The Rococo: 18th Century to Today





This seminar examines the rococo as a stylistic and cultural mode from its first stirrings in late 17th-century France to its reverberations in 20th-century art and design. Focusing primarily on the 18th century, students will explore how this “French” style met acceptance and resistance in various national and colonial contexts. They will also investigate what scholars have interpreted as the culture of the rococo, including elegant gatherings, the female-dominated world of literary salons, and a taste for eroticism and exoticism. The exploration of later periods will trace the style’s enduring appeal during European and American 19th-century “rococo revivals” and in turn-of-the-century art nouveau, primarily in France and Brussels. The course will close by examining how the idea of “rococo” artistic license has fueled recent design and architecture, asking what postmodern and contemporary artists hope to achieve by reinterpreting rococo motifs. Throughout the course, the class will pay close attention to the rococo’s historiography and critical reception from popular to scholarly milieus. Assignments will include short object analyses after each museum visit, and a term paper. 3 credits.