Rococo is an eighteenth century art style which placed emphasis on portraying the carefree life of the aristocracy rather than on grand heroes or pious martyrs. The word Rococo is seen as a combination of the French rocaille, or stone garden (referring to arranging stones in natural forms like shells), and the Italian barocco, or Baroque style. Due to Rococo love of shell-like curves and focus on decorative arts, some critics used the term to derogatively imply that the style was frivolous or merely modish. When the term was first used in English in about 1836, it was a colloquialism meaning "old-fashioned". However, since the mid 19th century, the term has been accepted by art historians. Rococo stresses purely ornamental, light, casual, irregular design.
Jean-Antoine Watteau is often
referred to as the greatest of the Rococo painters. Watteau's work began
to epitomize the movement with its idyllic and charming approach. He
often created asymmetrical compositions. This type of aesthetic balance
became not only an important part of Rococo art, but of design in
artist that represented the Rococo period was
Francois Boucher, who created
paintings and designed tapestries for the French royalty and nobility.
His picture of the Embarkation for Cythera (shown here) demonstrates
the elegance of this style. While there is still some debate about the
historical significance of the style to art in general, Rococo is now
widely recognized as a major period in the development of European art.