The French Rococo: From Charles de La Fosse to Fragonard

Gain an overarching history of French Rococo painting. We will begin with contending debates about the nature of the arts in the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, which were pivotal in redefining how the visual arts were perceived. This was to prove instrumental for a new Rococo style. A style that will be seen in full bloom in the overtly sensual and supremely accomplished works of Francois Boucher. We will conclude by seeing how Rococo taste in the late eighteenth century had to withstand new debates about the role of the arts within society. This was influenced by an emerging Neoclassical style, the Enlightenment in philosophy, and cultural trends that prefigured the Romantic movement. .


  • Online


  • Colin Bailey, The Loves of the Gods: Mythological Painting from Watteau to David (Rizzoli: 1991)
  • Emma Barker, Greuze and the Painting of Sentiment (Cambridge University Press: 2005)
  • Reed Benhamou, Charles-Joseph Natoire and the Académie de France in Rome: A Re-Evaluation (Liverpool University Press: 2015)
  • Jean-Luc Bordeaux, François Le Moyne and his generation, 1688-1737 (Arthena: 1984)
  • Diderot on Art Volume 1: The Salon of 1765 and Notes on Painting, trans. John Goodman (Yale University Press: 1995)
  • Diderot on Art Volume 2: The Salon of 1767, trans. John Goodman (Yale University Press: 1995)
  • Emmanuel Ducamp ed., The Apotheosis of Hercules by François Lemoyne at the Château de Ver-sailles (Alain de Gourcuff: 2001)
  • Margaret Morgan Graselli ed., Hubert Robert (‎Lund Humphries: 2016)
  • Philip Iveagh, C_laude-Joseph Vernet: 1714-1789_ (Greater London Council: 1976)
  • Jo Hedley, Francois Boucher - Seductive Visions (Wallace Collection: 2004)
  • Philip Conisbee, Painting in Eighteenth-Century France (Phaidon: 1981)
  • Julie-Anne Plax, Watteau and the Cultural Politics of Eighteenth-Century France (Cambridge University Press: 2001)
  • Donald Posner, Antoine Watteau (Weidenfeld and Nicolson: 1984)
  • Thomas Puttfarken, Roger de Piles’ Theory of Art (Yale University Press, 1985)
  • Pierre Rosenberg, Chardin (Yale University Press: 2000)
  • Jacques Thuillier, Fragonard (Rizzoli: 1987)
  • David Wakefield, Boucher (Chaucer Press: 2005)


  • The French Rococo – Its Aesthetic and Cultural Origins: The origin and unique qualities of the French Rococo style in painting, has since the nineteenth century, been often misleadingly situated with the painter Jean-Antione Watteau and his light “courtship party” paintings - or Fête galante. We will see that the artistic impetus for the Rococo style in painting, originated in the later second half of the previous century, with the defining arguments at the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris. In these “quarrels”, a new and novel understanding of art was articulated. In practice, it was most prominently expressed in the works of the painter, Charles de La Fosse, and some of his associative contemporaries.
  • Jean Jouvenet and Charles de La Fosse – the stylistic tension of the eighteenth century: During the eighteenth century, the arts of France were rigorously centralised and officially defined by the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. However, in reality, artists went beyond the Academy’s strictures and responded to the new economic and cultural dictates of a Parisian audience, who were socially detached from the older Royal patronage of the Versailles of Louis XIV and its resolute artistic vision. The end of Louis XIV’s reign itself, also saw a movement away from works of art, determined by ideas of public virtue, to those defined by private pleasure. Within this context, we will observe how the paintings of Jean Jouvenet, with their theatrically emphatic rhetorical gestures - rather than the earlier prescribed contemplative vision of Poussin - became a source for artists in the eighteenth century, reacting against the perceived aesthetic frivolity of the age.
  • Francois Boucher: The artist often perceived as the personification of the French Rococo, was the painter, Francois Boucher. His work embodied a sensual expression of mythological gods, nymphs and playful pastoral scenes. Boucher’s oeuvre came off the back of greatly admired paintings, like the unabashed sensuality of Noël-Nicolas Coypel’s 1727 depiction of one of the loves of the god Jupiter, The Rape of Europa. We will see how Boucher’s artistic dominance was connected to this overt and playful depiction of both mythology and pastoral scenes, and how this was a reflection upon cultural changes in the wealthy echelons of French society.
  • Against Boucher: The mid-eighteenth century saw a reaction against the frivolity of the Rococo, whether due to the civic vision of the newly emerging neoclassical style of painting or the bombastically acerbic and egotistical art criticism of the philosophe, Denis Diderot. Both culture under Louis XV and the art of the generation of Boucher, were decried from many quarters, as being effete and singularly hedonistic. Coupled with the social critique of the Enlightenment and the emergence of a proto-Romantic interest in the family, childhood and the transience of the past, artists sought to establish new aesthetic visions for a changing age.
$65 Limited

<p>Gain an overarching history of French Rococo painting. We will begin with contending debates about the nature of the arts in the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, which were pivotal

20 Oct
Online Platform
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