The Eighteenth Century: From Rococo to Revolution. Outline Chapter 16. Chapter 16: Rococo to Revolution OUTLINE The Counter-Reformation Spirit The Visual Arts in the Baroque Period Painting in Rome: Caravaggio and the Carracci Roman Baroque Sculpture and Architecture:
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Rococo to Revolution
The Counter-Reformation Spirit
The Visual Arts in the Baroque Period
Painting in Rome: Caravaggio and the Carracci
Roman Baroque Sculpture and Architecture:
Bernini and Borromini
Baroque Art in France and Spain
Baroque Art in Northern Europe
The Birth of Opera
Baroque Instrumental and Vocal Music:
Johann Sebastian Bach
Philosophy and Science in the Baroque Period
Hobbes and Locke
Literature in the Seventeenth Century
French Baroque Comedy and Tragedy
The Novel in Spain: Cervantes
The English Metaphysical Poets
Milton's Heroic Vision
The eighteenth century marked the passage in European life from the old aristocratic order to the beginnings of modern society. When the age began Louis XIV was still firmly entrenched; before the century ended Louis XVI and his wife had been executed by the National Convention of the French Revolution-itself inspired, in theory at least, by the American Revolution of a few years earlier.
Elsewhere in Europe enlightened despots like Frederick the Great of Prussia responded to the growing restlessness of their subjects by reorganizing government and improving living conditions. Frederick's court even became one of the leading cultural and intellectual centers of the time; C. P. E. Bach directed the music there and Voltaire spent two years as Frederick's guest.
The contrast between revolutionaries and conservatives lasted right to the eve of the French Revolution. Jaques Louis David’s, Oath of the Horati, (1784-17850, a clarion calll to action and resolve, was painted in the same year as Thomas Gainsborough’s idealized picture of a Haymaker and Sleeping Girl. The former, in keeping with the spirit of the times, prefigures the mood of revolution. The latter turns its back on reality, evoking a nostalgic vision of love among the haystacks.
and Sleeping Girl
The Oath of the Horatii1784
Rococo Art In the visual arts the principal style to emerge from the
baroque splendors of the previous century was the rococo.
Lighter and less grandiose, it was wonderfully suited to the civilized
amenities of aristocratic life. The chief rococo painters were French
and Italian-appropriately enough, since rulers both in France and in
the kingdoms of Italy made few concessions to the growing demands
for reform. In architecture the builders of Parisian private houses
such as the Hotel de Soubise indulged their taste for fanciful
decoration, while the rococo churches of southern Germany and
Austria represent some of the happiest of all eighteenth-century
Les Charmes de la Vie
(The Music Party)c. 1718
Pilgrimage to Cythera1717Oil on canvas
The Toilet of Venus, 1751
François Boucher1703-1770Morning Coffee1739
The Swing1767Oil on canvas
showing her Sisters her Gifts from Cupid1753Oil on canvas
Conversation in a Parkc. 1740Oil on canvas
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliotc. 1778Oil on canvas
of the Rosary1737-39Fresco
Education of the Virgin1732Oil on canvas
The other important artistic style of the period was the neoclassical. Inspired by the increasing quantities of ancient art being excavated at Pompeii and elsewhere, artists began to turn to the style and subjects of classical antiquity, which provided a refreshing contrast to the theatricality of baroque and the artificiality of rococo. Furthermore, in the history of the Roman Republic (at least as they perceived it) revolutionary artists of the later eighteenth century found a vehicle for expressing their battle for freedom. In many cases painters incorporated into their works discoveries from the various excavations in progress: the French Jacques Louis David in his paintings for the Revolution as well as the English Joshua Reynolds in his portraits of society women.
Ancient sculpture provided a stimulus to some of the leading artists of the day, most notably the Italian Antonio Canova and the French Jean Antoine Houdon. Both of them worked principally during and after the revolutions; Houdon even produced a neoclassical statue of George Washington. Washington and the other leaders of the American Revolution turned naturally to classical architecture for their public buildings. Among the finest examples is Thomas Jefferson's State Capitol at Richmond.
Death of Marat1793
Napoleon in His Study1812, Oil on canvas
George Clive and his Family with an Indian Maid1765Oil on canvas
and her Three Eldest Sons1773Oil on canvas,
The Orgyc. 1735Oil on canvas
Soliciting Votes1754Oil on canvas,
Virginia State Capitol
“…a conscious rejection of the rococo and all it stood for in favor of the austere world…of ancient Rome”
Haydn and Mozart In music the emotional style of baroque composers began to give way to a new way of organizing musical forms. By the middle of the eighteenth century the classical style was beginning to evolve, and the two greatest composers of the age, Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (both Austrian), used it to write their symphonies, concertos, and sonatas. Most of these works employed sonata form, a system of musical composition involving contrasts rather than the unity of baroque music. Haydn's hundred or so symphonies show an almost infinitely endless exploration of the possibilities offered by sonata form while also reflecting the evolution of the modern symphony orchestra. His own personal career furthermore illustrates the changing status of the artist: After years of serving in the household of an aristocratic family, he became transformed by his compositions into one of the most famous men in Europe.
Mozart's relations with his noble employers were far less happy. His music, however, transcends the difficulties of his life and achieves the supreme blend of eighteenth-century art's two chief concerns: beauty and learning. Like Haydn, he explored the possibilities of sonata form and also wrote a number of operas that remain among the best-loved of all musical works for the stage. The Marriage of Figaro illustrates Mozart's genius for expressing universal human emotions in music, while in its story it reflects the revolutionary mood of the times.
History and Satire Like music, the literature of the eighteenth century was generally serious. Many writers avoided the lightness of the rococo, preferring to produce works based on classical models or themes. They included the Italian dramatist Metastasio and the English historian Edward Gibbon. An exception is provided by the satirical writings of Alexander Pope, which poke fun at the pretensions of eighteenth-century society, although many of Pope's other works are neoclassical in style. Other writers used satire, in itself a characteristically rococo medium, as a more bitter weapon against human folly. Jonathan Swift's writings present an indictment of his fellow humans that offers little hope for their improvement.
The French Encyclopedists offered a more optimistic point of view. Denis Diderot and most of his colleagues believed in the essential goodness of human nature and the possibility of progress, and their EncyclopÈdie was intended to exalt the power of reason. Not all the contributors agreed, however. Jean Jacques Rousseau claimed that society was an evil that corrupted essential human goodness and called for a new social order. Yet all the leading intellectuals of the day, including the greatest of them all, Voltaire, were united in urging the need for radical social change. In novels, pamphlets, plays, and countless other publications Voltaire attacked traditional religion and urged the importance of freedom of thought.
By the end of the century the battle for freedom had plunged France into chaos and demonstrated to the whole of Europe that the old social order had come to an end. The following century was to see the struggle to forge a new society.
French Revolution: 1789 - 1799
American Revolution: 1775 - 1783