For those of you who are new to the world of art.
The word “Romanticism” may conjure up visions of an adorable Cupid
cruising the clouds poised with his bow and arrow,
ready to make two people fall in love.
However, this image while certainly romantic
has nothing to do with the Romanticismperiod and art.
So we already know what Romanticism is not.
But what is Romanticism then?
If there’s one thing that art historians can agree on,
it’s that Romanticism is virtually impossible to define.
However, that need not prevent us from understanding
what this period encompassed
and how it changed the course of art.
Well, Romanticism doesn’t have much to do with love or romance.
It is all about passion.
Romanticists express their passions, their strong beliefs
and their feelings to an audience through their art.
This intense personal expression
could adapt itself to any theme.
Romanticism was not limited to the visual arts,
but influenced the music and literature as well.
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is believed to have sparked off a period of Romanticism in music.
Three well-known romantic novels include Les Miserables,
the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Frankenstein.
Well these novels are more gloomy than they are beautiful.
They are mythical and passionate,
and like romantic paintings evoke passion in their audience.
This is the core of Romanticism-
art with the hearts.
Meaning artists express their deepest beliefs.
One example of a passion evoking romantic painting
is Delacroix’s Abduction of Rebecca.
This painting depicts a scene from Sir Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe.
Delacroix used scenes from Sir Walter Scott’s novels
as inspiration for paintings throughout his career.
The medieval settings, revolutionary themes
and introspective melancholy characters
found in Sir Walter Scott’s novel,
provided a rich source of inspiration for delacroix
who addressed the same themes in his visual art.
In Abduction of Rebecca based on the novel Ivanhoe,
the artist encapsulates the intense drama of the moment.
depicting the shocking turmoil of the events
described in the novel in a very realistic manner.
In stunning contrast is Rebecca’s sweet expression
which somehow only adds to the sheer momentum of the peace.
The dramatic nature of our works belonging to the Romanticism era,
can be explained by the fact that this period followed the age of revolution
when monarchies across the world were replaced with constitutions,
securing the people’s rule.
Romanticism was born in the wake of the American Revolution in 1776,
and the French Revolution in 1789.
Between 1800 and 1860,
Romanticism was at its peak.
Political, economic and social upheaval was the norm,
and these themes carried over into the world of arts.
The existing styles and methods of expression
would come to be changed dramatically.
The revolutionary energy that fueled Romanticism
was one important reason these artists believed
in expressing themselves with great intensity.
In addition to emphasizing the passion of the individual,
romantic art also depicted nature as a fierce and all-powerful force.
The destructive power of nature was a common theme in paintings created during this era.
One of the best-known romantic artists Gericault
based his famous work the Raft of Medusa
on a French frigate that was wrecked off Senegal’s coast.
The painting was inspired by the harrowing tale
shared by two of the shipwreck survivors.
Gericault used this tale of suffering and lost hope
to express the anguish of humankind abandoned to fate.
The canvas depicts pallid emaciated bodies,
juxtaposed with a few remaining survivors on the raft
that is left battered by the turbulent sea.
The feeling of hopelessness,
the despair of the men facing the raging oceans relentless onslaught
is only too evident for all who look upon this brilliant work.
Interestingly, this was Gericault’s first major work.
And that he chose tragedy as its central theme speaks volumes
about the importance of intense emotions to the romantic artist.
Goya, another well-known artist who left his mark during this period
is also known for his famous twin panels:
the Nude Maja and the Clothed Maja.
The Nude Maja was revolutionary in the direct gaze of the nude woman it depicted.
Previous nude paintings featured modest women
who averted their gaze from the viewer.
The Nude Maja, however, was unabashed.
Goya switched to darker themes during the late 1790s,
which is when his fantasy and invention series,
a set of eleven pictures, came to be.
His Yard with Lunatics hints at social alienation.
Perhaps an indication of his inner fear as a result of
the mental and physical illness he was recovering from at that point.
It was well into the Romanticism era that
Goya’s Disaster of War prints came to be.
Critics described these as the artists protest against the atrocities
perpetrated during the Dos de Mayo Rebellion in the Peninsular War.
Goya’s outrage at what was happening is only too evident through these prints.
To truly understand Romanticism,
it is important to understand that these artists hope to share
some of their deepest emotions through these works.
Whether the emotion was of a spiritual nature
or dealt with physical gratification.
Whether the subject was tangible or intangible,
the objective of the artist was to glorify it to
make it larger than life, supernatural,
so that it would get the attention he believed it deserved.
Although Great Britain and Germany
are believed to be the strongholds of romantic arts,
this era left its mark on artists and art critics all over the world
by elevating imagination far above realism.
These are to show that art could be interpretive and not just representative.
The era of Romanticism open artists’ minds
to themes, techniques and styles that were less conventional,
and encouraged a highly personal approach.