Baroque and Rococo

 

Baroque and Rococo Art Map




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Sir Joshua Reynolds



Sir Thomas Gainsborough



 

 

 


The English School



Although they were affected by contemporary trends, 18th-century English painters were openly anti-academic. Their work began to show signs of a Romantic sensibility during the second half of the century, especially in their tendency to place figures in the middle of wide stretches of landscapes and impart a greater sense of immediacy. Although the work of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92) shows a certain Rococo flair in his handling of subjects, the strength of his images lies in the subtlety and indeterminate quality of his portraits, the use of natural settings, and the suggestion of intimacy. The apparently cold and detached approach to portrait painting that is often displayed in the works of Sir Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88), is offset by his choice of attractive and enchanting settings, which are painted in a style that heralded the work of 19th-century landscape artists.
 



 

Sir Joshua Reynolds

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born July 16, 1723, Plympton, Devon, Eng.
died Feb. 23, 1792, London


portrait painter and aesthetician who dominated English artistic life in the middle and late 18thcentury. Through hisart and teaching, he attempted to lead British painting away from the indigenous anecdotal pictures of the early 18th century toward the formal rhetoric of the continental Grand Style. With the founding of the Royal Academy in 1768, Reynolds was elected its first president and knighted by King George III.

Early life

Reynolds attended the Plympton grammar school of which his father, a clergyman, was master. The young Reynolds became well read in the writings of classical antiquity and throughout his life was to be much interested in literature, counting many of the finest British authors of the 18th century among his closest friends. Reynolds early aspired to become an artist, and in 1740 he was apprenticed for four years in London to Thomas Hudson, a conventional portraitist and the pupil and son-in-law of Jonathan Richardson. In 1743 he returned to Devon and began painting at Plymouth naval portraits that reveal his inexperience. Returning to London for two years in 1744, he began to acquire a knowledge of the old masters and an independent style marked by bold brushwork and the use of impasto, a thick surface texture of paint, such as in his portrait of “Captain the Honourable John Hamilton” (1746).

Back in Devon in 1746, he painted a large group portrait of the “Eliot Family” (c. 1746/47), which clearly indicates that he had studied the large-scale portrait of the “Pembroke Family” (1634–35) by the Flemish Baroque painter Sir Anthony Van Dyck, whose style of portrait painting influenced English portraiture throughout the 18th century. In 1749 Reynolds sailed with his friend Augustus Keppel to Minorca, one of the Balearic Islands off the Mediterranean coast of Spain. A fall from a horse detained him for five months and permanently scarred his lip—the scar being a prominent feature in his subsequent self-portraits. From Minorca he went to Rome, where he remained for two years, devoting himself to studying the great masterpieces of ancient Greco-Roman sculpture and of Italian painting. The impressions that he retained from this visit were to inspire his paintings and his Discourses for the rest of his life, for he felt that it was by allying painting with scholarship that he could best achieve his ambition of raising the status of his profession back in England. While returning home via Florence, Bologna, and Venice, he became absorbed by the compositions and colour of the great Renaissance Venetian painters of the 16th century: Titian, Jacopo Tintoretto, and Paolo Veronese. The Venetian tradition's emphasis on colourand the effect of light and shading had a lasting influence on Reynolds, and, although all his life he preached the need for young artists to study the sculptural definition of form characteristic of Florentine and Roman painters, his own works are redolent of the Venetian style.


Later years

In 1753 Reynolds settled in London, where he was to live for the rest of his life. His success was assured from the first, and by 1755 he was employing studio assistants to help him execute the numerous portrait commissions he received. The early London portraits have a vigour and naturalness about them that is perhaps best exemplified in a likeness of “Honourable Augustus Keppel” (1753–54; National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London). The pose is not original, being a reversal of the “Apollo Belvedere,” an ancient Roman copy of a mid-4th-century-BC Hellenistic statue Reynolds had seen in the Vatican. But the fact that the subject (who was a British naval officer) is shown striding along the seashore introduced a new kind of vigour into the tradition of English portraiture. In these first years in London, Reynolds' knowledge of Venetian painting is very apparent in such works as the portraits of “Lord Cathcart” (1753/54) and “LordLudlow” (1755). Of his domestic portraits, those of “Nelly O'Brien” (1760–62) and of “Georgiana, Countess Spencer, and Her Daughter” (1761) are especially notable for their tender charm and careful observation.

After 1760 Reynolds' style became increasingly classical and self-conscious. As he fell under the influence of the classical Baroque painters of the Bolognese school of the 17th century and the archaeological interest in Greco-Roman antiquity that was sweeping Europe at the time, the pose and clothes of his sitters took on a more rigidly antique pattern, in consequence losing much of the sympathy and understanding of his earlier works.

There were no public exhibitions of contemporary artists in London before 1760, when Reynolds helped found the Society of Artists and the first of many successful exhibitions was held. The patronage of George III was sought, and in 1768 the Royal Academy was founded. Although Reynolds' painting had found no favour at court, he was the obvious candidate for the presidency, and the king confirmed his election and knighted him. Reynolds guided the policy of the academy with such skill that the pattern he set has been followed with little variation ever since. The yearly Discourses that he delivered at the academy clearly mirrored many of his own thoughts and aspirations, as well as his own problems of line versus colourand public and private portraiture, and gave advice to those beginning their artistic careers.

From 1769 nearly all of Reynolds' most important works appeared in the academy. In certain exhibitions he included historical pieces, such as “Ugolino” (1773), which were perhaps his least successful works. Many of his child studies are tender and even amusing, though now and again the sentiment tends to be excessive. Two of the most enchanting are “Master Crewe as Henry VIII” (1775–76) and “Lady Caroline Scott as ‘Winter' ” (1778). His most ambitious portrait commission was the “Family of the Duke of Marlborough” (1777).

In 1781 Reynolds visited Flanders and Holland, where he studied the work of the great Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens. This seems to have affected his own style, for in the manner of Rubens' later works the texture of his picture surface becomes far richer. This is particularly true of his portrait of the “Duchess of Devonshire and Her Daughter” (1786). Reynolds was never a mere society painter or flatterer. It has been suggested that his deafness gave him a clearer insight into the character of his sitters, the lack of one faculty sharpening the use of his eyes. His vast learning allowed him to vary his poses and style so often that the well-known remark of Thomas Gainsborough, “Damn him, how various he is!” is entirely understandable. In 1782 Reynolds had a paralytic stroke, and about the same time he was saddened by bickerings within the Royal Academy. Seven years later his eyesight began to fail, and he delivered his last Discourse at the academy in 1790. He died in 1792 and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.


Personality and criticism

Reynolds preferred the company of men of letters to that of his fellow artists and was friends with Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, and Oliver Goldsmith, among others. He never married, and his house was kept for him by his sister Frances.

Reynolds' state portraits of the king and queen were never considered a success, and he seldom painted for them; but the Prince of Wales patronized him extensively, and there were few distinguished families or individuals who did not sit for him. Nonetheless, some of his finest portraits are those of his intimate friends and of fashionable women of questionable reputation.

Unfortunately, Reynolds' technique was not always entirely sound, and many of his paintings have suffered as a result. After his visit to Italy, he tried to produce the effects of Tintoretto and Titian by using transparent glazes over a monochrome under painting, but the pigment he used for his flesh tones was not permanent and even in his lifetime began to fade, causing the over pale faces of many surviving portraits. In the 1760s Reynolds began to use more extensively bitumen or coal substances added to pigments. This practice proved to be detrimental to the paint surface. Though a keen collector of old-master drawings, Reynolds himself was never a draftsman, and indeed few of his drawings have any merit whatsoever.

Reynolds' Discourses Delivered at the Royal Academy (1769–91) is among the most important art criticism of the time. In it he outlined the essence of grandeur in art and suggested the means of achieving it through rigorous academic training and study of the old masters of art.

John Woodward

 

 


Sir Joshua Reynolds
General Sir Banastre Tarleton
1782
Oil on canvas, 236 x 145 cm
National Gallery, London
 

 



Sir Joshua Reynolds
Cupid Unfastens the Belt of Venus
oil on canvas
1788
The Hermitage at St. Petersburg

 

Sir Joshua Reynolds
Sisters Waldegrave

 

 

_____________
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Sir Thomas Gainsborough

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)


baptized May 14, 1727, Sudbury, Suffolk, England
died August 2, 1788, London
 

 


Thomas Gainsborough
Self-Portrait

1787
Oil on canvas
Royal Academy of Arts, London
 

 


portrait and landscape painter, the most versatile English painter of the 18th century. Some of his early portraits show the sitters grouped in a landscape (“Mr. and Mrs. Andrews,” c. 1750). As he became famous and his sitters fashionable, he adopted a more formal manner that owed something to Anthony Van Dyck (“The Blue Boy,” c. 1770). His landscapes are of idyllic scenes. During his last years he also painted seascapes and idealized full-size pictures of rustics and country children.

Early life and Suffolk period

Gainsborough was the youngest son of John Gainsborough, a maker of woolen goods. When he was 13, he persuaded his father to send him to London to study on the strength of his promise at landscape. He worked as an assistant to Hubert Gravelot, a French painter and engraver and an important figure in London art circles at the time. From him Gainsborough learned something of the French Rococo idiom, which had a considerable influence on the development of his style. In 1746 in London he married Margaret Burr, the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Beaufort. Soon afterward he returned to Suffolk and settled in Ipswich in 1752; his daughters Mary and Margaret were born in 1748 and 1752, respectively. In Ipswich Gainsborough met his first biographer, Philip Thicknesse. He early acquired some reputation as a portrait and landscape painter and made an adequate living.

Gainsborough declared that his first love was landscape and began to learn the language of this art from the Dutch 17th-century landscapists, who by 1740 were becoming popular with English collectors; his first landscapes were influenced by Jan Wynants. The earliest dated picture with a landscape background is a study of a bull terrier—“Bumper—A Bull Terrier” (1745; Sir Edward Bacon Collection, Raveningham, Norfolk), in which many of the details are taken straight from Wynants. But by 1748, when he painted “Cornard Wood,” Jacob van Ruisdael had become the predominant influence; although it is full of naturalistic detail, Gainsborough probably never painted directly from nature. “The Charterhouse,” one of his few topographical views, dates from the same year as “Cornard Wood” and in the subtle effect of light on various surfaces proclaims Dutchinfluence. In the background to “Mr. and Mrs. Andrews,” he anticipates the realism of the great English landscapist of the next century, John Constable, but for the most part fancy held sway. In many of the early landscapes the influence of Rococo design learned from Gravelot is evident, together with a feeling for the French pastoral tradition. “The Woodcutter Courting a Milkmaid” is an Anglicized version of a French theme, which recalls compositions by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Although Gainsborough preferred landscape, he knew he must paint portraits for economic reasons. The small heads painted in Suffolk, although sometimes rather stiff, are penetrating character studies delicately and freely pencilled, particularly the jaunty self-portrait in a cocked hat at Houghton. Gainsborough painted few full-length portraits in Suffolk. “Mr. William Woollaston,” although an ambitious composition, is intimate and informal. The “Painter's Daughters Chasing a Butterfly,” composed in the last years at Ipswich, is, in its easy naturalism and sympathetic understanding, one of the best English portraits of children.

As well as straight portraits, he painted in Suffolk a number of delightful spontaneous groups of small figures in landscapes closely related to conversation pieces. “Mr. and Mrs. Andrews,” which has been described as the most English of English pictures, is set in a typical Suffolk landscape. “Lady and Gentleman in Landscape” is more Frenchified, with its vivacious Rococo rhythms, but “Heneage Lloyd and His Sister” is more stylized, the charming little figures being posed against a conventional background of steps and decorative urns.


Bath period

To obtain a wider public, Gainsborough moved in 1759 to Bath, where his studio was soon thronged with fashionable sitters. He moved in musical and theatrical circles, and among his friends were members of the Linley family, whose portraits he painted. At Bath he also met the actor David Garrick, for whom he had a profound admiration and whom he painted on many occasions. His passion for music and the stage continued throughout his life. In the west country he visited many of the great houses and at Wilton fell under the spell of Anthony Van Dyck, the predominating influence in his later work. In spite of the demand for portraits, he continued to paint landscapes.

In 1761 he sent a portrait of Earl Nugent to the Society of Artists, and in the following year the first notice of his work appeared in the London press. Throughout the 1760s he exhibited regularly in London and in 1768 was elected a foundation member of the Royal Academy. Characteristically he never took much part in the deliberations.

After he moved to Bath, Gainsborough had less time for landscape and worked a good deal from memory, often drawing by candlelight from little model landscapes set up in his studio. About 1760 Peter Paul Rubens supplanted the Dutch painters as Gainsborough's chief love. This is particularly noticeable in “Peasants Returning from Market,” with its rich colour and beautiful creamy pastel shades. The influence of Rubens is also apparent in “The Harvest Wagon” in the fluency of the drawing and the scale of the great beech trees so different from the stubby oaks of Suffolk. The idyllic scene is a perfect blend of the real and the ideal. The group in the cart is based on Rubens' “Descentfrom the Cross” (1611–14) in Antwerp cathedral, which Gainsborough copied.

In Bath, Gainsborough had to satisfy a more sophisticated clientele and adopted a more formal and elegant portrait style based largely on a study of Van Dyck at Wilton, where he made a free copy of Van Dyck's painting of the Pembroke family. By 1769, when he painted “Isabella Countess of Sefton,” it is easy to see the refining influence of Van Dyck in the dignified simplicity of the design and the subtle mutedcolouring. One of Gainsborough's most famous pictures, “The Blue Boy,” was probably painted in 1770. In painting this subject in Van Dyck dress, he was following an 18th-century fashion in painting, as well as doing homage to his hero. The influence of Van Dyck is most clearly seen in the more official portraits. “John, 4th Duke of Argyll” in his splendid robes is composed in the grand manner, and “Augustus John, Third Earl of Bristol” rivals Reynolds' portraits of the kind. Gainsborough preferred to paint his friends rather than public figures, and a group of portraits of the 1760s—Uvedale Price, Sir William St. Quinton, and Thomas Coward, all oldish men of strong character—illustrate Gainsborough's sense of humour and his individual approach to sympathetic sitters.


London period

In 1774 he moved to London and settled in part of Schomberg House in Pall Mall. Fairly soon he began to be noticed by the royal family and partly because of his informality and Tory politics was preferred by George III above the official court painter, Sir Joshua Reynolds. In 1781 he was commissioned to paint the King and Queen.

Gainsborough continued his landscape work. “The Watering Place” was described by Horace Walpole, the English man of letters, as in the style of Rubens, but it also has much of the classic calm of Claude Lorrain, whose etchings Gainsborough owned. In 1783 he made an expedition to the Lake District to see for himself the “wild” scenery extolled by the devotees of the picturesque. On his return he painted a number of mountain scenes that have analogies with the work of Gaspard Dughet, whose works were widely distributed in English country houses. Some sea pieces dating from the 1780s show a new kind of realism, harking back to the Dutch seascape tradition. During his last years Gainsborough was haunted by his nostalgia for Arcadia in the English countryside and painted a series of pictures of peasant life more ideal than real, for example, “The Cottage Door.” But one of the latest landscapes, “The Market Cart,” is less idealized and more true to nature and looks forward to Constable in its treatment of the light breaking through the massive foliage.

Gainsborough was the only important English portrait painter to devote much time to landscape drawing. He composed a great many drawings in a variety of mediums including chalk, pen and wash, and watercolour, some of them varnished. He was always eager to find new papers and new techniques. He produced a magic lantern to give striking lighting effects; the box is still in the Victoria and Albert Museum, together with some of the slides. In addition Gainsborough made a series of soft-ground etchings and aquatints. He never sold his drawings and, although many of them are closely related to pictures, they are not studies in the ordinary sense but works of art in their own right.

Gainsborough was not methodical in keeping sitter books, and comparatively few of the portraits in the early years in London are dated. In 1777 he exhibited at the Royal Academy the well-known “Mrs. Graham,” “C.F. Abel,” “William Henry, Duke of Gloucester,” and “Maria, Duchess of Gloucester,” all deliberately glamorous and painted in richly heightened colour. “Queen Charlotte” is more restrained; the painting of the flounced white dress decorated with ribbons and laces makes her look every inch a queen. It is significant that Gainsborough, unlike most of his contemporaries, did not generally use drapery painters. In 1784 he quarrelled with the Academy because they insisted on hanging the “Three Eldest Princesses” at the normal height from the floor, which Gainsborough maintained was too high to appreciate his lightness of touch and delicate pencilling. In protest he withdrew the pictures he had intended for the exhibition and never showed again at the Academy.

In some of Gainsborough's later portraits of women, he dispensed with precise finish, and, without sacrificing the likeness, he concentrated on the general effect. “Mrs. Sheridan” melts into the landscape, while “Lady Bate Dudley,” a symphony in blue and green, is an insubstantial form, almost an abstract. “Mrs. Siddons,” on the other hand, shows that Gainsborough could still paint a splendid objective study. Few of the later male portraits are of a pronounced character, but exceptions are two particularly good pictures of musicians, “Johann Christian Fischer” and the unfinished “Lord Abingdon” (private collection).


A new venture in 1783 was “The Mall in St. James' Park,” a park scene described by Horace Walpole as “all a flutter like alady's fan.” “The Morning Walk,” with romanticized figures strolling in a landscape, is painted in the same spirit (see photograph). The “fancy pictures” painted in the 1780s gave Gainsborough particular pleasure. They are full-sized, idealized portraits of country children and peasants painted from models—for example, “The Cottage Girl with a Bowl of Milk.” The idea appeared in immature form in the little rustic Suffolk figures, and he may have been fired to exploit it further by seeing the 17th-century Spanish painter Bartolomé Murillo's “St. John,” which he copied.

He died in 1788 and was buried in Kew churchyard.


Assessment

Of all the 18th-century English painters, Thomas Gainsborough was the most inventive and original, always prepared to experiment with new ideas and techniques, and yet he complained of his contemporary Sir Joshua Reynolds, “Damn him, how various he is.” Gainsborough alone among the great portrait painters of the era also devoted serious attention to landscapes. Unlike Reynolds, he was no great believer in an academic tradition and laughed at the fashion for history painting; an instinctive painter, he delighted in the poetry of paint. In his racy letters Gainsborough shows a warm-hearted and generous character and an independent mind. His comments on his own work and methods, as well as on some of the old masters, are very revealing and throw considerable light on contemporary views of art.

Mary Woodall
 

 


Thomas Gainsborough
Portrait of a Lady in Blue
1777-79
Oil on canvas
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg
 

 

 

 


THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH:
 


"MR AND MRS ROBERT ANDREWS"


1749-50; oil on canvas: 70 x 118 cm (28 x 48 in); National Gallery, London.

 

Thomas Gainsborough
Mr and Mrs Andrews

 

 

This painting celebrates and commemorates the marriage of the young Robert and Frances Andrews in November 1748. The couple are shown beneath an oak tree on their estate near Sudbury, where Gainsborough was born. The setting enables him to express his gift as a landscape painter, while displaying some of the vast grounds of the house -confirming the couple's social status. During the reign of George II. Britain was already a great world power. The ruling class had grown rich from the products of their lands (in the foreground of this painting, the artist includes a few sheaves of newly scythed wheat), colonial trade, and financial speculation. The lesser gentry, or squirearchy, was also sharing in this prosperity and felt secure because of its growing influence in Parliament. This portrait, which remained in the Andrews family until I960, perfectly documents the style of the young Gainsborough. He was influenced by the work of the great 17th-century Dutch landscape artist Jacob van Ruysdael. while already moving towards a Romantic style. English painters were not disposed to the extravagant and frivolous rocaille fashions that held sway in Continental Europe. Instead, they assumed a preference for formality and an emphasis on tradition that led to an early espousal of Neoclassicism (incorporating some characteristics of Rococo), which, in turn evolved into a form of Romanticism.
 

 

1. The painting's dimensions conform to the rules of the Golden Section. The canvas can be split into two overlapping squares: their division runs just below the horizon and slightly higher than the upper bodies of the subjects. At first glance, the left-hand square appears to be a double portrait and the right-hand square a landscape. These two sides are fused by the artist's harmonious use of colour and the continuity provided by the background. The positive" element of the great oak tree behind the couple has a symmetrical relationship lo the "negative" emptiness centred in the right-hand square.

2. The "empty" half of the picture, the landscape, enabled the artist to construct a perspectival view of the composition without resorting to the use of distortion. The viewer's gaze is led to the couple on the left-hand side, the natural central point of interest in the composition, linking various important elements, diagonal alignments lead us towards the unusual placing of the focal point in the distance. The painting displays a deep love of nature in all its freedom and beauty that is typical of English sensibility: in this, the work prefigures the Romantic movement.

3. The amount of space devoted to the landscape paradoxically serves to emphasize the two figures. Frances Andrews is the more prominent of the two. the fullness of her pale blue skirl corresponding to the shape of the clouds in the background. The meticulously drawn sheaves of wheat are symbolic inferences to fertility- highly appropriate in a portrait of a newly-wed couple.

4. The indications of social status are more evident in the male figure. His magnificent gun — a country gentleman s sporting weapon - indicates prestige and distinction. A whimsical but coherent inter-weaving of lines combines the shape of the tree roots, the legs, the gun. and the dog. The painter creates a naturalistic portrait full of light. His brushwork is deft, with a delicacy of glazing and a transparency rarely seen in oil colours. He used long brushes and well-diluted colour to achieve these effects, most evident in the highlights of the fabrics and the texture of the skin.

5. The contrast between the crisp outlines of the tricorne bat, the comfortable cut of the jacket, and the neatly tied stock around his long neck, provide examples of English elegance that even the French Court emulated in this era. While the bark of the tree is painted with light brushwork. the woman's bauds remain enigmatically unfinished. The subject's represent the English upper class, in their country home, with its distinctions of rank and wealth. They bare delicate hut clear-cut features, elongated faces, unsmiling mouths, and a composed, slightly superior air.
  

 

Thomas Gainsborough
Mr and Mrs Andrews
(detail)

see also collection:

Thomas Gainsborough

 

 
 

A Question of Class

English society in the eighteenth century


(K.Reichold, B.Graf)
 


A Youth to Fortune

and to Fame unknown...


Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard, 1751

 


Thomas Gainsborough
The Blue Boy
Oil on canvas 177.8 x 121.98 cm
Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, CA
 

 

Who was the young man who sat for Thomas Gainsborough's The Blue Boy? His identity was unknown for nearly two centuries. Recent research suggests that he was Jonathan Buttall, the teenage son of a rich London ironmonger. Gainsborough is thought to have made the family's acquaintance in Bath. The city in south-west England was renowned throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as a fashionable spa where affluent English families went to drink the healing waters of its springs.
The ultimate in elegant watering-places, Bath was even frequented by members of the royal family when they felt jaded. Visitors to the baths were subjected to a severe regimen. Forced to get up at six in the morning, women spent an hour in the warm water of the baths dressed in long garments made of heavy material that could not cling to their bodies and reveal their contours. Men, too, bathed fully dressed. Outside the baths, the city was the place for flirtations, balls and evening card parties. There were many official functions like the Assembly-Rooms Balls and places both indoors and out where people promenaded for the purpose of meeting and keeping up with the latest goings-on. Gambling was rife and the city boasted the dubious attractions of a bevy of demi-mondaines to charm away the boredom of gentlemen who were not m Bath with their families. Women had to content themselves with gossip over the tea table.
The city seethed with intrigue, which is why Horace Walpole remarked it was ten times better to leave the city than to enter it. The rich visitors tended to be vain and ostentatious. This was probably the reason why the young Thomas Gainsborough left Ipswich in the east of England to settle in Bath in 1759-The move paid off. Showered with portrait commissions from wealthy patrons, the painter was soon able to afford luxurious apartments in the beautiful and elegant Royal Circus.
However, the resort was not merely the haunt of the aristocracy. It was just as popular with rich tradesmen's and manufacturers' families. From 1750 English iron foundries and cotton mills had been flourishing and their owners could well afford to take the waters at Bath. One can imagine Gainsborough meeting Mr Buttall, the ironmonger, and his family at the Pump Room. Gainsborough had begun his career by copying and restoring Flemish paintings. It is therefore not surprising that he borrowed stylistic elements from the works of Anthony van Dyck to paint Jonathan Buttall, who is dressed in the fashion of the seventeenth century.
 

 


Thomas Gainsborough
The Painter's Daughters Chasing a Butterfly
1755-56
The National Gallery, London

 


Thomas Gainsborough
Landscape in Suffolk
1750
Oil on canvas, 65 x 95 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
 

  
 
From Rococo to Neoclassicism

The architectural theorist Francesco Milizia documented his views of the Baroque style in 1785 in a savage indictment. He viewed it as already hopelessly old-fashioned. Under his definition of Baroque, much that belonged to High Baroque was mistakenly included. Rococo was already past its peak in central European architecture by the 1780s. In terms of domestic interior decoration and furnishings, best represented in France by the "Louis XV" style. Rococo was going out of favour in Europe by about 1770. In large European cities. Neoclassicism grew in popularity, and where taste was more conservative, there was a return to the academic-traditions of the Bolognese and Roman schools. The Louis XVI style in furniture, which became fashionable during the 1770s and 1780s, was characterized by ornately carved wood or stucco decoration. It was tantamount to a variation on the Rococo theme but with a preference for straight lines, a limited range of floral iconography and pattern, a more measured rhythm, and a new. less luxuriant repertoire of decoration. In effect, the gregarious, rich Rococo style gave way to a more austere and serious artistic sensibility. With gradual and various modifications, Rococo gradually progressed towards Neoclassicism with no discernible, abrupt break. As these stylistic changes took place. Francisco Goya exerted great influence on the direction of art. During his career, the artist witnessed the twilight of the age of benevolent despotism. His work was to prove pivotal for contemporary late 18th-century and early 19th-centurv art.
 

 


Filippo Tagliolini sculptor, and Giovanni Battista Polidoro, painter;
Bench in the Real Passeggio, Reale Fabrica Ferdinandea, Naples,
c 1790-95.
Capodimonte Museum, Naples.


This was part of a large set used as table decoration during the dessert course;
it illustrates the influence of Rococo in the Neoclassical era.
 


see collection:

Joshua Reynolds

Thomas Gainsborough


 

 

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