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A Review – ‘Rococo: Travel, Pleasure, Madness’

20 Dec

rococo - travel, pleasure, madness

I can’t describe how enlightening and inspiring this three-part documentary was to me. Simply the way Waldemar Januszczak presents art, without affectation, patronisation or stiffness in attitude, is very appealing to all the viewers I suppose, not only me. I’m on cloud nine every time Waldemar makes a new documentary but I was delighted even more for the Rococo art had been puzzling me for a long time. Waldemar opened my eyes with his documentary; I too have always considered Rococo to be a frivolous and unserious, but this documentary dismissed all those ideas that were unfairly fixed in my head. ‘What I want to do in this series‘, said Waldemar, ‘is to convince you in its wider achievements – its punch, its determination, its intoxicating beauty. ‘ In this documentary Waldemar revealed the depth and meaning behind Rococo art. It was frilly and pink, but not always, he explained.

The first part, ‘Travel‘, explores the influence travel had on art in Rococo era. The world was getting smaller; ventures into exotic lands, new discoveries, Bavarian pilgrimage and Canaletto’s romantic vision of Venice all made an impact on art, architecture and tastes. ‘Travel as life’s most exciting pleasures was Rococo idea.

1717. The Love Song - Watteau

The second part, ‘Pleasure‘, focuses on pleasures in life; things usually connected to Rococo. For the first time in history, emphasis was put on pleasure and pursuit of happiness which were seen as the most important things in life. Pursuing happiness, giving in to the pleasures and indulging oneself in every possible way were now seen as unalienable human rights, and reflected in art of Watteau, Boucher, Gainsborough and Tiepolo. This is the aspect of Rococo that people first think of; indulgences, frilly pink dresses, cakes, luxurious balls and endless optimism.

1814. Francisco Goya, El entierro de la sardina (The Burial of the Sardine) 3

The third and final part, ‘Madness’, focuses on Rococo’s descent into madness and eventual decline. Darkness and madness of Rococo seem to have been inevitable for a century focused on enjoyment more than any before. Known as an era of frivolity and decadence, the 18th century produced artists that gave a satirical and cynical dose to a century obsessed with pleasure; Hogworth’s brutish satire, mysterious Longhi’s masked figures and Goya’s macabre. I admit; the third part is my particular favourite.

After watching this documentary, I felt overwhelmed with new ideas, inspirations and visions. It has fulfilled all my expectation, not that I had any doubts, and out of all Januszczak’s documentaries, this one is my second favourite, for The Impressionists can’t be removed from the throne.