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18th-Century France During the eighteenth century Enlightenment thinkers transformed western Europe into a modern society Critical of orthodoxy these philosophes radically changed the way men thought about religion economics political philosophy and education Their method was rational and secular founded on a belief that the exercise of reason alone could reveal ultimate truths and move man to improve his condition Montesquieu analyzed the forms of government to discover the spirit behind them In despotism he found fear in the republic virtue The Enlightenment invested man with inalienable rights It led eventually to revolution in the American colonies and France and in the process created a climate for art that served a higher purpose Jean-Jacques Rousseau who contrasted the innate virtue of man in his natural state with the artifice of civilization noted that the prevailing rococo style contributed little to public virtue Beginning in 1737 the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture presented a public exhibition about every two years of up to 450 paintings and sculpture in the Salon Carre a great square hall in the Louvre palace From this location the expositions themselves came to be called Salons In the active intellectual climate of the eighteenth century the Salons presented yet another arena for inquiry Newspapers described the works exhibited and the Academy sold programs Unofficial guides were also written Although often anonymous and circulated privately these guides established art criticism as a subject of intelligent discourse The most perceptive and influential of the new critics was the encyclopedist Denis Diderot His preference for art that was morally uplifting fueled growing sentiment against the sensuous and decorative rococo style I pick up two french artists Boucher Francois and Fragonard Jean-Honore Boucher Francois 1703-1770 French painter noted for his pastoral and mythological scenes whose work embodies the frivolity and sensuousness of the rococo style
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