An Age of Reason, An Age of Passion
The period following the Renaissance focused the human attention toward the beauty of nature. It was man’s turn to be part of the nature and not the other way around. The term picturesque—or “compared to a picture” as Michael Woods defines it — defines new characteristics of the art from this period.
This period, “An Age of Reason, An Age of Passion,” had a dual nature—rational, responsive to reason, but also anti-rational, responsive to emotion.
“Making one’s way through the intellectual history of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, one must be aware of the shifting meaning of such words as rationalism, naturalism, classicism, romanticism. Like dancers in a reel, they combine and recombine, changing meaning as they change partners” (Stewart et. al, 156).
The Age of Reason—also called the Enlightenment—represents, indeed, an amazing period for new discoveries. Isaac Newton, Ren6 Descartes, John Locke, Francis Bacon are only a few of the important names of the period. One of the most important creations of the eighteenth century was
Denis Diderot’s “Enciclop6die” in 35 volumes, which covered the entire knowledge as known at the time.
In France, after Louis XIV’s death, the extreme austerity at Versailles ended, and a new taste for naturalism emerged “as if released from the constraints of absolutism in form” (Stewart et. al, 156). We are witnessing the birth of the Rococo style. The name Rococo is probably a combination of the words barocco, rocaille, and coquille, referring to the rocks and shells motifs—frequently used in the art of the period.
The Rococo style is characterized by a more relaxed style, where the straits lines and right-angles— characteristics for Lois XIV’s austere period at Versailles—were replaced by the gentle curving of Rococo forms. In this relaxed atmosphere, private salon entertainment in elegant town houses became fashionable. Taste became a “value above morality” (Stewart et. al., 156). Rococo main themes focused on leisure, love, and fashion. These themes and the “dramatic verve of Rubens gave way to the lyrical tone of Rubens’ great followers, Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), Frangois Boucher (1703-1770), and Jean-Honor6 Fragonard (1732-1804), the outstanding masters of three generations of Rococo painting in France” (Stewart et al., 156).
When it comes to Fragonard and his paintings, I have to mention that he is one of my favorite painters. Paintings like “The Swing” (1766), “A Young Girl Reading” (1776), “The Study” (1769), “The Lover Crowned” (1771-73), “The Meeting” (1771-73) and so many more hold a special magic for me. Every time I look at his paintings, it is like looking at a magic world. It is more like a dream world, or like an old-fashioned story that never loses its charm for a child’s ears. Because of
Fragonard’s talent, I can also “listen” to his magic stories: a stolen kiss, a flirtation giggle, the sound of the wind browsing through a...