Romanticism the power of passion 1815 – 1850 times changed again

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1815 – 1850


  1. Revolutions

  1. Industrial Revolution

  2. Urbanization

  3. Nationalism

  • Greek War for Independence (from Ottoman Turks)

  • German aspiration for unity

  1. Reaction against Neoclassicism

  1. Neoclassicism was a reaction against the overly ornate and frivolous Rococo art

  2. Romanticism was a reaction against the overly rational Neoclassical art


P. I. N. E.

  • Past – longing for the medieval past, pre-industrial Europe (Gothic architecture will be revived)

  • Irrational/ Inner mind / Insanity – Romantic artists depict the human psyche and topics that transcend the use of reason. One Romantic artist, Gericault chose to do portraits of people in an insane asylum.

  • Nature – longing for the purity of nature, which defies human rationality

  • Emotion/ Exotic – Romantics favored emotion and passion over reason. Exotic themes and locales were also popular because they did not adhere to European emphasis on rationality.

  1. Root of the term Romanticism

  1. Romanticism got its name from a revived interest in medieval tales of chivalry and adventures called romances.

  1. Characteristics of Romantic art

  1. Subjects

  • Past – longing for Medieval past

  • Imagination and inner world – beyond the use of reason

  • Nature – Longing for nature prior to the Industrial Revolution, wild and untamable

  • Emotion and Exotic – emphasis on emotion over reason, interest in exotic places beyond European tradition and use of reason

  1. Color

  • Color is more important than line

  • Deep rich shades

  1. Emotion

  • Feeling is all!”

  • Imagination

  1. Other interest

  • Heroic struggles against the odds, fighting against the establishment

  • Spontaneity and creativity

  • Nonconformist

  1. GERICAULT and the beginning of Romantic art

  1. The Tragic Story of the Medusa

  1. The Medusa – Summer of 1816, a French ship, the Medusa, was wrecked off the coast of Africa while carrying 400 soldiers, settlers, and passengers to the colony of Senegal

  1. The incompetent captain was a nobleman who gained his position through political influence. He had not sailed in 25 years.

  1. When the ship was wrecked, he was on one of the few lifeboats, leaving the people he saw as his social inferiors to fend for themselves

  1. 149 men and 1 woman built a makeshift raft measuring on 20 feet by 60 feet; the raft was adrift for 13 days

  1. Prodded by hunger, thirst, and alcohol, the struggle between the men began. Within a few days half of the original 150 survivors were dead

  1. Only 15 survived the horrendous circumstances, and instances of cannibalism and insanity were reported. Five more died on reaching land.

  1. Theodore Gericault

  1. With a private income, Gericault was a new type of artist; he did not need commissions and could paint the subjects that appealed to him personally.

  2. Gericault was outraged by the story of the Medusa. He investigated the story like a reporter, interviewing survivors to hear their grisly tales of starvation, madness, and cannibalism. He even built a model of the raft in his studio.

  1. The Painting: The Raft of the Medusa (1818) (23 feet by 16 feet)

  1. Composition: Pyramids of Despair and Hope

  • Beyond despair – Even the hope of rescue is scant consolation for this man who is grieving over his son’s death.

  • Eugene Delacroix (Gericault’s friend) posed for the dead man on the bottom left.

  • A ship! A ship! Pyramid of hope – a group of figures flagging down a ship in the distance

  • An ominous wave is approaching the raft

  1. A blood-stained ax – the only reference to the horrific cannibalism described by the survivors

  1. Impact of the Painting

  1. Political impact

  • Gericault’s painting is intended both as a dramatic record of the event and as a condemnation of a government that would allow such a thing to happen. Whereas in the past most works of art that made a political statement were designed to sustain the government in power, Gericault’s social and political consciousness demanded that he create a work that was critical.

  • David’s art encouraged service to the state. Gericault castigated the State for abandoning those who served it.

  1. Artistic impact

  • Romantic passion was, for the first time, clearly visible. Gericault captured not some idealized form from the past, but contemporary reality.

  • Instead of painting scenes from academic history, Romantic art could portray individual emotional concerns

  1. What happened to Gericault?

  1. Archetypal Romantic – Gericault dedicated his life to passion and defending the downtrodden.

  2. Painted images of insane people in asylums – Romantic interest in the irrational

  3. Banned from the Louvre for brawling in the Grand Gallery.

  4. Fascinated with horses, Gericault died at the age of 32 after a riding accident.


  1. Brief Biography

  1. Leader of the French Romantic movement in art.

  2. He was aloof and aristocratic in temperament; witty, charming, and popular in society; and had an intensely passionate nature.

  1. Liberty Leading the People

  1. Historic Background

  • Following the fall and exile of Napoleon, the Bourbons regained the throne. The first restored Bourbon king, Louis XVIII (younger brother of Louis XVI) was moderate and cautious.

  • When Louis XVIII died in 1824, he was succeeded by his brother Charles X. Charles turned the clock back to the period before the Revolution. He intended to restore the ancient titles and privileges to the aristocracy. After Charles issued a series of repressive decrees abolishing freedom of the press, dissolving the legislature and depriving the majority of the citizens of suffrage, revolt broke out not far from Eugene Delacroix’s studio.

  • Delacroix observed the revolt from a safe distance. In a letter to his brother he confessed: “Although I didn’t fight, I’ll at least paint for our country!” The result was Liberty Leading the People

  1. Liberty Leading the People

  • Purpose – commemorates the political uprising in Paris in 1830 when Parisians took to the streets in revolt against the greedy and tyrannical regime of Charles X

  • Liberty – bayoneted musket in one hand and tricolor flag in the other is a symbolic representation of liberty. She wears a Phrygian cap, which was a symbol of liberty during the French Revolution. Women played a leading role in the street fighting of the 1830 Revolution.

  • Notre Dame – Emerging from the gun smoke are the towers of Notre Dame. On one of the towers flies the tricolor flag.

  • Young patriot – a popular hero named Arcole who was killed in the fighting

  • Fallen soldier – many soldiers refused to fire on their fellow citizens. Some even joined the rebel ranks

  • Dying patriot – a mortally wounded citizen strains with his dying breath to take one last look at Liberty. Delacroix echoes the colors of the flag in the dying patriot’s clothing.

  • Caps for all classes – Note the presence of top hats, berets, and cloth caps. All classes supported the revolution.

  1. Death of Sardanapalus

  1. The Story

    • In 1821, the English poet Lord Byron wrote a tragedy based on the tale of Sardanapalus

    • Sardanapalus was an Assyrian monarch who lived in the 7th century BCE. He lived a life of extreme luxury and debauchery.

    • The Medes (Persians) besieged his capital city for 2 years. The Medes finally broke through his defenses and entered the city.

    • Sardanapalus was determined not to surrender. He decided that the city and all its riches should be destroyed. As he prepared to take poison, Sardanapalus ordered the execution of all his concubines, his servants, and favorite horse. Everyone and everything, including his favorite concubine Myrrha would be burned in a funeral pyre. Myrrha would have the honor of having her ashes mixed with his.

  1. The Painting

  • Writhing figures are organized along a rising diagonal leading to Sardanapalus

  • Sardanapalus is strangely calm as he watches the scene before him. He waits for his servant to bring him poison.

  • Painted with rich colors and dynamic energy

  • A Romantic theme – never surrendering, dying before giving up

  • Romantic interest in the exotic

  1. Lion Hunt

    1. Delacroix traveled to North Africa in search of exotic subject matter

    2. His painting exemplifies the Romantic interest in nature

    3. Notice his swirling treatment of color

  1. Scenes from the Massacre at Chios

    1. Exemplifies values of the Romantic style

    2. Set on exotic island, Ottoman Turk soldiers guard a group of exhausted Greeks waiting to be either executed or enslaved.

    3. Romantics were influenced by the Greek War for Independence from the Ottomans (Lord Byron, the Romantic poet died during the war)

    4. Delacroix used thick brushstrokes and vivid colors

  1. Tiger Devouring a Gavial (Tigre dévorant un gavial) Antoine-Louis Barye  (French, Paris 1796–1875 Paris)

    1. Animaliers School: Depicting nature red in tooth and claw: Nature and emotion

  1. HENRY FUSELI (1741-1825)

  1. Introduction

  1. Neoclassical art was rational and intellectual

  2. Romantic art could included gripping emotional visions. This them in Romantic art can be vividly seen in the work of Fuseli.

  1. The Nightmare (G-829)

  1. A beautiful young woman lies asleep, draped across the bed with her limp left arm dangling over the side.

  2. But wait! An INCUBUS (a demon believed in medieval times to prey, often sexually, on sleeping women) squats ominously on her body.

  3. In the background, a ghostly horse with flaming eyes bursts into the scene

  1. Key AP Points

  1. A Romantic painting

  2. Fuseli was one of the first artists to attempt to portray the dark terrain of the human subconscious. So his paintings demonstrate an early interest in the psychology of the SUBCONSCIOUS.

  1. WILLIAM BLAKE (1757 – 1827)

    1. Introduction

      1. Visionary English poet, painter, and engraver

      2. Blake used his artwork to decorate his poems and stories

      3. Like other Romantic artists, Blake was drawn to the art of the Middle Ages

      4. Blake was also interested in dreams

      5. Blake’s work is very original

    1. Ancient of Days

      1. Recall, Michelangelo’s portrayal of God in the Sistine Ceiling (G-626)

      2. Now look at Blake’s portrayal of God (G-829)

        • When he set a compass upon the face of the deep.” Proverbs 8:27

        • The Almighty leans forward from a fiery orb

        • Twin rays of light emerge between his spread fingers like an architect’s measuring instrument

  1. CASPAR DAVID FRIEDRICH (1774 – 1840)

    1. Brief biography

      1. A serious and melancholy person

      2. Natural introspection and melancholy was intensified by the deaths of his mother (1781), his two sisters (1782 and 1791), and the traumatic death of his brother who drowned while trying to save Friedrich in a skating accident

    1. Landscapes

      1. Friedrich sought solace in nature; he believed that he could experience God through nature.

      2. Friedrich’s paintings often include a solitary individual from behind looking out onto a vast landscape

      3. Friedrich’s landscapes have an emotional and introspective mood

    1. Wanderer Above a Sea of Mist

      1. Standing on a rocky cliff, Friedrich’s wanderer looks out over a landscape shrouded in thick mists. Absorbed in thought, he personifies Friedrich’s desire for solitude. “I have to stay alone in order to fully contemplate and feel nature.”

    1. Abbey in the Oak Forest

      1. A procession of monks carry a coffin towards a desolate Gothic ruin

      1. Emblems of death are everywhere – the season’s desolation, tombstones, black clothing worn by the monks, the skeletal trees, and the ruined church

      1. For Friedrich, the ruined structure symbolized the incompleteness of earthly existence while the portal stood as a gateway to the spiritual life beyond. Friedrich wrote that, “One must submit oneself many times to death in order some day to attain life everlasting.”


    1. Brief biography

      1. Born in a small village in Suffolk, England. The area is renowned for its natural beauty.

      2. Son of a wealthy owner of wheat mills.

      3. From childhood, showed a deep love of the countryside of his home.

      4. Never traveled outside of England.

      5. Deeply in love with his wife, Maria. Heartbroken when his wife died in 1829 after just 12 years of marriage.

      6. Sold only 20 paintings during his lifetime.

      7. Now, Constable is the best-known English landscape painter. His paintings attract large crowds of admiring tourists at the National Gallery.

      8. The images he painted can be found on numerous chocolate boxes, plates, and postcards. The farms he painted in East Anglia are popular tourist attractions and are preserved by the National Trust.

    1. Landscape painting before Constable

      1. Jacob van Ruisdael – scenes of the Dutch countryside – G-727

      2. Claude Lorraine (1600 – 1682) – idealized classical landscapes (G – 734)

    1. The Hay Wain

      1. Constable’s picture represents a nostalgic image of the English countryside, with mankind working the land in perfect harmony with bountiful nature, a golden age before the Industrial Revolution.

      1. Willy Lot’s cottage – The cottage on the left is known, even today, as Willy Lot’s cottage. Willy Lot was a deaf and eccentric tenant farmer who was born in the cottage and lived there for over 80 years; he would have been the inhabitant at the date of this picture. Even though the scene is set in midsummer, Constable shows smoke rising from the chimney, indicating Willy Lot’s unseen presence.

      1. The Hay Wain – The hay wain is being directed to the ford that leads to the reapers in the distance.

      1. Making hay – In the far distance, it is possible to see the haymakers in the fields carrying their scythes and loading hay onto a cart.

      1. A splash of red – Red is a complementary color to green and so intensifies its effect

      1. Constable may have been trained as a meteorologist prior to painting; he used dabs of white paint on the grass and water to represent light and the effects of wind.

      1. Constable portrayed the oneness with nature the Romantic poets sought. His relaxed figures are participants in the landscape’s being. In contrast, Friedrich’s figures are observers of nature.


    1. An English landscape and seascape painter

      1. J.M.W. Tuner’s landscapes emphasize the sublime force of nature

      2. His paintings focus on the use of color with very dramatic brushwork to enhance the power of the scenes

      3. A visionary artist who influenced the development of modern art

    1. The Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On) (1840)

      1. Based on an incident that occurred in 1783 and written about in a book called The History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade by Thomas Clarkson

      2. The ship’s captain ordered the throwing overboard of the dead and dying slaves because he would be reimbursed only for cargo lost at sea

      3. Notice the hands and ankles bound in manacles in the lower left hand side of the painting

      4. Turner used powerful brushstrokes of color and did use outlines to confine the color.

      5. The crashing waves and jumping fish that surround the slaves and partially conceal the slave ship on the horizon reveal the power of the sea.



      1. So named because the artists often drew their inspiration from the Hudson River Valley

      2. But, the name “Hudson River School” is too restrictive geographically. These artists often painted scenes from across the country.

      3. Hudson River School artists also participated in the ongoing issue of American’s MANIFEST DESTINY to spread American civilization across the continent.


      1. Often considered the leader of the Hudson River School

      2. The Oxbow (View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm) (1836) (In the MET!)

  • A splendid scene opens before the viewer dominated by the lazy oxbow turning of the Connecticut River

  • The spread of civilization and cultivation is on the right

  • The dark stormy wilderness is on the left

  • If you look carefully you can see a self-portrait of Cole among the vegetation looking back at you with his top hat and his easel. He turns as if asking for input in deciding the country’s future course.


      1. Painted many paintings depicting the Rocky Mountains, Yosemite Valley, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

      1. Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains – G - 842

  • A breathtaking and even awe-inspiring scene

  • Reinforced the idea that America had a Manifest Destiny to spread across the continent

  • Notice the use of light – the light of God sanctioning Manifest Destiny

  • Pristine and untainted nature waiting for Americans


      1. Another American painter associated with the Hudson River School movement.

      2. His landscapes were not limited to America; throughout his life he traveled to South America, Mexico, Europe, and the Middle East.

      3. Twilight in the Wilderness (1860)

  • Painted during the time of the Civil War

  • Shows no hint of the turmoil racking the United States

  • Presents an idyllic view of the American wilderness with a sunset over a panoramic view of the wilderness

  • The beauty of the wilderness in America creates a sense that God has blessed America, that the country is a part of his Divine Providence


    1. Brief Background on Goya

      1. Famous Spanish painter who was influenced by the work of Diego Velazquez

      2. Began as a Rococo painter for the Spanish aristocracy

      3. Influenced by the Enlightenment and French Revolution; disappointed by the violent turn of events of the French Revolution

      4. Became a court painter to King Charles IV of Spain

  • Recall that Velazquez was court painter to the Spanish king Philip IV

  • Know that the Mannerist painter Agnolo Bronzino (Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time) was a court painter to the Medici during the 16th century

      1. Financially successful and famous

      2. Becomes very sick and loses his hearing

      3. Dramatically effects by the events of the Peninsular War

  • Napoleon’s army invaded Spain and Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, was installed as the new king of Spain

  • This began a bloody, prolonged guerilla war as the Spaniards fought to free themselves from the control of Napoleon and the French

      1. Became cynical and reclusive later and life due to his hearing loss, bouts with sickness, poor relationships, the violence he witnessed, and being excluded from the royal court after the Spanish monarchy returned to power

9. Goya emerged as one of the greatest artists of the Romantic era

    1. Key Works

      1. The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, from Los Caprichos (ca. 1798)

  • An etching (recall that Rembrandt was also an etcher)

  • The failure of the French Revolution prompted Goya to create a folio of eighty etchings called Los Caprichos.

  • Goya portrays himself slumped over a writer’s table as the personification of Reason. As Reason sleeps, an ominous flock of owls (representing folly) and bat (representing ignorance) suddenly appear to symbolize what happens when humanity abandons logic and reason.

  • Other prints from Los Caprichos satirize a broad range of superstitions and follies of Spanish life

  • Los Caprichos did not sell well

      1. Royal Commissions

  • Although Los Caprichos did not sell well, Goya’s career continued to advance as he became First Painter to the King in 1799.

  • In 1800, Goya was commissioned to paint a portrait of the Royal Family.

      1. The Family of Charles IV (1800)

  • Compare this family portrait to Las Meninas by Velazquez

  • Queen Maria Luisa stands in the center in a pose similar to the Infanta Margarita in Las Meninas. She exerted a great deal of power and influence over her husband

  • Charles IV and his family appear resplendent in their clothing, medals, and jewelry yet they also appear a bit dull, stiff, and inept.

  • Prince Ferdinand (pictured on the left) staged a coup d’etat in 1808.

  • Unlike Velazquez, who portrayed himself proudly looking out from behind his canvas, Goya portrayed himself in the shadows behind the royal family, perhaps to express his ambivalence (conflicting feelings) about the royal family.

  • Was this flattery or caricature? One prominent critic wrote that the King and Queen look like “the corner baker and his wife after they have won the lottery.”

      1. The Third of May, 1808 – a powerful Romantic painting

  • Within a year of Ferdinand VII’s coup d’etat, Napoleon put his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, in Ferdinand’s place.

  • French occupation provoked bloody rioting in Madrid on May 2, 1808

  • Determined to suppress the revolt, French soldiers executed nearly one thousand Spanish rebels

  • Six years later, Goya commemorated the atrocity in a painting similar to Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa and Delacroix’s Scenes from the Massacre at Chios

  • The French firing squad – faceless automatons firing at the helpless Spaniards, indifferent to their pleas for mercy

  • The condemned men react with emotions ranging from terror to despair

  • Central figures is illuminated and appears Christ-like as a martyr

  • The church in shown in darkness in the distance powerless to help the Spanish

      1. Goya’s Black Paintings

  • Goya became increasingly disillusioned and pessimistic

  • Among his later works were a series known as the Black Paintings.

  • Drawn on the walls of farmhouse and created solely for himself, these works reveal a terrifying and disturbing visions

  • Saturn Devouring One of His Children

  • Based on a myth, Saturn was one of the Titans, who received a prophecy that one of his children (his children were the Olympic gods) would overthrow him

  • To thwart this, Saturn swallowed all of his children except for one – Jupiter (Zeus) who did overthrow him

  • Goya’s painting is very violent - Saturn appears wild-eyed, eating one of his children as he brutally squeezes the child

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