Enlightenment and Liberty

Tutor report notes with suggestions/corrections and my responses or notes are at the end of each section and there has been some amendments to the notes in accordance with the feedback.

NOTE: Even though I am required to condense my notes into 1 page of notes I have struggled with this section and would rather leave my notes slightly longer and have a full and deep understanding of this period.  I feel that condensing my notes further is not going to do the period justice and points I feel important would be left out. Even though I am not a huge fan of the art of the Rococo style I have been fascinated with the social and political changes of the time period that subsequently effected the visual arts and in particular the art critics and intellectual thinkers of the day.


  • Christianity still prevailing in both Protestant and Catholic countries – reflected in arts including music despite chamber and operatic music developing. Religious buildings still flourished even though imitative of earlier forms (especially in France) although move towards simplicity of external forms and a concentration on personal devotion and piety.
  • Venice on point of dissolution during life of Francesco Guardi and Canaletto – fell to Napoleon in 1797.
  • George I gave political power to land-owning oligarchy.
  • Love seen as a natural passion but one which should be restrained within the social convention.
  • America’s Declaration of Independence meant USA became the promised land of the Enlightenment. Peace of Versailles – USA recognised by European powers.
  • Museums regarded for first time as institutions for public education. Artistic works commissioned for sole purpose of improving public morality.
  • 1789 Bastille demolished – King of France loses control of Paris with subsequent political changes and riots which gave every Frenchman having a political choice.
  • First spinning machine patented in England in 1738 with first spinning mill in 1771 which was developed by Richard Arkwright in 1771 at Cromford in Derbyshire. Between 1717 and 1721 first mill for twisting or doubling silk into thread built beside River Derwent – world’s first factory – now known as The Silk Mill in Derby (a well-known local landmark to those of us who live here).


  • Louix XIV changed favours from those artists who supported the Academy to those who dissented – dispute between those who favoured drawing and believed it was superior to colour and vice versa. Rubenists believed colour was needed to imitate nature as colour made an impression on the senses whilst the Poussinists believed drawing was superior as appealed to the intellect.
  • In France private collectors prominent enough to provide work for artists.
  • Collaborations between architects and sculptors meant integration between 2 skills. Robert Adam set the tone for architects ruling supreme whilst craftsmen merely carried out his designs and hence gap between artists and craftsmen widened especially in England where industrialisation was more advanced.
  • Josiah Wedgewood’s pottery saw artisans following predetermined patterns – example of above point.
  • Artists demanded recognition of superior status – Royal Academy founded in 1768 with first president being Sir Joshua Reynolds (knighted year after founding).
  • Engravers respected due to their ability to produce prints of the works of artists and spread their fame.


  • Antonia Canova developed studio practice whereby he modelled statues firstly in clay and then took plaster casts which were marked at points from which assistants could roughly carve the marble blocks and then he could finish with chisels, drills and rasps – an efficient way of working that enabled undoubtedly more output of work.


  • Secular works in minority but the stand out art of the time.
  • Rococo described in WHA as ‘delicate, sensual and capricious’ (p. 608 WHA) – at odds with rational thought of Enlightenment but the spontaneity and novelty of the style came from the demands for freedom from academic rules. Also described as having ‘nuances, subtle juxtapositions of forms, gentle gradations and mingling of colours, the elusive dancing rhythms of only slightly differentiated forms’ (p. 608-9 WHA). Introduced taste for small rooms that fitted the inhabitants. Style of paintings with curvilinear forms and novelties also was sensual and carnal as demonstrated by Hercules and Umphale by Francois Boucher whose work tended to be for boudoirs. Jean-Simeon Chardin used more muted colour palette and painted ‘downstairs’ – his work was simple and wholesome. Jean-Honore Fragonard’s work The Progress of Love  (4 scenes set in a park) was imbued with a new life and amorous energy and the commission rejected in favour of one by Joseph-Marie Vien whose work was more solemn in style and almost a direct critical opposition to Rococo.
  • Style of architecture was one of a plain exterior and lavish interior albeit with seemingly unsubstantial walls – surviving example can be seen at Hotel de Soubise in Paris by Germain Boffrand.
  • Fetes galantes – fanciful images of well-dressed men and women enjoying the open air.
  • Genre pittoresque – pictorial motifs with defined structure and pleasing aesthetically.
  • Style of architecture – very plain exterior with lavish interior. Charles-Joseph Natoire (1700-77) – Parisian artist who adapted paintings to the shaped cartouches within rooms.
  • German Rococo developed from Italianate Baroque – the difference between the two can only be measured subjectively.
  • Architects such as Johann Balthasar Neumann – prolific German architect who designed staircase at Wurzburg which was both elegant and ingenious in the Rococo style.
  • English style was critical of baroque – Colen Campbell one of several English architects who wanted to return to Classical principles by way of Andrea Palladio and hence the Neo-Palladian style of architecture developed – showed off social standing amongst the wealthy by the classism of Roman style.
  • Room style of Neo-Palladium houses shown in works such as by William Hogarth which also show evidence of Italianate pictures on the wall and indications of Rococo style.
  • Thomas Gainsborough – Mr and Mrs Andrew’s portrait portrayed ideas of nature as revealed by Newton and this ties in with those who cultivated the English version of genre pittoresque.
  • Landscape park seen in Gainsborough’s work was most important contribution to visual arts and seen as a symbol of liberty. NOTE: Local example in Derby of the ditch called a ha-ha which separated gentleman’s park from land beyond can be seen at Kedleston Hall – the grounds immediately behind the house look over to the farmland and vistas beyond with uninterrupted views due to no walls or fences.
  • Contemporary or antique dress used in both sculptures and paintings – some argued that contemporary dress gave a sense of realism and reinforced moral message whilst founders of USA are often seen dressed as figures from ancient world – a question of whether the artist or patron wanted realism or the grandeur and illusion of that of a god-like figure of antiquity. Social shift seen in paintings where sitters were immortalised in art.
  • Royal Academy employed Angelica Kauffman to paint 4 large oval canvases for the ceiling of the lecture hall covering the 4 elements of painting – colour, design, composition and genius of invention – she was only one of 2 women founders.
  • Rococo renounced latter half of 18th Century seen simultaneously in France, Germany and England and also USA as Enlightened thinkers demanded moral rectitude, simplicity, clarity and logic – Neoclassism developed as a new style.
  • Antonio Canova, sculptor and Jacque-Louis David, painter under Wincklemann’s influence in Rome almost artistically converted with a new style whereby they captured mythological scenes not actually described. Canova’s style was one which was less personal and gentle and meant to be seen from a plinth which revolved – he effectively revived sculpture and liberated it from the architectural settings which it was previously seen and much of his work was specifically intended for Museums (his were the first great works of art to do so) David’s style of painting was perfect for commemorating the martyrs of the French Revolution – The Dead Marat is seen as the greatest political work of art and described in WHA as a revolutionary icon (a secular Pieta) which immortalised the journalist Jean-Paul Marat in the memories of his contemporaries.
  • Architectural similarities to David’s work seen in designs of Etienne-Louis Boulee and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux – there was a return to antiquity but with new boldness and simplicity of style – no Baroque frivolities but clean cut lines and simple shapes for windows with no ornamentation and emphasis on geometry as opposed to free-flowing space.

PERSONAL SUMMARY OF STYLE: Rococo developed from a similar vein to Baroque and was full of subtle nuances and what is described as frivolities – the light colours, curves, asymmetrical designs and use of gold is for me too extravagant and too rich. The thinking of the time of the Enlightenment however makes more sense and hence the appeal of the English style is more in keeping with my personal taste – this is the classic English art I have grown up with but now the style makes sense with the parkland and posing of the sitters.  The move away from the Rococo and Baroque architecture into the Neo-Palladium style of many country houses we see around us in England is also a style I much prefer.  The period surrounding Rococo was turbulent with the French Revolution, the American Independence and even the move by George I which gave land-owners political power and the rejection of Rococo ties in with these events – the change for me in style seems as dramatic as the times clearly were.


  • Influence of Venetian artists and Rubens on Antoine Watteau plus other Masters including Veronese who influenced Tiepolo. Sensitivity of Chardin and sensuality of Boucher influenced Jean-Honore Fragonard – artists influencing each other. Borromini and Guarino Guarini (the latter Italian architect of the 17th Century) inspired spatial complexity, elaborate surface textures and intricate forms which German architects exploited.
  • Italian Mannerism plus statues of 16th Century and traditional German naturalistic style dating back to Middle Ages influences Ignaz Gunther.
  • Grand Tour influenced artists and thinkers alike.
  • Classical influence on Americans after Independence.
  • Johann Joachim Wincklemann’s reappraisal of art strong influence in Rome. Thinkers, critics and writers inspired artists directly.
  • Biennial salons only important art exhibitions in France – Academy in France was restraining influence on Rococo and reasserted authority in 1750’s.


  • Age of Reason called due to the brilliant writing of the 18th Century with its forceful, albeit sometimes wishful, thinking. Thinkers questioned Christian teaching but very few rejected religion.
  • German philosopher Immanuel Kant declared ‘Dare to know! Have the courage to use your understanding; this is the motto of the Enlightenment’ (p. 608 WHA).
  • Alexander Pope – Essay on Criticism 1711.
  • Francois Marie Arouet (Voltaire) declared taste was for the educated classes only and the qualities that Pope had written of could only be judged by taste.
  • John Locke – Essay Concerning Human Understanding – 1690 – supported beliefs on colour – claimed all ideas derived from experience and none was innate. John-Baptiste Dubos further backed this as wrote that what appealed to the senses outweighed what appealed to the mind.
  • Denis Diderot – described in WHA as most sensitive art critic of the 18th Novelist, essayist and editor of the French Encyclopedie who reviewed Paris Salons in 1760’s but his style of writing was as if you were standing in front of the art and not about the theory.
  • Joseph Addison and Richard Steele – journalists who preached about moral attitudes and inspired artists such as Hogarth.
  • Sir Joshua Reynolds – Discourses delivered every year at Royal Academy.
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) – fiercest critic of ‘evils of social life’ (p. 628 WHA) – advocated cultivation of natural sentiments and called for didactic art to commemorate the men who had defended their country or those of who had great intellect and minds.
  • Johann Joachim Wincklemann (1717-68) – complete reappraisal of art of antiquity ‘Thoughts on Imitation of Greek Works of Art’ – first book – written from point of view as man of the Enlightenment and discussed statues as living works of art – endorsed imitating antiquity but in way that changed form to spiritual purpose and art as an expressive medium rather than mimetic.


Fleming, J and Honour, H. 1984. A World History of Art. Seventh Edition. London.  Laurence King Publishing Ltd.


My tutor has summarised the key themes to stress for the Rococo, Enlightenment and Romanticism periods as patronage, education, materials and modernity which I now understand.

“Think a bit more about the impact of the Enlightenment on the arts, and how far the business of the artist was conceived of as the imitation of nature, which as far as high art was concerned, meant having an intellectual grasp of the processes used to produce classical art”.   As I answer this I am at the end of the course and my view of this is that Enlightened thinkers had a very direct impact on the artist due to the expectation that would, as my tutor states, have that intellectual grasp on the processes and this includes almost a scientific knowledge of perspective, the intricacies of colour and the application of such to produce the effects required.  The movement had a direct effect on such artists as Joseph Wright who painting the scenes of scientific discovery and wonderment as well as industrialised scenes and also the landscapes of the time – I find the landscapes stunningly rendered but the scientific or industrial paintings are the nearest equivalent of a photograph and so give a glimpse into this time of evolution, revolution, experimentation and rational thinking.  

I have been asked to consider “the principles of classical composition, which were based on the notion of a clear focus on a central motif” , (this is in regards to Enlightenment Neoclassism), as well as the effects of light and shade which did not detract from the focus of this motif as well as the symmetry, balance and simplicity.  As I have noted in my response to this feedback I have seen many art works in the houses and my local museum which have such a central motif or figure and the light and shade of the background is done in such a way as to focus the eye on this object.  Classical composition is the focus of the paintings and harks back to the classical compositions of the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

Explore further how Enlightenment artists and critics were emboldened to demand greater naturalism or realism in art, in both style and subject matter (resulting from the popularity of Dutch and Flemish paintings).  Reflect on the way in which this greater respect for nature was seen as a moral solution to the luxury and corruption of the Rococo’s aristocratic patrons.”  The naturalism and realism in art was almost an antithesis to the aristocracy and the Catholic church with the opulent and vulgar displays of wealth and the Enlightened thinkers of the day championed the poor in their rational thinking and questioning of authority as well as their scientific and enquiring minds which brought about changes in philosophy, science and many laws.  By respecting nature in the art this was going directly going against the opulence of the palaces and large houses – it was bringing the focus back to the simplicity and purity of the land and its people and therefore was seen as morally correct and upstanding.  


This entry was posted in ASSIGNMENT 4 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s