Revival of classical traditions and classical forms of the art. Desire for the forms purification and return to the eternal ideals of antiquity. In its deepest meaning this desire has a romantic connotation, and is one of the manifestations of Romanticism. In the history of Western Europe art the Neoclassicism is usually referred to as the Classicism of the second half of the XVIII century to distinguish it from the Classicism of the Italian Renaissance of the XVI century and the French “Le Grand style” of Louis XIV of the XVII century. Talking about the Russian art, it didn’t see the development of classical forms in the extent in which they were developing in the art of Italy or France in the XVI-XVII centuries, and thus, the Russian art of the second half of the XVIII century is referred to as the Classicism and Neoclassicism (Art Nouveau movement of the beginning of XX century). Neoclassicism first gained influence in France. After the triumph of “Le Grand style” and the birth of Rococo, France became the legislatress of art styles for the whole Europe. However, the world-view of the French has greatly changed. The unrestrained pretentiousness of Rococo style became annoying. In the 1740s artists revealed their desire to get back to Classicism. Marquise de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV, was much addicted to the ancient art, and introduced the “a la grecque” style into fashion. Her efforts were developed by Madame du Barry.
The development of Classicism in France coincided with the reign of King Louis XVI (1774-1789), hence the second name of “the style of Louis XVI”.
“The only way for us to become great, or even inimitable, if possible, is to imitate the Greeks”, - Winckelmann. The sensational findings in Italy provided a right impetus. 1719 – the ruins of the Herculaneum city found; 1748 – excavations at Pompeii. Everything related to the everyday life of the ancient Romans became fashionable. The ancient motifs, namely, torches, quivers of arrows, cornucopia, griffins, sphinxes, etc., became increasingly popular in decor. Such antique motifs were significantly revised by French artists to create a completely original style. That is why the term “the style of Louis XVI” is more common in France than Classicism.