Romanticism was a counterculture movement that reached its peak between the 1800s and 1850s. The era influenced a broad range of fields such as art, fiction, poetry, music, and philosophy. These works focused on idealism and man’s innate goodness as a shining light in a period of tyranny and revolution. To know more about this radical era, here are the following facts:
1. Romanticism is, by nature, undefinable.
- The fuel of the movement is personal emotion, individual uniqueness, and self-expression. The results vary from person to person. The poet Charles Baudelaire said it does not lie in subject matter or exact truth, but in “a way of feeling”.
- Painters of this era did not have a distinct style either. The messages conveyed by their works were what defined them as Romantic.
2. Romanticism is the opposite of neoclassicism.
- Wars and bloodshed cast doubt on the so-called age of reason and gave birth to Romanticism. The term may be misleading as it does not focus on love and romance. Instead, the era “romanticizes” humans as arbiters of liberty, heroism, and ideals.
- Romantic works are better defined by their rejection of neoclassical beliefs. They praised emotion over thought, spiritualism over science, nature over industrialization, rusticity over wealth, and freedom over authority.
3. Romantic works yearned for the past.
- Romanticism originated in Germany where modernization caused “Weltschmerz” (world weariness). Many wished to return to bygone eras where life was simple and peaceful.
- Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed man was born good, but made evil by society. He inspired a “back-to-Eden” campaign where people can return to nature and be their “true” selves.
4. Romantic paintings often featured natural disasters.
- A common theme of the movement is the awe and fear of nature. It rejects the scientific arrogance of truly understanding nature.
- Shipwreck paintings were popular during this era, many based on recent events. A notable example is J.M.W. Turner‘s “The Raft of the Medusa.” Turner was also known for adding drama to his works by depicting the destructive power of nature.
5. Eugène Delacroix was the leader of French Romanticism.
- Delacroix painted outdoors to be closer to nature and reproduce the correct colors. He believed the true color of an object is visible only under sunlight.
- He discovered that juxtaposing complementary colors makes them appear blended and richer. Impressionists took interest in his art theories and optical blending techniques.
6. Romanticism gave rise to schools and other movements.
- The movement created institutions such as the Norwich and Barbizon schools of landscapes.
- John Constable painted with small brushstrokes of pure color that appeared blended at a distance. This inspired the Impressionists, the leaders of the first modern art movement. In turn, Impressionism influenced many of the succeeding modern movements.
Romanticism is a glorification of the natural world and human goodness. Its philosophy of warm emotion over cold thought, makes it the “art with a heart.”
To learn more about other great art periods and movements, check out their interesting facts here.