Articles At A Glance
Rococo Style Continues As A Design Influence
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If you think the curved lines of French influenced Rococo objects are strictly yesterday you couldn't be more wrong. It was born, re-born and transformed across centuries and continents. Its' "S" curves have been adapted by such late 20th century furniture designers as Frank Gehry and Alvar Aalto and textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen. The current exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, ""Rococo: The Continuing Curve" showcases examples from its introduction in France around 1715 through the Victorian and Art Nouveau 19th century and into the 21st century.
Though the gilded and heavily carved style of the 18th century have long been out of fashion, the Victorian Rococo Revival in the 1850s created its own adaptation from furniture to decorative pieces.
Examples of the early French high-style Rococo design at the exhibition include a silver tureen designed by Juste-Aure'ele Meissonnier with a body and cover of shell, vegetable forms.
CLUES: Each country from England, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the Iberian Peninsula added its original forms to the basic Rococo style. For example, a Dutch commode at first glance would appear to be French. A second, closer look, would show that the use of parquetry was slightly different and the ormolu mounts not as finely executed.
German Rococo used curved, gilded carved wood rather than the ormolu used in Paris.
The Russians are credited with making the first reproductions of 18th century French furniture, including Rococo, around 1800. Many pieces were made by the serfs who were often skilled carvers. Both the 18th century French style and Victorian adaptations have never stopped being reproduced.
The exhibition points out that some of the most expressive re-interpretations of Rococo appeared during the late 19th and early 20th century Art Nouveau movement in France, Belgium and the United States. On display at the exhibition are posters, furniture, jewelry and glass by such well known craftsmen as Emil Gall'e, Rene' Lalique, Louis Comfort Tiffany and posters by Alphonse Mucha.
20th century designers, especially from Scandinavia and Italy, moved away from the classical symmetry of modernisms designs. Using plastic and other new materials, they revived the flowing designs. A good example is the "spine" chair, made of steel and designed by Andre' Dubreuil, 1986, England.
Anne Gilbert has been self-syndicating the ANTIQUE DETECTIVE to such papers as the Chicago Sun Times and the Miami Herald since 1983. She has authored nine books on antiques, collectibles and art and appeared on national TV. She has done appraisals for museums and private individuals.
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