Antoine Watteau: A Master of Rococo Art Unveiling the Life and Works of the French Painter

  Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) was born in Valenciennes, a city in northern France. He was the son of a rural handicraftsman who made a living by burning bricks. He later became the brightest star in the Paris painting circle and the most popular among the aristocracy. One of the most sought after painters. Watteau’s hometown originally belonged to the Netherlands, where Rubens’s painting style was popular. After moving to Paris, Watteau once made a living by imitating Rubens’s style works. Later, Watteau studied painting with the stage artist Gilot and the decorative painter Hollande III. Watteau liked the colors of Rubens’s paintings, but he rarely expressed religious and mythological themes. He likes to depict idyllic aristocratic life, and to paint young men and women with gorgeous clothes and elegant manners. He likes to interweave dreamy scenes with real life, arousing the nostalgia and sorrow in the hearts of the audience: life is like a dream, and there are many joys.
  Watteau’s works were sought after by French aristocrats. His creative themes were very different from academic paintings and did not belong to any existing genre. The Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris clearly stipulated in a document as early as 1664 that “non-historical painters or sculptors shall not be awarded the title of professor.” Subsequently, Andre Felibien regarded historical painting as the highest-level subject matter in the “16-67 Lecture Series on Painting and Sculpture at the Royal Academy” – probably because this type of painting is the most difficult to create, and the remaining subject matter levels are portraiture and genre painting. , landscape paintings and still life paintings. It is obvious that Watteau’s works depicting aristocratic life cannot be classified as any of the above-mentioned painting themes. In order to attract Watteau to join, the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture at that time created a new type of painting specifically for him – elegant banquet painting.

  In 1712, Watteau applied to join the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. According to convention, everyone who applies to join the Academy of Fine Arts is required to submit a work for review, but Watteau did not submit the painting “The Island of the Sea” until five years later. The island of Cetus is the place where Aphrodite (Roman name “Venus”), the goddess of love, was born in mythology. Although the title of this work is reminiscent of mythology, the content of the work has nothing to do with mythology, so this painting The work was recorded as “elegant banquet painting” at the time. In the painting, a group of aristocratic young men and women worship the God of Love. The theme of the work is “The Call of Love.” The picture unfolds along the undulating curve of the “S”-shaped hillside. On the far right side of the picture is the statue of the God of Love. She is the object of worship by young men and women. The picture depicts a total of 8 couples from right to left. The couple on the far right is immersed in a sweet date, the pair of lovers next to them are preparing to leave, and the third couple is walking down the hillside. The young woman among them looks back at the goddess’s holy head. Lin, the young men and women at the foot of the hillside are about to board a cruise ship decorated with flowers. Golden glow envelopes the sea, and naughty Cupids fly in the sky, blessing lovers. The characters in the painting are dressed in gorgeous clothes, walking and playing with brisk steps.

  Compared with the vigorous style of Baroque art, the figures in Watteau’s works are slender and appear very small compared with the background. The figures and scenery are fully integrated, just like a scene in real life. As a master of color, Watteau used light greens, clear blues and bright pinks to create a fairyland-like island of Cetus. The work seems to convey a relaxed and joyful theme, but it is always shrouded in a melancholy mood. What will happen to lovers who leave the protection of the God of Love? “Island of the Sea” was widely praised, and Watteau created a variation of the same theme. The content of the two paintings is roughly the same, except that the variation emphasizes the image of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, on the far right of the painting. The statue became a full-length nude.
  ”Larson Painting Shop” is an advertising painting that Watteau painted for a friend at the end of his life. It is said that the artist completed it in only eight mornings. “Larson Painting Shop” was originally created as an advertising poster, but the talented painter turned the painting into a profound genre painting, cleverly criticizing the flattering artists and arty customers. The foreground of the picture is the street outside the painting shop. On the far left side of the picture stands the idle concierge. His eyes are dull, as if he has nothing to do with the elegant life inside the painting shop. On the far right of the picture is a dog lazily licking its fur, a common sight on the streets of Paris. The girl next to the porter is wearing a loose satin dress. Although her back is only turned to the audience, her posture is elegant and her steps are brisk. The girl’s partner was graceful. He turned around and extended his hand to the girl. The two of them seemed to be dancing to a beautiful minuet, drawing the audience’s attention into the store. In the art shop, a clerk wearing a harlequin-style shirt puts a portrait of Louis XIV into a box, which means that the aesthetic taste of the Louis XIV era has ended, and the delicate Rococo art has replaced the vigorous Baroque art. There are two groups of characters on the right side of the picture. One of them is a woman sitting listlessly leaning on a chair. She and two other men look at the mirror in the hands of the female clerk. The three of them have different expressions and are thoughtful. They don’t seem to be thinking about it. The other group of characters revolved around a work of art. A young male shop assistant was enthusiastically introducing a classical-themed work to two customers. The two customers were completely attracted by the content of the picture and carefully looked at every detail in the painting. Details, but whether the two can truly understand the work is unknown. The works displayed on the walls of the art shop are vaguely identifiable. Some scholars believe that these works are not copies of actual works, but variations of the Flemish and Venetian painting styles.
  Although critics often believe that Rococo art in the 18th century lacked spirituality and profound connotation because it catered to the aesthetic tastes of the aristocracy, it is undeniable that Rococo art freed paintings from the constraints of religious themes and began to express secular life and praise reality. world. Watteau took aristocratic life as his theme and blended reality into dreamy pastoral life. The world in his works is both real and illusory.
  Watteau was tortured by illness in his short life. Perhaps he realized that good things are fleeting, so his works are always filled with a sad sentiment, which is thought-provoking.

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