The word Rococo is seen as a combination of the French rocaille, or stone garden (referring to arranging stones in natural forms like shells), and the Italian barocco, or Baroque style. Due to Rococo love of shell-like curves and focus on decorative arts, some critics used the term to derogatively imply that the style was frivolous or merely modish. When the term was first used in English in about 1836, it was a colloquialism meaning "old-fashioned". However, since the mid 19th century, the term has been accepted by art historians. Rococo stresses purely ornamental, light, casual, irregular design.
Love and romance were considered to be better subjects for art than historical or religious subjects. The Rococo style was characterized by a free, graceful movement, a playful use of line, and delicate colors. Based in France Rococo art is normally associated with the reign of King Louis XV, although the movement actually began in the 17th century. With the rise of the middle class, high society in Paris became the pinnacle of fashion.
The French Jean-Antoine Watteau is often referred to as the greatest of the Rococo painters. Watteau's work began to epitomize the movement with its idyllic and charming approach.