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  • French Rococo-Style Prints On View at Worcester Art Museum

    (WORCESTER, Mass., Dec. 15, 2004) - Delicate ornamental images combined with astounding craftsmanship are the focus of a new Worcester Art Museum exhibition, Rococo: French 18th-Century Prints, on view Dec. 18, 2004-March 20, 2005.

    The Worcester Art Museum draws from its exceptional print collection to exhibit examples of the Rococo style by leading artists of the time- François Boucher, Jean Honoré Fragonard, Jean-Antoine Watteau, and many others.

    The Rococo period, which corresponded roughly with the reign of Louis XV, was the acme of intaglio printmaking technology, when artisans combined etching, engraving, aquatint, and mezzotint in lavish color prints. Arabesque lines characterize the style, along with asymmetrical, shell-like shapes that became progressively more delicate. Rococo takes its name from rocaille, meaning rock or shell-grotto, and baroco, the Italian for Baroque.

    When King Louis XIV died in 1715, his 6-year-old great-grandson became his successor, Louis XV. Until the boy's majority in 1723, the country was governed by his uncle Philippe, the Duke of Orleans. Thereafter, the young king was assisted by his chief minister Cardinal de Fleury, who served until his death in 1743. They all struggled vainly to control the nation's financial and political decline.

    “Though France lost its international supremacy during the 18th century, its cultural domination continued through the ascendancy of the Rococo style,” said David Acton, curator of prints, drawings and photographs.

    The rich colors favored by Charles Le Brun's Academy in Louis XIV's reign were replaced by soft, pastel hues. Artists like Watteau painted fanciful, courtly subjects with curvaceous delicacy, replacing the preceding reign's weighty symbols of power. When the Marquise de Pompadour became Louis XV's mistress in 1745, her exquisite taste for the Rococo set the fashion. As administrator of the royal residences, her brother, the Marquis de Marigny, favored Rococo artists like Boucher and Fragonard. There was great demand for printed replicas of famous images by these versatile artists, who worked as printmakers themselves.

    To engage the buying public, other artisans perfected color intaglio techniques to replicate the look of a colored chalk, pastel, or watercolor drawing. This visual and technical refinement ran parallel to developments in science and philosophy.

    Voltaire's appointment as royal historiographer in 1745 marked the widespread interest in thought and inquiry that characterized the Age of Enlightenment. The monarchy eroded in the reign of King Louis XVI. In 1789, the French Revolution replaced the finesse of the Rococo with a classical revival. In the last years of the century, the triumphs of Napoleon's empire were reflected in Neoclassical images by artists who once worked in the Rococo style.

    This exhibition was made possible by the generous support of Robert and Barbara Wheaton and The Ruth VS. Lauer Trust, and the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

    About the Worcester Art Museum
    The Worcester Art Museum, which opened to the public in 1898, is world-renowned for its 35,000-piece collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, prints, drawings and new media. The works span 5,000 years of art and culture, ranging from ancient Roman mosaics to Colonial silver, Impressionist paintings and contemporary art. Dedicated to the promotion of art and art education, the Museum offers a year-round studio art and art appreciation program that enrolls over 6,000 adult and youth students each year. Public tours are offered Saturdays at 11 AM and Sundays at 1 PM, September through May. Audio tours are also available in English and Spanish.

    Museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11 AM-5 PM, Thursday, 11 AM-8 PM (evening hours sponsored by Commerce Bank), and Saturday, 10 AM-5 PM Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and full-time college students with current ID, and FREE for Members and all youth 17 and under. Admission is also FREE for everyone on Saturday mornings, 10 AM-noon (sponsored by The TJX Companies, Inc. and Massachusetts Electric, a National Grid Company). The Museum is located at 55 Salisbury St., Worcester, Mass., easily accessible from the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90), Route 290 and Route 9. Free parking is available near entrances on Salisbury, Lancaster and Tuckerman streets. For more information, call (508) 799-4406.