Europe and America, 1700 – 1800 Background

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Europe and America, 1700 - 1800

Europe and America, 1700 – 1800

  • No longer was faith the sole factor in constructing a dialog and an analysis of the world and the environment.

  • Critical thinking now was based on empirical evidence, questions were asked and answers were sought.

  • age of encyclopedias

  • Experiments were used to create a body of factual knowledge based on provable evidence.

    • Newton: the universe is ruled by mathematical/mechanical laws; God as watchmaker, universe as watch

    • John Locke (English) philosopher:

      • If universe is rational society should be as well.

      • Doctrine of Empiricism:

        • Knowledge and comes to people through their sense perception of material world.

        • Perceptions lead to ideas.

        • Humans are born good, not evil!!!

          • No Original Sin!!!!

        • Nature’s laws grant rights of life, liberty, property, and freedom of conscience.

        • Government is a contract to protect theses rights.

          • If government does not fulfill these rights the people have the right to overthrow the government.

          • Sound Familiar? What do you think the church thought of this?

    • Philosophes: France: Ills of humanity could be fixed by use of reason and logic. Believed in a doctrine of progress and humans were perfectible.

    • Diderot: French. Father of the encyclopedia. Effort to gather all knowledge in one place.

    • Voltaire: French. Introduced French to Locke and Newton. Attacked arbitrary despotism and privileges of kings and nobles. Humans needed old order (ancient regime) to vanish for human progress. Paved way for French Revolution.

    • Rousseau: French: Art, science, society, and civilization corrupted man who is good in his primitive state (“natural man”). Human salvation only exists by returning to the natural state of feeling. “All our natural inclinations are right.”


  • American and French

    • Populace not satisfied with poor social and economic conditions

  • Industrial:

    • Steam engine

    • Technological progress

    • Greater wealth

    • Greater mobility (transportation)

Two periods:

  • Pre-Enlightenment = Rococo

  • Enlightenment = Natural Art (genre, everyday life of ordinary people) and Neoclassicism

Louis XIV dies in 1715 and nobles leave Versailles to pleasures of town. Re-established the political, social, and economic power of aristocracy. Aristocracts were now the primary patrons in France.
Nobles wanted anew softer, more feminine style of art and architecture for their Paris townhouses. Art and architecture should show the rich and elegant at play. Feminine: Many of the most notable patrons of art were noble women.

  • Rococo comes from rocaille = small pebbles and shells used to decorate grottoes.

  • Biggest influence of Rococo was on interiors. Exteriors were plain.

    • Interiors were filled with exuberant and intricate designs. Walls melded into vaults.

    • Usually intricate design with sinuous, organic theme such as plants and, most often, shells.

    • Interiors were meant to be intimate places. They were in private (yet grand) homes.

    • Painting, sculpture, and architecture form one piece of art

  • Figure 29-2 GERMAIN BOFFRAND, Salon de la Princesse, with painting by CHARLES-JOSEPH NATOIRE and sculpture by J. B. LEMOINE, Hôtel de Soubise, Paris, France, 1737–1740.


  • Figure 25-33 JULES HARDOUIN-MANSART and CHARLES LE BRUN, Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors), palace of Louis XIV, Versailles, France, ca. 1680.

  • Figure 29-3 FRANÇOIS DE CUVILLIÉS, Hall of Mirrors, the Amalienburg, Nymphenburg Palace park, Munich, Germany, early 18th century.

  • Figure 29-4 BALTHASAR NEUMANN, interior (top) and plan (bottom) of the pilgrimage church of Vierzehnheiligen, near Staffelstein, Germany, 1743-1772.

    • Influenced by Borromini. No straight lines. Lightness and delicacy. Exterior looks like a traditional nave church but inside is full of surprises with much designed on oval shapes.

Watteau: An originator of Rococo painting style
Figure 29-5 ANTOINE WATTEAU, L’Indifférent, ca. 1716. Oil on canvas, 10” x 7”. Louvre, Paris. (The Indifferent One).

  • Louis XIV as languid dancer.

Figure 25-30 HYACINTHE RIGAUD, Louis XIV, 1701. Oil on canvas, 9’ 2” x 6’ 3”. Louvre, Paris.

Figure 29-6 ANTOINE WATTEAU, Return from Cythera, 1717. Oil on canvas, 4’ 3” x 6’ 4 1/2”. Louvre, Paris.

  • Watteau created a new topic of painting: Fete Galante (Amorous festival)

    • Outdoor entertainments of French high society.

    • When submitted to the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture they had to create a new category for the painting.

  • Is Watteau a Poussinist or a Rubenist?

  • Watteau swung early 18th C. style to Rubenistas side from the Poussinists.

  • Luxurious lovers on a pilgrimage to Cythera, the island of eternal youth and love.

Watteau died young (37) and his dominant place was taken by his student Francois Boucher.

  • Portraitist, but his fame rested on idyllic landscapes full of frolicking shepherds and mythic characters. Prominence from Madame Pompadour’s patronage.

  • Figure 29-7 FRANÇOIS BOUCHER, Cupid a Captive, 1754. Oil on canvas, 5’ 6” x 2’ 10”. The Wallace Collection, London.

    • Baroque diagonal recession

    • Crisscross diagonals

    • Drapes play peek-a-boo with nudity.

    • Fantasy art for patrons living in a fantasy world.


  • Boucher’s greatest student

  • Figure 29-1 JEAN-HONORÉ FRAGONARD, The Swing, 1766. Oil on canvas, approx. 2’ 8 5/8” x 2’ 2”. Wallace Collection, London.

    • Pastel colors

    • Lover is painting’s patron

    • Funny: Unsuspecting bishop is swinging girl and giving lover a good look up her skirt (which she likes)

    • Landscape out of Watteau.

Giambattista Tiepolo
Figure 29-8 GIAMBATTISTA TIEPOLO, Apotheosis of the Pisani Family, ceiling fresco in the Villa Pisani, Stra, Italy, 1761-1762. Fresco, 77’ 1” X 44’ 3”.

  • Austrian origin, worked in Italy.

  • Retained 17th C. illusionism but reduced rhetoric to a softened picture of the Apotheosis of an entire family.

  • Monumental but retains bright cheerfulness of Rococo easel paintings.

Figure 29-9 CLODION, Satyr Crowning a Bacchante, 1770. Terracotta, 1’ 5/8” high. Louvre, Paris.

  • Small scale (table top) terra cotta (fired clay) works. Good for intimate Rococo interiors

  • Themes of Rococo fantasies

  • Satyr Crowning a Bacchante, pose from Cellini’s salt cellar?

Art influenced by Technology and Science
Figure 29-10 JOSEPH WRIGHT OF DERBY, A Philosopher Giving a Lecture at the Orrery, ca. 1763–1765. Oil on canvas, 4’ 10” x 6’ 8”. Derby Museums and Art Gallery, Derby.

  • Note use of tenebrism

  • Celebration of the inventions of the Industrial Revolution

  • People composed in a circle around orrery, which is a depiction of the circles (ellipses really) of planetary orbits.

  • Realistic, which was preferred style of industrialists (new category or patron).

  • A scene of excitement about the future (perfectibility of humans).

Figure 29-11 ABRAHAM DARBY III and THOMAS F. PRITCHARD, iron bridge at Coalbrookdale, England, 1776–1779.

  • First use of iron in bridge design.

  • New materials used for traditional architectural projects

  • Beginning of the aesthetic of exposed skeletal structure in later centuries (Crystal Palace and Eiffel Tower).

Natural” Art: The Influence of Rousseau

If man is most perfect in his “natural” state, it would follow that the decadent lifestyles of the aristocracy would be one of the most corrupt states of humanity. To paint humanity at its best (least corrupt), one should paint scenes of simple, uncorrupted people, who are most in touch with nature. That is peasants and farmers.
Figure 29-12 JEAN-BAPTISTE-SIMÉON CHARDIN, Saying Grace, 1740. Oil on canvas, 1’ 7” x 1’ 3”. Louvre, Paris.

  • Painted scenes of simple life: interior genre, mothers and children

  • Can see heavy influence of Dutch genre paintings

  • Yet his patrons were aristocrats and Louis XV!!! He was also a very important official in the Salon system.

Figure 29-13 JEAN-BAPTISTE GREUZE, Village Bride, 1761. Oil on canvas, 3’ x 3’ 10 1/2”. Louvre, Paris

  • Audience and patrons expanded as technology created more wealth. Aristocratic social hierarchy gave way to bourgeois social system.

  • More depictions of “natural” virtue of the way of life of simple people.

  • Again, influence of Dutch genre paintings.

Figure 29-14 ÉLISABETH LOUISE VIGÉE-LEBRUN, Self-Portrait, 1790. Oil on canvas, 8’ 4” x 6’ 9”. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

  • Rare woman who was a member of the Academy

    • Membership rescinded after French Revolution (no girls allowed, seems counter-intuitive that rights would be more restricted after the Revolution).

  • Stylistically she presents herself in a natural pose, as if she had just turned from painting to speak to the viewer.

    • Portrays herself as independent and confident

  • Worked for nobility throughout Europe

    • Portraits of Marie Antoinette

Influence of “Natural” Art in England
Figure 29-15 WILLIAM HOGARTH, The Marriage Settlement, Breakfast Scene, from Marriage à la Mode, ca. 1745. Oil on canvas, 2’ 4” x 3’. National Gallery, London.

  • Influenced by Rococo artists in France. Yet he did not extol virtues of aristocracy but used the style for social criticism of the newly rich in England in his series of paintings and engravings.

    • Paintings and engravings were often made to be seen as a set of images that would convey a series of narratives to make a moral point.

      • Marriage Settlement: Arranged marriage between the heir of a bankrupt earl and the daughter of a miserly merchant. Can you see signs that the marriage may not be successful?

      • Breakfast Scene: Newly married couple shown after a night of independent, dubious activity. Note woman’s spread legs, woman’s cap being pulled out of man’s coat by dog (symbol of faithfulness).They are going broke and have questionable taste (dirty picture on wall, covered with curtain – only for men to see).

    • Beer Street vs. Gin Lane: Drinking water was dangerous due to poor sanitation and ignorance of germ theory. Better to drink beer (alcohol kills germs) than gin (too much alcohol). Compare with Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Effects of Good Government.

Figure 29-16 THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH, Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 1787. Oil on canvas, 7’ 2 5/8” x 5’ 5/8”. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (Andrew W. Mellon Collection).

  • Contrasting blend of Rococo and “naturalistic” styles.

  • Portrait of a lovely woman dressed informally (yet clearly of the aristocratic class) in a rustic setting (like Watteau’s Fete Galante). Wind rustles her scarf.

    • Gainsborough preferred landscape painting but was paid better with portraiture.

  • Treatment of dress and landscape shows clear influence of French Rococo, but the understated elegance of the subject brings a naturalness to the image.

Figure 29-17 SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS, Lord Heathfield, 1787. Oil on canvas, 4’ 8” x 3’ 9”. National Gallery, London.


    • Late 18th C. portraits of people who participated in great events.

    • Individualized portraits but the sitter is elevated through the portrayal of refinement and elegance.

    • Sitter’s grace and class were conveyed by the scale of the sitter in relation to the size of the canvas, the pose, the landscape, and low horizon line (looking up at sitter).

  • More heroic morality than Grueze.

  • Virtues of honor, valor, and patriotism portrayed as “natural” virtues.

    • Produced great people through great deeds

    • Nobility is a function of character, not aristocratic birth.

  • Note cannons of defeated army.

  • Holds key to Gibraltar which he successfully defended.

Figure 29-18 BENJAMIN WEST, Death of General Wolfe, 1771. Oil on canvas, approx. 4’ 11” x 7’ National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (gift of the Duke of Westminster, 1918).

  • American who studied in Europe and painted in England.

  • West was co-founder of the Royal Academy of Arts and a president of the organization.

  • Official painter of King George III even during the American Revolution.

  • Death of General Wolfe

    • Innovative combination of conventions of traditional heroic painting with a look of modern realism.

    • General Wolfe dies as his troops win the battle.

    • Grieving soldiers like a martyrdom of a saint painting.

      • Death in service of state is like that of a religious martyr.

  • Tenebrism

Figure 29-19 JOHN SINGLETON COPLEY, Portrait of Paul Revere, ca. 1768–1770. Oil on canvas, 2’ 11 1/8” x 2’ 4”. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (gift of Joseph W., William B., and Edward H. R. Revere).

  • American who also emigrated to England after his painting style matured in Massachusetts.

  • Portrait of Paul Revere painted before Copley left for England and before Revere was a famous American patriot.

  • Unlike Grand Manner Portrait:

    • Sense of directness with sitter and faithful to visual facts.

    • American taste for plainness and honesty.

    • Plain setting, direct eye contact with viewer, in shirt sleeves (informal) with tools and product of his trade (silversmith).

Figure 29-20 ANTONIO CANALETTO, Riva degli Schiavoni, Venice, ca. 1735-1740. Oil on canvas, 1’ 6 ½” X 2’ 7/8”. Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo.


    • Wealthy Europeans and Americans traveled to important cultural sites in Italy to become more cultured. Lasted for months or years.

    • Travelers wanted paintings of the places they had visited to remind them of their travels and also impress visitors to their homes.

    • Wanted “naturalness” in their landscapes.

    • Scenic views (vendute) were created by artists as keepsakes of their travels.

  • Canaletto used camera obscura (like Vermeer) to create faithful renditions of the cityscape of Venice. Yet he took liberties to improve the scene by omitting certain details to give a more pleasing venduta.

Neoclassicism: The Revival of Classicism

  • Grand Tour fueled a revived interest in classicism.

  • Enlightenment’s emphasis on rationality is part of the reason for the focus on classic art.

    • Geometric harmony in art and architecture fit Enlightenment’s ideals.

    • Pinnacle of civilized society and political organization.

    • Traditions of civic virtue, liberty, morality, and sacrifice fit Enlightenment’s ideals (e.g. Death of General Wolfe and Lord Heathfield)

    • Very appealing to revolutionaries in France and America.

  • Excavations of Herculaneum (begun in 1738) and Pompeii (1748) added to the appetite for all things classic.

Figure 29-22 ANGELICA KAUFFMANN, Cornelia Presenting Her Children as Her Treasures, or Mother of the Gracchi, ca. 1785. Oil on canvas, 3’ 4” x 4’ 2”. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond (the Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund).

  • Born in Switzerland, educated in Italy, and worked primarily in England.

  • Example of exemplum virtutis (model of virture) in that Cornelia recognizes that true riches are her children not gold.

  • Replace modern settings for moralizing paintings (Greuze and Hogarth) with classical settings and costumes.

    • Severely Roman setting

    • No Rococo motifs

    • Composition and drawing are simple and direct.

Figure 29-23 JACQUES-LOUIS DAVID, Oath of the Horatii, 1784. Oil on canvas, approx. 10’ 10” x 13’ 11”. Louvre, Paris.

  • Story from pre-Republican Rome

  • Rome and Alba agree to let three soldiers from each side fight instead of whole armies.

  • Horatius brothers swearing to fight to the death

  • Swooning Horatius women on right. Either their brothers will die or their husbands (the Alba warriors they are married to) will die. Subtext: women are too weak to understand the need for sacrifice.

  • Symmetrical, classical architectural setting

  • Poussinist or Rubenist?

Figure 29-24 JACQUES-LOUIS DAVID, The Death of Marat, 1793. Oil on canvas,. 5’ 5” x 4’ 2 1/2”. Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels.

  • Marat was a revolutionary and friend of David who was stabbed in his bath by an assassin from a rival political faction.

  • Simple composition, directly portrayed with details of assassination scene.

  • Composed to make Marat look like a martyr of the Revolution (based on Christ in Michelangelo’s Pieta).

Post-Script: David was a member of the Jacobin party (same party as Robespierre) who ruled the Revolution with the Bloody Terror. Jacobins were ousted and mostly killed. Marat was spared because Napoleon thought he could make good paintings of/for him (remember the power of art in conveying power and legitimacy). In the end, David ended up making paintings that glorified Napoleon. Very different from the political sentiments he started out with.

Figure 29-25 JACQUES-GERMAIN SOUFFLOT, Pantheon (Sainte-Genevieve), Paris, France, 1755-1792.

  • Inspired from ruins discovered in Lebanon at a temple for Jupiter.

  • Columns of ruins reproduced

  • Severely blank walls

  • Colonnaded dome is a neoclassical version of St. Peter’s in Rome.

  • Based on Greek Cross plan (like St. Paul’s in London)

Figure 29-26 RICHARD BOYLE and WILLIAM KENT, Chiswick House, near London, England, begun 1725.

  • English adopted Neoclassicism too. They liked:

    • Rationality and integrity

    • Athenian democracy

    • Roman imperial rule (England had a king and a parliament).

    • Simplicity and directness in contrast to Baroque architecture


    • Clear alternative to Versailles

    • Simple symmetry, unadorned planes, right angles

    • “English” informal and irregular gardens soften the severity of the building.

Figure 29-21 ROBERT ADAM, Etruscan Room, Osterley Park House, Middlesex, England, begun 1761. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

  • Based on fresco paintings discovered in Pompeii (3rd and 4th styles)

Figure 29-30 JEAN-ANTOINE HOUDON, George Washington, 1788-1792. Marble, 6’ 2” high. State Capitol, Richmond.

  • Life-size sculptural equivalent of a Grand Manner portrait of Washington

  • Contemporary clothes but references to Rome with the column he leans on

    • Thirteen rods bound together (fasces) as a symbol of authority.

    • Plow behind him alludes to Cincinatus (Roman dictator who retired back to his farm when the military danger was over).

    • Wears a badge of the Society of Cincinatus.

    • Washington does not hold a sword.

Figure 29-31 HORATIO GREENOUGH, George Washington, 1840. Marble, 11’ 4” high. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

  • Washington became a mythic character after his death.

  • Portrayal of Washington as an Olympian god did not go down well.

Figure 29-28 THOMAS JEFFERSON, Monticello, Charlottesville, United States, 1770–1806.

  • Neoclassical style was called Federal style in U.S.

  • Jefferson admired Roman architecture while ambassador to France.

  • Admired Palladio’s work and read his treatises on architecture


Figure 29-29 THOMAS JEFFERSON, Rotunda and Lawn, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1819-1826.

  • Modeled on Pantheon like a Roman temple in a forum. Sits on a platform overlooking colonnaded lawn.

Jefferson worked to get Neoclassicism adopted as the national style. Why do you think he wanted this?

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