From Rococo to Impressionism: Revolutions in Cultures and Art

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During the 18th century, many countries where going through revolutions in their cultures and art; France being one of the main countries. At the start of the 18th century, many of artists did paintings of the lavish lifestyles of the French elite. But, as time went on, artists slowly became more critical of those pieces of art and began shifting from the elite being the topics of their art to more abstracted forms of landscapes. This would continue until the painting style became so distorted, that the topic of the paintings became debatable. This paper will show how French artists in the 19th century did not go along with the continuity of the artists in the 18th century by becoming more abstracted in art style and more broader brush strokes.

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From the later 17th century going into the early 18th century, one art style that originated from France called Rococo became very popular amount other European countries. Rococo is an art style that used predominately pastel colors with subject matters that usually showcased the carefree and lavish lifestyles of the French elite; with landscapes not being the main focus. But as time passed towards the mid-18th century, the French artists start to become more critical of that art style. But, it was not until the late 18th century when Edouard Manet painted “Le dijeuner sur l’hebe (Luncheon on the Grass)”. This can be shown in figure 1.

This painting challenged not only Rococo but, also a lot of the social views about a naked women’s gaze. During this time if there was a painting of a naked woman, her gaze would never be directed at hat would be the viewer's perspective. With the naked woman staring at the viewer, this painting was thought to be scandalous. Another huge difference was the brush strokes, which became more broad and less blending; causing the painting to look more textured with the oil paints. This is marked by some as the start of impressionism.

Impressionism was the French movement that happened in response to the over-glorification of the art style and lifestyle Rococo portrayed. The usage of bright colored oil paints was mimicked from the Rococo style and it mainly had the topics of vast landscaped done with less blended brushstrokes. As time progressed contemporary life became more favored going towards the end of the 18th century. Other factors like color theory being expanded on to how colors affected the viewer’s emotions and the public’s growing distaste for the elite, impressionism became extremely liked. This caused the art style to become embraced by global painters but, the French artists Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir become known as the founders of this movement.

In the 1860s, Edgar Degas began painting in the impressionism art style. One of his famous works can be shown in figure 3. With the subject matter of his paintings being mainly racehorses in the beginning, he found more success once he widened his subject matter to be more about “urban leisure”. The piece “The Dance Class” was done while he was visiting London, England in 1871. With the success of Degas, it gave more encouragement to other impressionist artists. That allowed Pierre-Auguste Renoir to finish “Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette” in 1876, as seen in figure 2. This also caused him to be called another founder of this art style as it was done in retaliation of being rejected by exhibits. This caused Renoir to join other artists in the First Impressionist Exhibition.

While the artists became more abstract as time progressed, it was not until the early 19th century when a new art style wave. It would soon become widely popularized and again changed the continuity of French art. The art style was named cubism. Cubism was an art style that comprised of 3-D structures on 2-D surfaces. The beginning phase of this art style was called analytic cubism; which emphasizes on perception and realism. This caused the public to like the style.

Georges Braque became one of the main pioneers of cubism with his painting “l’Estaque” in figure 4. His painting caused new innovations in the analytic cubism phase, and with his success, Henri Le Fauconnier finished his painting in figure 5. Shortly afterward Fernand Liger finished his painting in 1912 as seen in figure 6. Even though all the artists used oil paints on canvas, the styles of each painting look different. Even across the three paintings, the brushstrokes and color schemes were already changing. By the late 19th century the abstractions became so much more apparent it is no longer considered to be cubism; changing the art continuity in France again.

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Throughout the 18th century to the 19th century, French artists had changed the art continuity three times. Going from Rococo, then to impressionism and then finally cubism. As French artist paintings become more abstracted, they in turn are changing the art’s continuity.

Appendix of Images

  1. Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 1: Edouard Manet, The Luncheon on the Grass, c. 1863, oil on canvas, 6.82” x 8.68”, Paris, France (Paris, France. Accessed Nov. 18,2019.
  2. Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 2: Pierrer – Auguste Renoir, Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette, c. 1876, oil on canvas, 4.29” x 5.74”, Paris, France (Paris, France. Accessed Nov. 18, 2019.
  3. Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 3: Edgar Degas, The Dance Class, c. 1874, oil on canvas, 2.67” x 2.5”, New York, New York, USA (New York, New York, USA. Nov. 18, 2019.
  4. Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 4: Georges Braque, Houses at l’Estaque, c. 1908, oil on canvas, 1.33” x 1.05”, Villeneuve d’Ascq, France (Villeneuve d’Ascq, France. Nov. 19, 2019.
  5. Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 5: Henri Le Fauconnier, L’Abodance, c. 1910, oil on canvas, 6.33” x 4.04”, Den Haaq, Netherlands (Den Haaq, Netherlands. Nov. 19, 2019.
  6. Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 6: Fernand Leger, La Femme en Bleu, c. 1912, oil on canvas, 6.33” x 4.26”, Biot, France (Biot, France. Nov.19, 2019.

Work Cited

  1. “Cubism - Oxford Reference.” Cubism - Oxford Reference, November 6, 2019., Anne. “Renoir, (Pierre-)Auguste.” Shibboleth Authentication Request, July 1, 2018.
  2. Farwell, Beatrice. “Manet, Edouard.” Grove Art, 2003.
  3. “Impressionism - Oxford Reference.” Impressionism - Oxford Reference, March 13, 2019.
  4. Laing, Alastair. “Boucher, Francois.” Shibboleth Authentication Request, July 15, 2008.
  5. “Léger, Fernand.” Grove Art, June 9, 2019.
  6. Monnier, Genevieve. “Degas, (Hilaire Germain) Edgar.” Shibboleth Authentication Request, 2003.
  7. “Rococo - Oxford Reference.” Rococo - Oxford Reference, October 28, 2017.
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From Rococo to Impressionism: Revolutions in Cultures and Art. (2022, August 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 22, 2023, from
“From Rococo to Impressionism: Revolutions in Cultures and Art.” GradesFixer, 01 Aug. 2022,
From Rococo to Impressionism: Revolutions in Cultures and Art. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Sept. 2023].
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