Rococo Repoussé: Unique Student Artwork Displayed in JFK Library


Ash Gordon with her repoussé rendition of The Swing. Photo by Cannon Barnett, edited by Emily Powers

By Cannon Barnett, Reporter

On display in the JFK Library from Feb. 3 until Feb. 24 were 24 repoussé depictions of Rococo-era art created by Eastern Washington University Art History students. 

Students were assigned to research specific pieces of Rococo art or architecture, and then depict their research through repoussé — a technique involving pressing a wooden dowel into the back of metal to create designs.

Student art on display in the JFK library, photo taken by Photographer Emily Powers.

“One of the main tropes of the Rococo is wealth; what better way to explore this than creating artwork with a material mimicking precious metals?” said Anna Cunningham, professor of the art history class. According to Cunningham, nothing like this project has been done at EWU before.

Rococo art is identifiable through its depictions of ornate works of architecture, atmospheric landscapes, inner circles of the elite class, and “rich fabrics like creamed frosting,” Cunningham said. 

“One of the primary subjects explored within Rococo art is the true nature of “love” and all the ways in which “love” can be experienced,” Cunningham said.

One famous piece of Rococo art is called The Swing, painted by Jean-Honoré Fragonard in 1767. Studio Art major and Art History student Ash Gordon took inspiration from this picture in creating her repoussé piece.

The Swing, by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Photo from

“I think [the assignment was] really interesting because it was such an unforgiving piece,” Gordon said. “Typically, Rococo style paintings are so soft and romantic and blown out and they don’t have rough edges. I think it was a challenge to create such a soft and romantic painting on a material that is so rigid.”

While Gordon was unsure if she would be using repoussé techniques again in the future, she had high praise for the efficacy of the project in helping her retain key information.

“Annie is very big on these hands-on projects, especially in her history classes, which is awesome,” Gordon said. “This will be my tenth year with the school … I’ve taken a lot of classes between here and Seattle, and this is the first time I have taken a history class where I’m really retaining the information.”

Ash Gordon’s repoussé rendition of The Swing photo, taken by Reporter Cannon Barnett, edited by Photographer Emily Powers

Cunningham expressed that the themes of Rococo artwork are valuable for students to see today, as there are modern parallels found online in the online world.

“In many ways, the Rococo is not so unlike the social media of the elite/influencers today. The imagery produced is not veritable or authentic, but rather a falsified display of romance, beauty, status, and wealth.” Cunningham said.

Gordon said she hoped that having her and her classmates’ art up on display in the JFK library would spark student interest in different types of art.

“I think it would be really interesting to see people have a growing interest in the repoussé process. I think it’s a medium that people don’t really work with today, and I think it’s really beautiful,” Gordon said.