How Rococo and Neoclassicism Illustrate the Process of Deciding in their Paintings
The artists Jean-Honore Fragonard and Jaques-Louis David both successfully embody their respective stylistic differences. Fragonard’s style of painting is Rococo, which is characterized by its softness, asymmetry and curviness. Contrasting these ideals is David’s style of painting, Neo-Classicism. Neo-Classicism is synonymous with strong gestures, symmetry, and solidness. Two works that best exemplify the ideals of each style of painting are Fragonard’s The Swing, 1767 and David’s The Death of Socrates, 1787. Although at first glance, it is easier to focus on how each work is different to the other, one can argue that they are similar in theme. Both The Swing and The Death of Socrates are works that deal with the theme of decision making. However, they differ in how each work portrays the theme of deciding. While The Swing focuses on infidelity and the process of deciding, The Death of Socrates makes it clear that loyalty to government is stronger than the ties of friendship or acquaintance. By examining use of light, form, subject matter as well as other artistic elements, one can see how each artist conveys a message by utilizing their style of art.
Although both Fragonard’s and David’s work convey different ideals through their style of painting, they are still able to use light in a very similar form. The viewer’s attention is directed on a specific point in the painting through the use of light. Both artists cast a spotlight on the figure or action in the painting that they want the viewer to especially notice. It is what each artist decides to focus on that makes his work is different from the other. A young woman on a swing who enjoys the pleasures of life is clearly where Fragonard wants to direct the viewer’s attention. However, David focuses attention on a male figure, specifically Socrates. How does the use of light help the viewer understand the ideals of each form of art? While Fragonard chooses to focus on a female and David chooses to focus on a male, the viewer now understands how Rococo can be a feminine form of art and Neo-Classicism the opposite. In addition, other stylistic elements like color and form depict how each art form differs from the other. By using all this visual evidence, we will later see how the concept of deciding is presented depending upon which form of art is conveying its ideals.
Soft colors like, pinks and pastels are usually linked to femininity. The colors used in The Swing are soft pastel-like colors that best illustrate the painting’s femininity. The masculine ideals imposed by Neo-Classicism are even evident in David’s use of color. The colors presented in his work are solid, which suggest a male’s ability at making a solid and just decision. On the other hand, the colors used in The Swing are not pure but mixed. Mixing red, yellow, and white probably created the shade of...