Romanticism Notes

1815 – 1850
A. Revolutions
1. Industrial Revolution
2. Urbanization
3. Nationalism
 Greek War for Independence (from Ottoman Turks)
 German aspiration for unity
B. 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.
A. Root of the term Romanticism
1. Romanticism got its name from a revived interest in medieval tales of
chivalry and adventures called romances.
B. 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
2. Color
 Color is more important than line
Deep rich shades
3. Emotion
 “Feeling is all!”
 Imagination
4. Other interest
 Heroic struggles against the odds, fighting against the
 Spontaneity and creativity
 Nonconformist
III. GERICAULT and the beginning of Romantic art
A. 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
2. The incompetent captain was a nobleman who gained his position
through political influence. He had not sailed in 25 years.
3. 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
4. 149 men and 1 woman built a makeshift raft measuring on 20 feet by 60
feet; the raft was adrift for 13 days
5. Prodded by hunger, thirst, and alcohol, the struggle between the men
began. Within a few days half of the original 150 survivors were dead
6. Only 15 survived the horrendous circumstances, and instances of
cannibalism and insanity were reported. Five more died on reaching land.
B. 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
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.
C. 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
2. A blood-stained ax – the only reference to the horrific cannibalism
described by the survivors
D. 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.
2. Artistic impact
Romantic passion was, for the first time, clearly visible. Gericault
captured not some idealized form from the past, but contemporary
Instead of painting scenes from academic history, Romantic art
could portray individual emotional concerns
E. 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
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
A. 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.
B. 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
2. 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
 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.
C. 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.
2. The Painting
 Writhing figures are organized along a rising diagonal leading to
 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
D. 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
E. 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
F. 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
V. HENRY FUSELI (1741-1825)
A. 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.
B. 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
C. 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.
VI. WILLIAM BLAKE (1757 – 1827)
A. 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
B. Ancient of Days
1. Recall, Michelangelo’s portrayal of God in the Sistine Ceiling (G626)
2. Now look at Blake’s portrayal of God (G-829)
 “When he set a compass upon the face of the deep.” Proverbs
 The Almighty leans forward from a fiery orb
 Twin rays of light emerge between his spread fingers like an
architect’s measuring instrument
A. 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
B. 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
C. 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.”
D. Abbey in the Oak Forest
1. A procession of monks carry a coffin towards a desolate Gothic ruin
2. Emblems of death are everywhere – the season’s desolation,
tombstones, black clothing worn by the monks, the skeletal trees,
and the ruined church
3. 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
A. 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
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.
B. Landscape painting before Constable
1. Jacob van Ruisdael – scenes of the Dutch countryside – G-727
2. Claude Lorraine (1600 – 1682) – idealized classical landscapes (G –
C. 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.
2. 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.
3. The Hay Wain – The hay wain is being directed to the ford that
leads to the reapers in the distance.
4. 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.
5. A splash of red – Red is a complementary color to green and so
intensifies its effect
6. 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.
7. 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.
A. 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
B. 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
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
3. Hudson River School artists also participated in the ongoing issue of
American’s MANIFEST DESTINY to spread American civilization
across the continent.
Romanticism 10
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.
2. 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
Pristine and untainted nature waiting for Americans
1. Another American painter associated with the Hudson River School
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
A. Brief Background on Goya
Romanticism 11
1. Famous Spanish painter who was influenced by the work of Diego
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
5. Financially successful and famous
6. Becomes very sick and loses his hearing
7. 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
8. 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
B. Key Works
1. The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, from Los Caprichos (ca.
 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
2. Royal Commissions
Romanticism 12
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.
3. 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.”
4. 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
 The church in shown in darkness in the distance powerless to
help the Spanish
5. Goya’s Black Paintings
Romanticism 13
Goya became increasingly disillusioned and pessimistic
Among his later works were a series known as the Black
Drawn on the walls of farmhouse and created solely for
himself, these works reveal a terrifying and disturbing
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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