococo to Revolution

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Age of Diversity. Even the most determined cultural historians acknowledge serious difficulty in categorizing the eighteenth century.It has often been called the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason, these titles fail to encompass the full spirit of the age.On one hand the eighteenth century was an age of optimism, putting trust into science and the power of human reason.There was belief of a natural order and an overriding faith in the theory of progress that the world was better than it had always been..
The 18th Century: From Rococo to Revolution

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1. The 18th Century: From Rococo to Revolution Chapter 16 By Kelsey Griswold

2. Age of Diversity Even the most determined cultural historians acknowledge serious difficulty in categorizing the eighteenth century. It has often been called the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason, these titles fail to encompass the full spirit of the age. On one hand the eighteenth century was an age of optimism, putting trust into science and the power of human reason. There was belief of a natural order and an overriding faith in the theory of progress that the world was better than it had always been.

3. Age of Diversity Cont. However, by its end, criticism and the press for reform had actually grown into a desire for violent change, producing the American and French Revolutions. Despite these two contrasting views, they do not cover all aspects of the eighteenth century culture. For example, one of the most popular artistic styles of the period, the rococo, was characterized by frivolity and lightheartedness. This was to used to aim for a fantasy world.

4. Age of Diversity Cont. The 18th century presents an immense variety of artistic and intellectual ideas, seemingly contradictory yet in fact co-existant. None the less it is possible to discern at least one characteristic that links together some of the diverse artistic achievements of the century: a conscious engagement with social issues. Meanwhile, artists who supported the establishment and resisted change were equally engaged in social issues.

5. The Rococo Style Despite changing social climate of the time, most eighteenth-century artists still depended on the aristocracy for commissions. The baroque style had partially evolved to satisfy just the patrons, and through-out the early part of the eighteenth century, many artists continued to produce works following baroque precedents. Yet despite the continued fondness of the baroque characteristics of richness and elaboration, there was a significant change of emphasis.

6. The Rococo Style: Roots The artistic style that developed to meet these new, less grandiose needs first reached its maturity in France. It is generally called ?rococo?, a word derived from the French word rocaille, which means a kind of elaborate decoration of rocks and shells that often adorned the grottoes of baroque gardens. Rococo art was conceived of as antibaroque, a contrast to the weighty grandeur of seventeenth-century art.

7. The Rococo Style: French Critics have often said that the only purpose of rococo art was to provide, but this is a somewhat incomplete view of its social role. The rococo style was for the most part aimed at an aristocratic audience; its grace and charm served the important purpose of shielding this class from the growing problems of the real world. The first and probalby the greatest French rococo painter was Jean Antoine Watteau, best known for his paintings of fetes galantes (elegant outdoor festivals attended by fashionable, courtly figures).

8. The Rococo Style: Venetian The Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera (1675-1757) traveled widely throughout Europe producing large numbers of portraits in the rather unusual medium of pastel?dry sticks of color that leave a soft, powdery hue when rubbed on paper. The medium tends to smudge easily and drop off paper if it is shaken.

9. The Rococo Style: English English art in the eighteenth century was also more notable for its aristocratic portraits. The more extreme elements of rococo eroticism had little appeal to the English nobility, but the artists who were commissioned to paint their portraits could hardly help being influenced by the style of their day. Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) and Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) dominated the English art of the time.

10. The Rococo Style: Sculpture Rococo sculptors were more concerned with displaying their virtuosity in works aimed at a brilliant effect than with exploring finer shades of meaning. Likewise, Rococo architecture was principally concerned with delighting the eye rather than inspiring noble sentiments. It is most successful in decorative interiors like those of the Hotel de Soubise in Paris, where the encrustation of ornament flows from the ceiling down to the floors.

11. The Rococo Style: Architecture The leading architect of the day was Balthazar Neumann (1687-1753), who had begun his career as an engineer and an artillery officer. Among the many palaces and churches he designed, none is more spectacular than the Vierzehnheiligen (?fourteen saints?) near Bamburg. The relative simplicity of the exterior deliberately leaves the visitor unprepared fo rthe spaciousness and elaborate decoration of the interior.

12. The Rococo Style: Architecture Cont. With its rows of windows and irregulatly place columns, the Vierzehnheiligen conveys a fantasy that is represented throughout the Rococo art. As in the Hotel de Soubise, the joint between the ceiling and walls is hidden by a fresco that together with its border, spills downward in a series of gracious curves.

13. Pictures.


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