Romanticism
(An artistic movement)

Dates: 1790-1850

This movement contains other movements: Nazarene

========UNDER CONSTRUCTION:=======

Western artistic movement flourishing during the first half of the 19th century, in painting, music, literature, and poetry.

1. Nationalism

Romanticism was born in Germany, after its conquest by French armies and the humiliation of the Treaties of Tilsit in 1807, which dismembered Prussia. As a reaction against their occupation, the Germans rejected all the French thought issued from the Enlightenments, conveying the ideas of rationalism, irreligion, and scientific progress, and instead idealised the glorious times of Germany in the Middle Ages - a period despised by the French as archaic.

The Nazarenes: Madonna with Child by Carolsfeld (left), The Introduction of the Arts in Germany through Religion by Veit (centre-left), The Three Mary at the Tomb by Cornelius (centre right), Holy Dorothea by Ittenbach (right)

German nationalism therefore relied on Gothic imagery and a strong Christian faith, notably by a group called the Nazarenes (with Veit, Carolsfeld, Ittenbach, von Cornelius, etc.) who were active in Rome during the first half of the century. They played an important role in the Christian revival in Europe by painting Biblical scenes in an archaic style, thus rejecting the Greco-Roman mythology glorified in France at the same time with Neoclassicism.

Visually, Romantic painters also fought against the classical rules, and many styles cohabited. The movement is therefore impossible to describe; its only consistency can be found in the themes chosen. Continuing the interest of the Nazarenes in Gothic times, romantics of all countries looked back at their national history to find inspiration. As Eric Hobsbawm later said, each people "invented" its national traditions and history; scholars wrote the first histories of their nation, from which poets drew lyrical pieces and painters illustrated the most famous events and anecdotes. In France, this national history paintings was the hallmark of the Troubadours group (lead by Fragonard the Younger and Fleury-Richard), whose name referred to their focus on the Middle Ages.

The French Troubadours: Valentine of Milan Mourning her Husband by Fleury-Richard (left), Henri II and Diane de Poitiers in the Studio of Jean Goujon by Fragonard (centre), The Battle of Poitiers, 732, by Steuben.

The Romantics also tried to personify their abstract nation into an allegory with distinctive attributes - like ancient gods before. The most famous of these, The Liberty Guiding the People made by Delacroix after the Revolution of 1830, became an iconic work and embodied France. In 1848, the first government of the French Second Republic even set a national contest to find the best allegory of the Republic.

National allegories: The Liberty Guiding the People by Delacroix (left), Germania and Italia by Overbeck (centre), Germania by Veit (right)

Current historical events receive some attention from the Romantics, who

Goya opened the way with his world-famous diptych on the Spanish insurrection of the 2nd May 1808 against Napoleon, showing both the uprising and its bloody repression. During the 1820s, Romantic produced several propaganda pieces depicting the Greek Independence war, in order to push for an intervention against the Ottoman Empire in the name of the Christian solidarity. Revolutions of 1830 and 1848 were also

National uprisings: The 2nd and 3rd May 1808 by Goya (left), Scene of the Belgian Revolution of 1830 by Wappers (centre right), Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi by Delacroix (right)

The Springtime of the Peoples in 1848 was at the same time the climax of Romanticism and its end. At first, all the national uprisings appeared as the accomplishment of the national constructions of the previous decades, but their crushing by the reactionary forces put an end to the dream. After this failure, official art moved towards a more conservative movement called Academism, except in the UK, where the Preraphaelites retained most of the romantic ideal.

2. Melancholy

Even the tragic end of the Nationalist movements also matched the discourse of Romanticism, which was a very pessimistic movement. The Philosophers of the Enlightenments believed in an unstoppable progress improving mankind since the obscurity of the Middle Ages. Seen as wild and primitive, Nature had to be tamed by a rational civilisation, freed from superstition, expanding through new industrial technologies. Illustrating this optimistic belief, neoclassical scenes frequently took place in geometrical marble palaces of Ancient Rome - at the time considered as the ideal civilisation. As a result, landscape painting nearly disappeared of continental Europe in the final decades of the 18th.

Romanticism had on the contrary an extremely important landscape output. Nature was indeed celebrated because the Romantics believed that Man had been perverted by civilisation, and idealised instead the pastoral times (the theory of the "Noble savage"). This idea was perfectly summarised by the American Thomas Cole: exalted by his discovery of untouched nature in the American West, he made a famous series showing the rise and fall of a classical civilisation. The third picture of the Course of Empire indeed represents the ideal city of the Neoclassicists, but Cole painted what was before (the peaceful savage nature), and what happened after - war destroying civilisation. In the last painting, Nature is shown taking back her rights on the remnants of mankind.

Thomas Cole's Course of Empire: The Savage State, the Pastoral State, Consummation, Destruction, Desolation.

This struggle between nature and civilisation was a recurrent theme in Cole's oeuvre, who painted many landscapes with ancient ruins to show how ephemera human societies are. The Romantics in general had a fascination for ruins, but contrary to the vedutisti of the previous century - who had already made many views of wrecked buildings -, they added either dark clouds in a threatening sky, or a mighty Sun, for their dramatic effect (both could also represent the superiority of God over Man's creations).

Going farther then just painting ruins of ancient civilisations, some romantics tried to depict the precise moment of their destruction, often by God himself, whose wrath against men is shown smashing classical palaces, with tiny and hopeless characters in the foreground. These very impressive apocalyptic landscapes were a hallmark of several British painters led by John Martin and followed by Danby, Colman, and also Turner.

Apocalypse (from left to right): The End of the World by Martin, The Edge of Doom by Colman, The Evening of the Deluge by Turner, The Deluge by Danby.

destruction Fires and shipwrecks

by Turner, The Last Day of Pompeii by Brulloff.

More serene nature

Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon

Man in awe before Nature: Wanderer above a Sea of Fog, and Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon by Friedrich, Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Ground by Constable

After Romanticism, landscape art lost its supernatural elements to concentrate solely on nature, hence the name of Realism, which was represented by the Barbizon School in France (notably inspire by Constable) and the Hudson River School in the USA.

3. Passions

Poetry

Impossible love

Tragedy and heroism

 

Madness and hubris

People associated with this movement
Peder BalkeNorwegian, 1804-188713 artworks
William BlakeEnglish, 1757-182735 artworks
Antoine-Felix Boisselier the YoungerFrench, 1790-18574 artworks
Richard Parkes BoningtonEnglish, 1801-182888 artworks
Karl Pavlovich BrulloffRussian, 1799-1852123 artworks
Léopold BurtheFrench, 1823-18602 artworks
Carl Gustav CarusGerman, 1789-18695 artworks
Franz Ludwig CatelGerman, 1778-185615 artworks
Théodore ChassériauFrench, 1819-185661 artworks
Léon CognietFrench, 1794-18805 artworks
Thomas ColeEnglish, 1801-1848132 artworks
Samuel Colman1780-184518 artworks
John ConstableEnglish, 1776-1837223 artworks
Peter von CorneliusGerman, 1783-18678 artworks
Johan Christian (J.C.C.) DahlNorwegian, 1788-185796 artworks
Francis DanbyIrish, 1793-1861126 artworks
Eugène DelacroixFrench, 1798-1863183 artworks
William DyceScottish, 1806-186464 artworks
Marie EllenriederGerman, 1791-186316 artworks
Alexandre-Evariste FragonardFrench, 1780-185013 artworks
Caspar David FriedrichGerman, 1774-184081 artworks
Joseph von FührichCzech, 1800-18764 artworks
Henry FuseliSwiss, 1741-1825104 artworks
Thèodore GèricaultFrench, 1791-182487 artworks
Francisco Jose de Goya y LucientesSpanish, 1746-1828212 artworks
Francesco Paolo HayezItalian, 1791-188179 artworks
Theodor von Holst1810-18442 artworks
Franz IttenbachGerman, 1813-18799 artworks
Louis JanmotFrench, 1814-189224 artworks
Georg Friedrich KerstingGerman, 1785-184730 artworks
Orest KiprenskyRussian, 1778-18363 artworks
Christen KøbkeDanish, 1810-184893 artworks
Joseph KochAustrian, 1768-18397 artworks
Sir Thomas LawrenceEnglish, 1769-1830124 artworks
Carl Friedrich LessingGerman, 1808-188012 artworks
John MartinEnglish, 1789-185435 artworks
Johann Friedrich OverbeckGerman, 1789-186914 artworks
Ernest Fritz PetzholdtDanish, 1805-18387 artworks
Franz PforrGerman, 1788-18125 artworks
Alfred RethelGerman, 1816-18597 artworks
Francois Fleury RichardFrench, 1777-18523 artworks
Ludwig RichterGerman, 1803-188412 artworks
August RiedelGerman, 1799-188311 artworks
Philipp Otto RungeGerman, 1777-18105 artworks
Friedrich Wilhelm SchadowGerman, 1788-18623 artworks
Ary SchefferFrench, 1795-185827 artworks
Julius Schnorr von CarolsfeldGerman, 1794-187223 artworks
Ludwig Schnorr von CarolsfeldGerman, 1788-18532 artworks
Moritz von SchwindAustrian, 1804-18712 artworks
Karl Ferdinand SohnGerman, 1805-18675 artworks
Carl SpitzwegGerman, 1808-188537 artworks
Baron Charles SteubenFrench, 1788-18564 artworks
Hermann Anton StilkeGerman, 1803-18603 artworks
Adolph TidemandNorwegian, 1814-18766 artworks
Joseph Mallord William TurnerEnglish, 1775-1851836 artworks
Philipp VeitGerman, 1793-18779 artworks
Horace VernetFrench, 1789-186369 artworks
Baron Egide Charles Gustave WappersBelgian, 1803-18742 artworks
Antoine WiertzBelgian, 1806-18655 artworks
Important dates
Founding date:  1790

End date:  1850