Romanticism- The Artistic movement of the Romantic Era

Towards the end of the 18th century an intellectually advanced philosophical movement emerged in the history of Western Art which was popularly known as Romanticism. This movement emphasized individualism, focusing on subjective emotions and imagination. Due to the fondness of the Romantic movement for the Middle ages we can observe sublime, mysterious and heroic depictions in artworks of this era. The medieval was glorified and it was a reaction to the French revolution that had its sweeping influence in art, literature, music and social science. 

Early Romanticism was largely shaped by artists like Baron Antoine Jean Gros, William Blake and John Flaxman. They developed unique visionary images that had bold contrast of light and shade and extravagantly heroic subject matters. 

The next generation was marked by the great landscape painters of Western history, J.M.W Turner and John Constable who were known for their dramatic landscapes capturing atmospheric light. Their large scale paintings often represented pastoral scenes from the countryside and nostalgic representations with detailed beauty of nature. Some paintings during this period also responded to the rapidly changing times and modernization during the 19th century which can be observed in paintings like “The Slave Ship” by J.M.W Turner and “Raft of Medusa” by Theodore Gericault. Depictions of the sublime romanticized landscapes, appreciating the picturesque representation of unspoiled nature, were also an ironic response to the disappearing simple native lands and exploitation caused by the Industrial revolution.     

Another German painter, Caspar David Friedrich was known for painting landscapes that showed infinite powers of nature, the boundlessness and unbeatable natural forces.


A famous French painter was Eugene Delacroix who drew inspiration from history and literature to depict dramatic scenes and used unique techniques of Romantic and neoclassical styles. His famous paintings such as “Liberty leading the people”, “Death of Sardanapalus” which were mostly symbolic and allegorical bringing down the grandeur of heroism to anger and despair. Delacroix was also known for his vigorous brushstrokes, sensuous use of colors and expressive dynamic compositions. Allegorical overtones and stark mysterious symbolic representations were observed in Romantic paintings in Germany.

Besides painting and literature, ideals of Romanticism also had its influence in architecture and music and leading artists in Europe started to adopt the style. The rise of Auguste Comte's positivism in 1840 contributed to the decline of the Romantic approach and the  literary realists of the mid-nineteenth century rejected the idea of romanticism, discarding heroic settings and focusing on real life problems that lead to the birth of a new style in Western art.


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