Recycling is the order of the day.

Taking that idea and running with it, British artist Flora Yukhnovich looks to repurpose the 18th century art style Rococo at the Wallace Collection in London.

Rococo, you’ll remember, was a style in rebellion against the heavy, histrionic dramas of Baroque painting. Seeking a less weighty look, artists turned to the decorative arts at Louis XIV’s Versailles.

What you got, then, were fanciful scenes of court life in bright costumes. Yukhnovich eliminates people and all things recognizable.

Making the old new

But while you’re left with lavish, floral abstraction, these are no glittering generalities.

She takes aim at specific Rococo paintings for repurposing like François Boucher’s “Pastoral with a Bagpipe Player” and “Pastoral with a Couple near a Fountain.”

Yukhnovich gives you these paintings minus the bagpipe player and the couple, capturing only the air of these works.

And by subtracting Boucher’s figures and turning her pictures abstract, Yukhnovich offers something else – feminist thinking.

By way of explaining, I need to talk about Boucher for a moment. If ever there was a painting who tells the Rococo story it’s his ornamental treatment of flesh, foliage, and flowing draperies in his painting “The Bath of Diana.”

It’s a ridiculous picture that shows this Roman goddess and Patron Saint of nature and hunters and wildlife, with pink, pearly-white skin.

Without her in the picture, Yukhnovich found the best part of Boucher’s picture to repurpose.

It was bad enough that Boucher pictured doll-like female figures as the goddesses in ancient mythology. But his focus on these women comes across as a pretext for baring their bodies.

And it looks like Yukhnovich also saw Bocher’s work as pretexts.

The Art Newspaper quotes her explaining her thinking.

Repairing the wound

“I like the idea of combining these two art historical moments (Rococo and Abstract Expressionism) which have become high gendered: the pretty Rococo imagery and the machismo of abstraction.”

The Wallace Collection recognizes Yukhnovich’s feminist point of view, saying, her work “addresses the traditional male gaze, inherent in several of her sources of inspiration.”

Antoine Watteau is another of her sources for his curlicues, fluffy foliage, and pastel hues coloring scenes like the cavorting pirouetting lords and ladies of the court in “The Dancing Party.”

But I doubt Watteau would mind what she did.

It’s a fair guess to think he would have loved what Yukhovich has done with his work because he certainly wasn’t happy with what he did.

Watteau began his career producing replicas of old master paintings. Comte de Caylus's 1910 biography “La Vie d’Antoine Watteau” reported the artist’s misery.

“This miserable business of making copies a hundred generations removed from the original, with crude colors applied without modulation, and in even worse taste than the colored-up prints which at least retain the outlines of the original, did not sit well with the feelings nature had already implanted in him.”

Apparently Watteau needed the income from copying. As Comte de Caylus put it, “ necessity is a hard taskmaster.” On the face of that, Watteau would have been glad that Yukhnovich found a way to copy and still tell her truth, not to mention get well paid for it In 2002, her work sold at Sotheby’s for $3,605,056.