Baroque and Beyond C. 1600–1850

Rococo and the Eighteenth Century

What is rococo?

Rococo is a distinctive style of art, architecture, literature, music and more, popular during the eighteenth century in Europe. The name comes from French, and is a blend of the words “stones” and “shells,” both popular items in eighteenth-century gardens. Like many other terms such as “gothic” and “baroque,” the term was created much later and used to disparagingly describe what nineteenth-century critics considered the gaudy, bad taste of the eighteenth century. Rococo architecture is highly ornate, and characterized by curving, rather than rigid forms, pastel colors, and an element of fantasy or whimsy. Painting also features pastel colors and witty, frivolous scenes of aristocratic lovers and mythological figures, though there are occasionally cynical undertones in some rococo paintings (for example in the prints and paintings of William Hogarth). Rococo first developed as a cohesive style in Paris, and is specifically associated with the French king Louis XV and the rise of the bourgeois, or upper middle class. As with other categories of art, regional differences lead to variation of rococo style. Important rococo painters include Jean-Antoine Watteau, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, and Johann Balthasar Neumann, among others.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Art History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App