An Essay Outlining the Nature of the Enlightenment in Europe

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An essay outlining the nature of the Enlightenment in Europe, focusing on the ideas and its impact on the arts in Europe in the eighteenth century.

At the beginning of the 18th century the favourable style of painting was the Rococo style. This was a highly decorative, ornate style of art, which lasted throughout the reign of Louis XV (1715-74) and spread to other countries, most notably Austria and Germany. Rococo favoured the complex swirling forms of Baroque art but was airier and more graceful, preferring pleasurable and voyeuristic subject matter. Rococo began as an attempt to reform the teaching of Classical antiquity in the Academies. It introduced sensitivity to feelings and moods, and allowed art to abandon high seriousness in favour of eroticism decoration and pleasure. Chardin and Watteau represented Rococo at its most thoughtful and insightful. It was inevitable that a rebellion against un-reason and against the flamboyant utopian visions of these paintings, associated with the aristocratic and royal lifestyle, and intellectual bankruptcy. 18th century allied thinkers and intellectuals began to form a new rational approach, brought about the age of discovery and enlightenment. They moved away from the church, employing a secular approach based on their practical experience and observable fact. The thinking was started in Scotland and England. John Locke being the first to return the secular experience in life. David Hume took Locke’s ideas further, writing “The Treatise of Human Nature” (1739), concerning human understanding, that one cannot discover a matter of fact thought reasoning, it has to be discovered from experience. Adam Smith looked into economics theory and wealth on a national level. Central to Enlightenment thought was the conviction that through rational enquiry a knowledge of basic laws and principles was attainable and doctrines could be formulated afresh, in politics, religion, art or any other sphere of...
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