Art

A few notes on Romanticism

Though sometimes referred to as the “anti-classical” movement in art, Romanticism is a style that focuses on the artist’s individualistic and emotionally wrought point of view, and is found to oppose the art movement known as Neoclassicism. Even though there have been many artists to combine elements of both. Some of the more renowned names around this movement, which utilized strong emotion to convey meaning, were Francisco de Goya and William Blake respectively. This particular art form became a reaction to the outgrowth of reason by homing in on imagination and feeling.

The Duchess of Alba and Her Duenna by Francisco de Goya
The Duchess of Alba and Her Duenna by Francisco de Goya

It is not difficult to see the value in the paintings by these artists, and there have been many examples of how other artists have influenced one another over time. As the whole category of Romanticism refers more to the trends of artists, poets, and philosophers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries than as much to an artistic movement. Though one has definitely influenced the other and vice versa rather equally as time went along, there are very few areas in modern life that can be said to stay untouched by the Romantic period, and many agree that this was a vital point in the world’s development as a whole.

Where the people of the period at the time were involved in an overwhelming interest in things of a rational or enlightened nature, the Romantic ideal favored intuition instead, and has been the subject of many differing characterizations of the movement for intellectual and literary histories. There are many varying attitudes on how Romanticism has affected the modern world, and what place this movement has had in the greater picture of history. Some cite Romanticism as being the originating moment of modernity, while others seem to think that it is a beginning to a resistance to the enlightened age, and still others date the movement as a direct aftermath of the French Revolution that is completely continuous with the present.

“Freedom is the dream you dream
While putting thought in chains again –”
― Giacomo Leopardi, Canti

Mozart  - Alfredo Dagli Orti/The Art Archive, via Corbis
Mozart – Alfredo Dagli Orti/The Art Archive, via Corbis

Romanticism was previously mentioned as affecting music and literature as well as art, but this is less understated than it might seem at first, Romanticism is very prominent in the music and literature of this period. As the age moved along, more than a few critics have considered composers such as Mozart, Hadyn, and Beethoven as being the three Romantic composers. In literature all over the world, the Romanticism movement deeply affected every writer from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe through to even the 20th century’s Ayn Rand, and many more writers between those times when Romanticism was most prominent.

As it became apparent that Romanticism was going to stay a strong influence for many years to come, many critics have taken to confirming that the Romantic period has been elemental in the progress of art to the present day, and that there is almost no famed artist who has not been in part affected by these potent periods of artwork and creative purpose. This rebellion against social and political standards of the age was instrumental in the changing over from those same standards, and created a lush place from which to draw inspiration for the next centuries to come.

Intrv. Sabine Women - David
Intrv. Sabine Women – David

Romanticism has become a piece of history that cannot be overlooked for very long as every place that one can turn has somehow been affected by the progress from this one particular time period, though that is certain for many artistic movements that have been present throughout time, and seems to put more clout into the common statement of art imitating life and life imitating art. Neo-Romanticism worked itself out through artists’ reevaluation of the earlier works by those like William Blake, and especially in areas like Britain, creating a new underground of writers, artists, and composers.

William Blake
William Blake

William Blake is probably most famous for the opening verse of his “Auguries of Innocence”: “To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.”
The verse was Blake’s rephrasing of “as above, so below”, expressing Blake’s adherence to the notion of correspondences. He shared with the Hermetics that if one could really see, everything was double, micro- and macro-cosmic. To this, he added, that “without contraries there is no progression”. Ackroyd begins his biography of Blake by stating that “in the visionary imagination of William Blake there is no birth and no death, no beginning and no end, only the perpetual pilgrimage within time towards eternity.”

Cowshed Courting
Cowshed Courting – Neo romanticism pictured by Nikolai Astrup

Neo-Romanticists have been considered the contrast to naturalism as Romanticism was considered the opposite to Neoclassicism in its’ heyday because of the movement seems to stress feeling and internal observation, as opposed to the naturalistic tendency to stress external observation, and utilize historic rural landscapes to react to the modern world of machines and its’ urbanization. Post-romanticism is an outgrowth of passionate art that refers to a postmodern re-enactment of romantic themes and motifs in contemporary art up to today, and combines the best of traditional artwork with a more modern flair.

The Somnambulist circa 1943 Robin Ironside 1912-1965 Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1944 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05459
The Somnambulist circa 1943 Robin Ironside 1912-1965 Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1944 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05459

In regards to the 20th century turns that Romanticism has made, Romantic realism has evolved out of Romanticism to incorporate elements of themes of value while referring to objective reality and the importance of technique, and was popularized though not coined by the writer and philosopher Ayn Rand. This lead to artists incorporating Romanticism and Realism, though they seemed more weighed to the Romanticist side of the equation, and is considered more as a branching of the Romanticism movement today.

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