9. Baroque and Rococo

Baroque and Rococo art may be seen as the extension of Mannerist artifice, carried to extremes into the seventeenth and even eighteenth centuries. One driving force behind this energizing of artistic form was the Catholic Counter-Reformation, a resurgence of religious fervor during which artists were urged to inspire and carry their audiences away into delirious rapture. Yet inventiveness for its own sake became the heart of the Rococo. The characteristics of the style are serpentine curves, convoluted compositions, weightlessness and a preponderance of organic rather than geometric form.

The term 'rococo' comes from the French word rocaille, referring to the fantastical, coral-like forms which in much Rococo ornament surround figures and flora as sheer visual improvisation. Such frivolity was inevitably to provoke a return to stern Neo-classical forms. Yet it is over-simplistic, of course, to view the progress of art as a schematic pattern of swing and counter-swing from classical to Gothic, Renaissance to Baroque, Neo-classicism to Romanticism, Impressionism to Expressionism and so forth. Nowhere more clearly than in the Baroque and Rococo do we see how within any period various and contrasting elements coexist and merge in unpredictable ways. Thus Watteau mixes classical with romantic traits, Chardin celebrates the homely and unrhetorical in the midst of eighteenth-century grandiosity, Bellotto and Canaletto depict townscapes with a near-Impressionist lucidity, while Wright of Derby concentrates attention on scientific subjects that herald a new age of progress and industry.

Via Dolorosa (Stations of the Cross)
Early Baroque Lifesize Sculpture in Slovakia
Teaching on Site
Seventeenth-century Merchants' Houses
Evidence on Site: Boscobel House
Where Charles II Hid from Parliament
Chapels: The Buildings of Nonconformity
Baptist, Unitarian, Quaker, Methodist and Others
George Stubbs
The Most Original and Searching of All Animal Painters
The Hand of Adam
Robert Adam: Architect and Designer