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Art of the Romanticism Era

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Romanticism was an artistic and intellectual movement in the history of ideas that originated in late 18th century Western Europe. It stressed strong emotionÐ'--which now might include trepidation, awe and horror as esthetic experiencesÐ'--the individual imagination as a critical authority, which permitted freedom within or even from classical notions of form in art, and overturning of previous social conventions, particularly the position of the aristocracy. There was a strong element of historical and natural inevitability in its ideas, stressing the importance of "nature" in art and language. Romanticism is also noted for its elevation of the achievements of what it perceived as heroic individuals and artists. It followed the Enlightenment period and was in part inspired by a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms from the previous period, as well as seeing itself as the fulfillment of the promise of that age. Romanticism cannot be identified with a single style, technique, or attitude, but Romantic painting is generally characterized by a highly imaginative and subjective approach, emotional intensity, and a dream-like or visionary quality (Romanticism art, 2005).

Artist: Caspar David Friedrich

Title: Couple Gazing at the Moon

Date: 1807

Medium: oil on canvas

The artist Caspar David Friedrich utilizes poetic themes in his representations of nature. The artist is not interested in exact replication of a scene as it exists in nature, but rather the artist hopes to represent the supernatural quality of nature. The artist represents two figures shrouded in shadow gazing out into a luminous moon-filled landscape. The artist uses rich color to represent both the landscape and the figural forms choosing subtle gradations of these colors to give forms to the figures and the darkened landscape. The moon is depicted as a sky-filled luminosity rather than a specific radiant ball of light. This expansive iridescent light makes the moon a landscape atmosphere rather than a specific light source. Its radiance is supernatural and spiritual.

Friedrich's melancholy and symbolic compositions were singular expressions of the significance of landscape. His use of unusual, often eerie, light effects unified the mood of his works. His approach was a solitary one and his influence was not great, although he taught from 1816 until his death. Such works as Capuchin Friar by the Sea, Man and Woman Gazing at the Moon (both: Berlin), and Two Men Contemplating the Moon (c.1830, Metropolitan Mus. of Art, New York City) typically project his mystical and pantheistic attitude toward nature.

Artist: John Constable

Title: The Hay Wain

Date: 1821

Medium: oil on canvas

The Hay Wain by John Constable is probably one of the most famous of all English paintings. John Constable was born in East Bergholt, Suffolk, England in 1776. Initially his father, Golding Constable wanted young John to join him is his prosperous corn business. By 1799 however it was obvious that John loved nothing more than drawing, so he was given an allowance to study at the Royal Academy in London. Constable became famous for his landscapes of Suffolk, Hampstead, Salisbury, and Brighton. Landscapes were not considered very important in his day, so he had to produce a few portraits for his income. Influenced by the 17th-century landscape painters Ruisdael and Claude Lorrain, his poetic approach to nature paralleled in spirit that of his contemporary, the poet Wordsworth. Constable's direct observations of nature and his free use of broken color were extraordinary in his day. The Haywain was done in 1821. The work was based on many sketches he had produced, many of which still survive. In 1824 The Haywain was exhibited in Paris, where it won a gold medal. The painting caused a stir amongst the French art critics, who were astonished by its freshness.

Artist: Joseph M. W. Turner

Title: Moonlight

Date: 1840

Medium: Watercolor with dabs of body color on canvas

One of the finest landscape artists was Joseph M. W. Turner, whose work was exhibited when he was still a teenager. His entire life was devoted to his art. Unlike many artists of his era, he was successful throughout his career. Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in London, England in 1775. His father was a barber. His mother died when he was very young. The boy received little schooling. His father taught him how to read, but this was the extent of his education except for the study of art. By the age of 13 he was making drawings at home and exhibiting them in his father's shop window for sale.

Turner was 15 years old when he received a rare honor--one of his paintings was exhibited at the Royal Academy. By the time he was 18 he had his own studio. Before he was 20 print sellers were eagerly buying his drawings



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