Rococo, Neo icism (of the late 1700s), and Romanticism: Comparisons and Contrasts The following brief discussion of painting styles will focus on three different schools of painting–Rococo, Neoclassicism (of the late 1700s), and Romanticism. Each school will be defined and an example identified, then the three will be compared and contrasted.
Rococo is best described as ornamented, flowery and sensual. In terms of color pastels and lighter tones were popular. The François Boucher (1703 – 1770), the French painter typifies this style. His portrait of Louise OMurphy, mistress of King Louis XV, commonly known as “Girl Reclining” is an excellent example of this style.1 The colors employed and the lighting portrayed in this portrait are delicate and soft. The womans pose and her nakedness capture the sensuality of the Rococo style.
Neoclassicism as the name implies was an attempt to recapture classical styles, or at least what was perceived to be classical styles, and focused on classical subjects such as Greek and Roman architecture and mythology. Italian Giovanni Paolo Pannini (1691-1765) painted in this style. His “Roma Antica” epitomizes this school of painting.2 It features a cluster of Panninis contemporaries in a classical style building that is full of Graeco-Roman statues. The walls are decorated with pictures and panels featuring the most famous classical ruins, such as the Colosseum.
Romanticism focused on nature in terms of its subjects and portrayed nature as wild, energetic and, even, violent. Its most famous practitioner was the German, Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840).
“Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” (1818) captures this style.3 The individual is small before the sea of fog and his face is hidden. He is insignificant in the face of the wild, violence and mystery of nature.
The subjects of the three styles provide grounds for comparison. Rococo focuses on people, specifically wealthy aristocrats. Neoclassicism portrays ancient culture. and, Romanticism depicts nature and its fury. In some senses the sensuality of Rococo and the focus on nature in Romanticism are similar in their focus on the physical and the senses which contrasts with Neoclassicisms focus on the rational and organized world of the classical civilizations. The colors, haziness and curvilinear styles of Romanticism and Rococo are comparable and contrast with the straight lines, geometry and distinct colors of Neoclassicism.
Boucher, François. “Girl Reclining” (1751). http://www.artvibrations.com/francoisboucher/artfile2.php. Web. Accessed 12 June 2010.
Friedrich, Caspar David. “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” (1818) http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/his/CoreArt/art/rom_fri_wand.html. Web. Accessed 12 June 2010.
Pannini, Paola “Roma Antica” (1755) http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/p/pannini/roma_ant.html. Web. Accessed 12 June 2010.