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  Rococo (from French rocaille, ‘(fancy) rock-work’) was a European arts movement of the early 18th century. In fine art, the amalgam of the Baroque with elements of classicism, which in France had characterized the court of Louis XIV, gave way, on his death, to the lighter, more playful and private art of the Rococo, which demonstrated a need for elegance and comfort quite absent in the previous century. Stylistically, while the Rococo continued the complexities of Baroque surface structure, it treated it as pure decoration, justified only insofar as it charmed the eye and amused the senses. Although such art was essentially decorative, the Rococo period produced some magnificent painters, such as Boucher, Fragonard and Watteau in France, Guardi and Longhi in Italy and Gainsborough and Hogarth in England. While stylistically these painters differ greatly, they all share the common traits of the period: a move away from the grandiloquent history painting of the 17th century towards a smaller, more intimate art, a love of decorative effect, a brightness of touch often revealed by a bravura and sparkling application of paint and—though this is not universal—erotic or amorous subject matter, typified in the fêtes champêtre of Watteau.

In music, ‘rococo’ is sometimes used to describe the highly-ornamented, formal style of such 17th- and 18th-century French composers as Couperin, Lully and Rameau, and the music of composers who occasionally affected French styles, for example, Bach and Telemann. MG KMcL

Further reading A. Schönberger and , H. Sochner, The Age of Rococo.



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