"The proper use of imagination is to give beauty to the world..." Lin Yu-T'ang

Saturday, April 7, 2012

History of Women in Art: Rosalba Carriera

Self Portrait, Rosalba Carriera
The elements of the French aristocratic decorative style Rococo included curvilinear surface patterns, lavish gilding, dainty decorations of flowers and garlands, elaborate costumes and stylized manners. It incorporated interests of both the urban nobility and commercial groups and gave visual form to feeling and sensation, expressing elegance and grace. 

Rosalba Carrera exemplifies the Rococo style particularly in her exploration and use of pastel. Carriera was born in Venice on 7 October 1675. She had two sisters and began her artistic career as a child, drawing lace patterns for her father, a lacemaker. She decorated snuff boxes and painted miniature portraits on ivory and later began using pastels to create dancing lights and shimmering lace textures in her paintings.

Her portrait, Antoine Watteau, shows highlighted facial features, hair and lace accentuated by deep shadows which reflect Rococo sensibilities. Carrera enjoyed success in France and was commissioned many times, the first to paint ten year old Louis XV. She was subsequently elected by unanimous decision to the Académie Royale in 1720. Rococo style was dominating the arts at the time with its colorfulness, charm and accessibility. This afforded many women artists to participate in the salons which occupied the middle ground between the “private sphere of bourgeois family life and the official public sphere of the court.” Though the salons flourished during this time and certain women were able to speak with authority on the new Enlightenment literature, science and philosophy, “few women were able to satisfy their public ambition and become a purveyor of culture” (Whitney Chadwick, Women, Art & Society, p. 144).

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