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Art History Brief: Rococo and Neo-Classical

A key lesson I've learnt from self-development in Depth Psychology with reference to Jung, is amplification. To explore this, its critical that one become versed in literature, art and mythology. So, here is my beginnings in learning about art history. Later I will share how art history informs my Dreams and analysis of Archetypes manifesting in my life.

The Rococo form of art was a significant art movement in France in the early to mid-18th century (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2001a). The word rococo derives from the French word for ‘shell’ due to the scallop shell motif that was common in the interior decoration of Rococo. A dominant characteristic of this style is decorative and features frivolous sexuality, often referred to as a ‘feminized’ alternative of the ponderous baroque style, which tended to be associated with the elite aristocracy of society at that time. As such, Rococo artworks represented aristocrats at leisure activities such as courtship, picnics or excursions to romantic places.

Also, this type of art tended to feature the aristocrats as ‘beautiful’ people who wore very beautiful clothing. Hence, the figures in the artwork are tall and slender, elegant and move gracefully. Often the paintings show a peaceful and romantic setting that has wispy trees and sprays of flowers or other foliage. The spring and summer settings did not invite rain or any other event which might disturb the happiness of the figures within it. For example, depicted in Watteau’s (1717), Embarcation for Cythera, are a group of aristocrats having a party in a beautiful park on a mythical island.

amplification using Rococo

In contrast, in the mid-late 18th century and into the 19th century in France, the Neoclassical period depicted a distinct movement to using antiquity and rationalism as its inspiration (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2001b). The dominant characteristics of this style was a focus on the ideal drawing on past cultural themes.

Neoclassical art developed to demonstrate perfect control over an idiom. Drawing was of more value than painting, with well-developed forms and true to life depiction of architecture. And paintings aimed to be smooth without evidence of brushstrokes. The attention to such details highlighted the cerebral act of art and a morally superior form of art.

The Neoclassical period occurred during the build up to the first revolution in France in 1789, and often depicts strong political themes. As such, it reflected the ideal of the Age of Enlightenment. For example, Jacques-Louis David’s (1799) painting, The Intervention of the Sabine Women, when France was warring with other nations; love conquering conflict.

amplication using Neoclassical art

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