Today’s post is dedicated to Romanticism, a movement born in the late eighteenth century as a reaction to the order and perfection of rival Neoclassicism. Romanticism in art, however, reached its maximum representation only after 1800. And above all for each European nation it was characterized in a different way, due to the choice of themes or characteristics of the works.
THE THEMES of Romanticism in art
The main theme of the works of this period are emotions. Romantic artists move away from the concepts of logical and rational, and express feelings that were previously left aside. Movement, color and drama become the center of their works. The world for Romantics is a world of inner forces and nature, which are often destructive and almost always beyond the reach of man to control. And in contrast to this nature, man is small, vulnerable and in danger.
Themes such as melancholy and disturbing subjects that underline the fragility of the human being in the face of a hostile world become characteristic of the works of Fuseli, Blake and Goya. Theirs is a universe of extreme emotions: horror, dreams and violence. Supernatural forces that are beyond human understanding or sometimes control. Romanticism is welcomed and carried forward by artists who want to redefine the figure and of man and the role of art in a world that is facing great changes. With the French Revolution of 1789 and the advent of Napoleon Bonaparte, European artists felt the need to create works full of ambiguity and chaos. This was also in response to the ideals of the Enlightenment that wanted science and rationality at the basis of the perception of the world.
The origins of Romanticism
But despite this rebellion against the order of Neoclassicism, the art produced by the first Romantic artists such as Fussli and his contemporaries still uses the stereotypes of antiquity with the only difference that the bodies are distorted in improbable positions and particularly gestures. dramatic. The first romantic artists are influenced by witchcraft, dreams and apparitions, but above all by emotions. Strong and accentuated emotions. As in the works of the English artist William Blake.
And the historical period that becomes a reference for romantic artists is the Middle Ages understood as a primitive world, instinctive and made up of passions. This leads to the birth of the Gothic revival in architecture, but also to the involvement of artists in the struggles for political and social freedom. Contrary to what happened for Neoclassicism, where classical Greek and Roman art was exalted as the maximum expression of man’s artistic ability.
The characteristics of Romanticism in art
From the point of view of the composition of the works, the art of the nineteenth century has always been considered complex. On the one hand there is the construction of the work through the line for Neoclassicism with artists such as Ingres. And on the other, the extreme use of color for Romanticism with Delacroix.
Depending on the nation and over the years, the themes of Romanticism have gradually evolved. In France , rebellion, but above all human freedom, is for example a fundamental theme. In The Raft of the Medusa ‘s Gericault there are no compromises: the battle against death can be seen as a heroic gesture or a total failure. In this case, a real event is told, not a supernatural episode.
And another French artist who has remained in the history of Romanticism is Eugène Delacroix. His most famous work is Freedom Leading the People. From here we understand how the political theme is at the center of the works for the French, while the German and English artists are more linked to the landscape and to the relationship between man and nature.
work The traveler above the sea of fog artist German Friedrich is as if the viewer were inside the storm to make him feel the same emotions as the painted character. And another example of landscape in Romanticism are the works of theEnglish artist William Turner. They are abstract paintings where sensations are transmitted through the colors and swirls of his storms.
In Italy, however, the ideals of Romanticism are aligned with those of the Risorgimento and the political role of art. The greatest exponent of this movement is Hayez, with works such as the Kiss, of which there are several versions including one with a white dress that I was lucky enough to see exhibited a few years ago in Trieste at the Miramare castle. Another instead is kept in the Brera Art Gallery.
The artist-genius of Romanticism
The art of Romanticism is therefore based on the values of the individual and of sentiment. And in this period the myth of theartist-genius is formed, which is opposed to the rules of society.
In Spain, the greatest exponent is one of my favorite artists Francisco Goya. Many of his works can be found in the Prado Museum in Madrid, one of the museums not to be missed if you visit the city. Goya, like the early Romantics, often uses supernatural themes or themes from ancient religions, but always to describe society’s problems or human emotions. For example, between 1819 and 1823 it is said that he decorated his house with 14 murals on terrifying themes. Like the famous Saturn devouring his children, dedicated to the Greek myth.
But at the same time, like the French artists, he too dedicates himself to the theme of political rebellion and human freedom as in the work on May 3, 1808 where he recounts the fear and strength of the Spanish rebels who are killed by French soldiers . Once again a Romantic artist has put human emotions at the center of the work, making the horror of death experience firsthand.
With the advent of the Second Industrial Revolution in the mid-nineteenth century and the ever greater diffusion of the Academies, Romanticism in art will begin to give way to other movements. And it will no longer be only man with his emotions to be at the center of the works but also the world around him and the representation of nature, as we will discover with the Impressionists.