Romanticism branched out of the age of humanism, and was an intellectual, literary, and mostly artistic movement that originated in Europe towards the end of the 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th century and was a revolt against the Neoclassicism which was popular in the previous centuries due to the Age of Enlightenment. The artistic movement rebelled against theoretical tradition. Many artists that participated in this movement drew inspiration from deep, emotional matters which they used as a foundation or starting point for many of their subjects and distinguished artistic styles. In shorter terms, the points that were emphasized in Romanticism were freedom, imagination, and of course emotion. Romanticism is therefore very much related to Realism in certain aspects. A German poet by the name of Friedrich Schlegel was credited for coining the term “romantic” which was used to describe literature in an “emotional matter in an imaginative form.” At the beginning of the 19th century, countries were experiencing, and going through many difficulties.
Napoleon had ravaged many nations and had soaked their fields with much bloodshed. Europe however, was getting it the worst. The people living in Europe were dealing with crisis after crisis. Many were feeling lost, helpless, and generally miserable. There was absolutely no peace, and no order. It was most definitely a time for mourning and anguish. So at this point the Romanticism movement undoubtedly grew, as more people and artists focused on individualism, as opposed to life in society. Because many were individualists, they would obviously spend much time in the wilderness admiring nature then living in urban areas, thus nature was loved and worshipped by many romanticists. One can only imagine the various types of artwork that was produced because of this particular movement. There were more prominent figures or individuals that particularly stood out in the romantically artistic movement.
One of these figures was a German Romantic landscape painter by the name of Caspar David Friedrich. He was born on September 5th 1774, and was known for his symbolic landscapes, and an overwhelming sense of loneliness in his paintings. His landscapes barely or rarely depicted sunlight, and rather they portrayed dense fog, mist or dawn. As he lost more friends and family to death, he would suffer depressive episodes.
These episodes noticeably shifted the themes in his artwork, as he began to use graveyards, ruins, vultures and owls in many of his paintings, which symbolized and hinted at a looming, impending death. Friedrich is considered by many to be the “Edgar-Allen Poe” of art. Another pioneer of the Romantic movement was a influential French artist, painter, and lithographer know as Jean-Louis Andre Theodore Gericault. Initially, Gericault studied Neoclassicism at the Musee du Louvre but eventually found that his capacity to learn, or grow on this subject was lacking, so he left. Many of his paintings feature horses in them because he spent much time in
the stables in Versailles studying the action and anatomy of horses. In is paintings he displayed graceful defeat, savagery, heroism, and of course animal magnificence. One of his most notable paintings is titled, “The Raft of the Medusa.” The painting reflected a French shipwreck which was called “Meduse,” of which its passengers were left to die by the ship’s captain. These however are just some of the distinguished artists that held a prominent role in the Romanticism movement.
Though the American Revolution had taken place, and had their own Romanticism movement, France had been the hot zone when it came to this movement. France had been going through a revolution through out the time the movement was being advertised. As a matter of fact, the revolution seemed to be fueling the movement. This is evident in many pieces of Romantic literature, in which there are signs of effects caused by revolution. It is actually hinted that Romanticism in France was in fact the product of the effects of the revolution. The revolution inspired many Romantic writers, many of which were British, such as Percy Shelley, Lord Byron,William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and many others, as they approved of the revolution and shared the same views regarding it.
And though they all praised the revolution, they each had their own unique ideas regarding it, which can be studied or examined through their work. Furthermore, the movement had its own ideas in general about the overall revolution. When the revolt turned the entire nation in a new direction, many people used the freedom they had acquired to implement just laws to live and abide by, and they also had the freedom to think for themselves without having to be influenced by the society. Before the revolution, the work of artists, poets and writers chiefly dwelled on those who were high in social classes and religious leaderships. However that would soon change. Strengthened and encouraged by the revolution many writers and artists that had been holding in the will to express themselves were finally given the chance to under the new laws implemented by the population.
Romanticism was a crucial movement during the French Revolution, as it helped many cope with the harsh lives they were living, and strike inspiration into the hearts of fellow Romantic pioneers. This movement also paved the way for Realism and as both discussed the depressive realities of life.
“Some people call me sick and twisted. I feel that I’m neither; I am instead a Romantic.” -Kenzie Western