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Artists Jean-Antoine Watteau

Jean-Antoine Watteau

French Painter

Jean-Antoine Watteau Photo
Movement: The Rococo

Born: October 10, 1684 - Valenciennes, France

Died: July 18, 1721 - Nogent-sur-Marne, France

"In my view, you must either do away with ornament - or make ornament the essence. It's not something you add. It's not icing on a cake. It's everything - or it's nothing."


Jean-Antoine Watteau's sensuously painted Rococo idylls conveyed courtly love and ideas of reverie, longing, and utopia at a time of aristocratic indulgence and hedonism. Painting both decorative and fine arts works, Watteau's subjects attracted a wealthy clientele and the newly emerging collecting class, making him quite successful during his lifetime. Watteau's elevation of ornament combined with his subtle compositions, use of color, and playful subjects captures the Rococo era like no other artist.

During and after the French Revolution his paintings fell out of favor. With more egalitarian aspirations, the revolutionaries despised all things associated with the aristocracy, including Watteau's paintings. Increasingly, though, Watteau's reputation has recovered as artists and scholars alike understand better his subtle exploration of the burgeoning modern selfhood and his complex painting techniques.

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