Thomas Library

Honors Thesis Archive

Author Rebecca Petrilli
Title The Liminality of Antoine Watteau
Department Art History
Advisors Janice Glowski, Alejandra Gimenez-Berger, and Mike Mattison
Year 2014
Honors University Honors
Full Text View Thesis (3561 KB) Note: This is a very large file; it may be easier to download the file to your computer and open it from there.
Abstract The Rococo is most frequently understood as a period where art was beautiful and delicate, but lacking substance. However, beyond its aesthetic values, the Rococo was a critical time in the history of art, one where major social changes were both being depicted in and created by the art being produced. Antoine Watteau was a key figure in shaping the post-Baroque culture, and it was through his unconventional but ideal position in society that he was able to make such an impact without causing an obvious rift between his work and the conventions of the Academy. The artist's mentors and his access to the world of the elite, which he inhabited without being a part of their rituals, created a space where he could work subversively, but subvert in such a way that he was lauded by the Academy. His creation of the fête galante completely transformed what was understood as good taste, and the conventions of the Academy where forever altered because of his introduction of this new genre, beginning with his acceptance piece, Pilgrimage to the Island of Cythera (1717). The fête galante combines, among other elements, history and genre painting, which culminate to offer subtly subversive messages about the state of the aristocracy and the excessive control of the monarchy.

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