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(c. 1730 - 1770)

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Rococo was an art style of 18th-century painting and decoration characterized by lightness, delicacy, and elaborate ornamentation. The Rococo period corresponded roughly to the reign (1715-1774) of Louis XV of France. The term rococo comes from the French rocaille, "rock-work". 

Romania 1971. Rococo Art. Antoine Watteau. Self-portrait.

In decoration the fully fledged style is characterized by decoration based on arabesques, shells, elaborate curves, and asymmetry; in painting it is typified by iridescent pastel colours and light-hearted rather than weighty subject matter. 

Its exact origins are obscure, but it appears to have begun with the work of the French designer Pierre Lepautre, who introduced arabesques and curves into the interior architecture of the royal residence at Marly. Later the paintings of Antoine Watteau, whose delicate, colour-drenched canvases of aristocratic men and women in idyllic surroundings broke with the heroism of Louis XIV style. 

  • Romania 1971. Antoine Watteau (1684-1721). Self-portrait. 

France 1973. Rococo Art. Antoine Watteau. Girl with Lute.

Eire 2003. Rococo Art. Antoine Watteau. Woman seen from the Back.

Poland 1967. Rococo Art. Antoine Watteau. Polish Woman.

USSR 1972. Rococo Art. Antoine Watteau. Capricious Girl.

In decoration, the Rococo style reached its peak in the Hôtel de Soubise in Paris, work on which began in 1732, and to which a number of artists and decorators contributed, most notably Gabriel Germain Boffrant and René Alexis Delamaire. 

The outstanding Rococo painters were François Boucher 1703-1770), best known for his boudoir scenes with plump, pink nudes, and Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), renowned for his scenes of coy assignations in leafy glades and curtained alcoves. 

Read more about Fragonard by following the link at the bottom of this page. 

  • France 1970. François Boucher. Diana returning from the Hunt.

  • France 1972. Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Reading Woman. 

France 1970. Rococo Art. François Boucher. Diana returning from the Hunt.

France 1972. Rococo Art. Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Reading Woman.

A significant figure on the artistic scene in the 18th century was Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1683-1754), whose father was a sculptor who probably encouraged his son's career in art.  He studied under Giuseppe Maria Crespi in Bologna and copied his master's portrayal of common people, his style initially being characterized by dramatic scenes, with strong contrasts of chiaroscuro (Baroque Clair-obscure)  and full, thick brushstrokes. Later, also due to the proximity of his great pupil, Tiepolo, his play of reflections and colours became lighter and the themes tended to lean towards biblical and pastoral scenes.  He was thus a transition figure between Baroque and Rococo Styles. The stamp reproduces his work "Rebecca at the Well", which marked his passage from Baroque to Rococo.  

He established an active studio that created church commissions and genre scenes. Piazzetta helped to elevate drawing to a status equal to painting in significance and quality, partly due to his early admiration of and inspiration by Rembrandt's etchings.  He became the director of the new academy, Scuola di Nudo, in 1750.  

San Marino 2004. Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Piazzetta. Rebecca at the Well.

Italy 1982. Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Piazzetta. The Soothsayer [Fortune-Teller].

Italy 1976. Rococo Art. Giovanni Battista Piazzetta. Self-Portrait.

Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) was the English painter in the Grand Manner, who was the foremost portraitist of his day and one of the most important and influential figures in the history of English painting. Reynolds was born in Plympton (near Plymouth), Devonshire, the son of a cleric and schoolmaster. He learned portraiture in London from the painter Thomas Hudson, and in 1749 he sailed to the Mediterranean with Commodore Augustus Keppel. After three years traveling in Italy he returned to London, where soon he attracted notice for his portraits of prominent figures. He came to be the first English painter to achieve social recognition and elevated status for his artistic achievements. In 1764 Reynolds founded the Literary Club, which included essayist and critic Samuel Johnson, actor David Garrick, statesman Edmund Burke, writer Oliver Goldsmith, writer James Boswell, and dramatist Richard Brinsley Sheridan. 

When the Royal Academy of Arts was instituted in 1768, Reynolds was elected president and was knighted. 
Reynolds is credited with more than 2000 portraits noted for their rich variety. Stylistically, he was influenced by Michelangelo and the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens. Reynolds's portraits are distinguished by calm dignity, classical allusions, rich color, and realistic portrayal of character, one of the best being that of Nelly O'Brien (1760-1762, Wallace Collection, London). He was, more than any other, responsible for raising the status and prestige of artists in Britain. 

Great Britain 1973. Rococo Art. Sir Joshua Reynolds. Self-Portrait. Great Britain 1973. Rococo Art. Sir Joshua Reynolds. Nelly O'Brien.
  • Great Britain 1973. Sir Joshua Reynolds. Self-Portrait. 

  • Great Britain 1973. Sir Joshua Reynolds. Nelly O'Brien.

  • Great Britain 2006. Sir Joshua Roynolds. Maximum card. Self-Portrait (fragment) painted circa 1747-1749. Oil on Canvas, 63,5 cm x 74,3 cm. Issued at the 150th anniversary of the National Portrait Gallery, London. 

Great Britain 2006. Sir Joshua Roynolds. Maximum card. Self-Portrait (fragment).

The Rococo style spread quickly to other European countries, particularly Germany and Austria, where it was grafted on to the then popular Baroque modes to create a style of great lavishness and profusion, especially in churches and sacred places. It culminated in the work of the Flemish-born Bavarian architect and designer François de Cuvilliés, particularly the Amalienburg Pavilion (1734-1739) near Munich, the interiors of which resemble jewel boxes in their elaboration of mirrors, gold and silver filigree, and decorative plasterwork.  

Rococo gave way to the austere Neo-Classical style late in the 18th century and disappeared completely and abruptly after the French Revolution in 1789. 


Alphabetical listing of the most well known Rococo artists, whose works have appeared on stamps.  Click on either of the active links to go to the individual artist's page. Those marked with an asterisk are represented on this page.  

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Revised 25-jul-2006. Ann Mette Heindorff
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