Art is a vast and subjective term that has been haunting this world since the beginning of times. As much as people try to bring sense and some kind of order into it, just like they usually do with all parts of their lives, it does not always work. The whole reason of this paper is to try to understand better why exactly this variety of different and multilateral artist of this era that created their leading legacy for the future generations were actually put together and labelled “Romantics”- a term that was not even related to being a romantic, and how it evolved in various fields of art. According to William Gairdner in “Jean-Jaques Rousseau and the romantic roots of Modern Democracy (1999), he mentions that this name (Romanticism) was derived from Latin, and originally defined a horror story with mystical and macabre themes.
He also mentions that Rousseau himself was actually the “prototypical French Romantic”. As Kathryn CalleyGalitz (Department of European Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art) wrote, there is no precise point of when exactly this movement began taking over the world, but it is somewhere in the end of the 1700, the beginning of the 1800. The development was different regarding place, time and art form, but there was always a tight correlation between them. According to Cox, Jeffrey N. “Romantic Drama and the French Revolution. ”(1990), it was the beginning of a new, modern world, as the collective mindset of people was desperate for change.
The French revolution has set the perfect background for the development of romanticism, the grasp for freedom and modernization that was starting to emerge in the heads of so many people, from poets and philosophers to the very ordinary people became one of its’ triggers. This era is marked by a dramatic differentiation of the fields of art that though had a parallel development and an immense impact on each other. The monarchy as an idea was failing, as more and more people became aware of the notions of freedom and equality, and this as well became a huge inspiration for artists, writers and sculptors, the fight against tyranny, especially among the French ones, Eugene Delacroix, Francois Rudeand Jean Jacque Rousseau. Background Even though the native places of romanticism are considered England and Germany, the French(1789) and American(1776) revolutions played a very important, if not a key role in the birth of this movement. The liberation from the strict rules imposed by Neoclassicism, the so-called“age of reason”, was as well a strong impulse and a cause of revolution in the arts, as well as on the social field.
As Percy Shelley said in one of his letters to Lord Byron in 1816, “the master theme of the epoch in which we live”, and by that expressing the opinion that not only the revolution meant the struggle to freedom, it became a perfect theme for covering in poetry, paintings and sculptures. Influences As it is of common knowledge, the Romantic Movement is based on a variety of previous ones, evoking the best and the most attractive sides of each of them. The Gothic, the Greek revival, the Renaissance and the Neo Baroque became a stabile pillars for building up the one and only Romanticism. Philosophy The philosophers of this period will become the ones that will influence and express the The main philosophical ideas that were evoked during this era are the human nature, its’ values and depth that need to be discovered and exploited. Again, Jean- Jacques Rousseau, along with Friedrich Nietzsche, Kant and Marx had key roles in the development of these ideas. Jean- Jacques Rousseau wrote in 1762 that “Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains”, this idea was important to him along all his life, and he truly believed that a person’s essence is in his emotions, and he has to act according to them.
The romantic period has given enough freedom for exploring the depths of human nature and psychology, introducing the “intuition over reason”, so unfortunately rejected by the strictness of Neoclassicism. MusicAs written by Robert Sherrane, “Music History 102: a Guide to Western Composers and their music”, romanticism must have been the most important and grand period in classical music. This is the time of Beethoven, Chopin, Verdi and many others, that have brought the sense of emotion and feeling into music. According to Robert Sherrane, they have built a base for the creation of music that is until now a starting point for composers and songwriters. Musicians turned to emotion, finding inspiration in poetry, literature and paintings.
This is also the period when new forms of genres, like program symphony, symphonic poem and concert overture, that became irreplaceable in the word of classical music. Literature As written by Josh Rahn(2007), Friedrich Schlegel, a German poet that is known to be the first one to use the name “romanticism” relating to literature, described it, as “literature depicting emotional matter in an imaginative form”. Literature was the first field of arts that has brought romanticism to life. Moreover, only in literature, among fine arts, can we see such a diverse and may I say chaotic evocation of styles, ideas and genres.
From Jane Austen to Edgar Allan Poe, from Sir Walter Scott to Victor Hugo, the range of themes and genres brought together is just as wide as the human emotions themselves. The movement itself had a start with William Wordsworth’s “Lyrical Ballads”, first published in 1798, (William Gairdner (1999) “Jean-Jaques Rousseau and the romantic roots of Modern Democracy”), after that the freedom and the unlimited possibilities were explored by various authors like Marry Shelley with his famous “Frankenstein”, Jane Austen, Emily Dickens etc. Another subgenre, “Dark Romanticism”, whose’ most famous voice was Edgar Allan Poe, has taken the lead in the literal circles. They also influenced the appearance of “Penny Dreadful”, the short horror stories, mainly popular in mid-1800 in Great Britain.
This branch of literature remains popular nowadays, and keeps inspiring writers, painters, filmmakers etc. The creation of the Romantic character prototype was also an important part of this movement. Usually presented as anti-social, dark, going from one extreme to the other, this character is and always be an example for those who wrote and do so till this day. This characters were “shaped heroic figures larger than life, burning with mythic significance” (Kathryn Van Spanckeren (2007)), once again, breaking the rules and transcending any type of ordinary. Paintings The painters of this period have brought together a different side of mirroring the real life. They turned to nature, literature, the spiritual and the mystical, but still having the idea of perfection of lines, shapes and perspective, though using darker, macabre colors.
The strong evocation of emotions, violent use of brushwork and a more violent technique are the most distinctive aspects. John Henry Fuseli’s “The Nightmare” has become the symbol of Romantic fine art. According to Tom Lubbock in “Fuseli, Henry: The Nightmare (1781)”(2007), Fuseli starts controlling the watcher, he starts getting into their heads and start to think, analyze, it was far ahead its time and then did not really fit in any part of art. And I think that exactly is the most accurate description of Romanticism, it is a bunch of misfits, revolutionaries that were brought together by mischief and turned the world upside down, creating a new order, and changing humanity itself. Henry Fuseli “The Nightmare” The other important idea that was highly used is the free spirit, the national ideas and the war against the tyranny of the repressing monarchy. The “Liberty leading the people”, as well as most of Goya’s art, evoking the pain and the suffering of those who fight.
Eugene Delacroix “Liberty leading the people” Sculptures The artists that are working in this field are mostly obsessed with the idea of splushing their emotions over the material they are working with. This periode is characterised by 2 specific movements in sculpture, and the specification of artists. First were naturalists, those who were based on the natural and the animal world, and the then there were those who based their works on human emotions, political events and human nature in general. The fiorst cathegory was represented by Francois Rude, and the most famous example is „La Marseillaise”(1833- 1836), placed on the „Arc deTriumph”, in Paris. It represented the spirit of the french revolution, evoking a scene where the volunteers were marching to protect the borders of the country, with the godess of war, Bellona(again evoking the Greek mithological themes), over them.
Francoi Rude „La Marseillaise” The second representant is Barye Antoine- Luis, who along with Eugene Delacroix, according to some rumours, spend numerous hours schetchiing animal figures and making them close to perfection. And as Delacroix said ”I wish I could put a twist in a tiger’s tail like that man”. Barye Antoine- Luis “The Lion crushing the Serpent” Architecture According to Allison Lee Palmer, “Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts”(2008), in architecture as well the abundance and variety of themes and stiles prevaled and magnified the specific themes used in it. The ancient Egiptian Style was used beside the Greek, the Renaissance with a twist of the Gothic, there are new twists and curves that create magnificent new architectural dinasty that mostly was created according to the desires and ideas of their owners.
James Wyatt „Fonthill Abbey”(considered to be the best evocation of the Gothic style in the Romantic period) Influence on future generations According to” A Guide to the Study of Literature: A Companion Text for Core Studies 6, Landmarks of Literature”(2009), the romanticism has been the inspiration for two different and some would say opposite movements, that were not connected to each other in any way, Symbolism and Realism. Symbolist artistsIn realisms’ case, the painters went against the Romantic Movement, rejecting its’ principles and ideas. The concept that stood at the core of the romantic mentality is breaking the rules, bending the normal and going against the current, which spread through time and space, causing people, not only artists to evolve, to question things and emotions. This was the mark of that period; the idea that created a new generation of artists that started their own revolution, the one that was a major step towards the world that we live in today.
As a conclusion, I have to say that romanticism has started the creation of a new world, started building up a new mentality for those who did not dare to think before. The timing for it was actually perfect, as the world itself the way people knew it started to fade, and instead, on the ashes of a forgotten life was build a brand new world, a new kind of people that dare to go against the rules and break stereotypes. In my opinion, they were the ones that triggered the building of today’s society, and even if is not perfect, it wouldn’t have been the same without the “Romantics”.
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