Louis Joseph Watteau’s “The Storm” is more of a romantic painting while Eugene Delacroix’s “The sea of Galilee” is more of a neo-classical painting. Let me begin with Watteau’s “The Storm. ” This painting is a romantic work of art because of the general effect that its appearance brings to its onlookers. The storm is not yet present; it is only foreboding of its eventual coming. Half of the portions of the clouds are still filled with some sunny light but the other half was already covered with some dark clouds, signifying the threat of an upcoming storm.
Below the clouds, we see some people working, doing some farm work while the weather is still quite good and the storm is not yet pouring. They are maximizing the time doing what needs to be done as perhaps they cannot afford to put off the peasant’s work. Looking more closely at the painting, we will see that what unassumingly takes the center of the canvas is a tree that is slightly tilted and is seemingly bald with the verdure of luscious leaves. The fading light of the sun reflects itself on the awkwardly standing tree, emphasizing its lanky stems and its listless stature.
From what we can see on the surface, this painting by Watteau typifies the characteristics of a Romantic painting and the moods of the Romantic Movement in general. The Romantic Ideal frolics and jubilates on the meadows of individualism, emotions and nature. It also promotes the subjective moods of the individuals and the eschewal of reason in favor of intuition and imagination. The Romantic Movement, whether in literature or visual arts, is said to have three primary cults: the cult of the individual, the cult of emotion and the cult of nature.
It is a reaction towards the rapid rise of Science which espoused rational and utilitarian thinking. Specifically, it stemmed from the abrupt social change which was trail blazed by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The movement called for a retreat towards nature to regain the loss substance of humanity which was caused by the arrival of machines and other technologies. The Romantic also looks into the human nature – the human tendencies and behaviors and his reactions towards his surroundings.
While science tried hard to explain the origins of things and the rationale of their existence, the Romantics focused on man’s experience and his engagement with the world where he resides. The Romantic also probes the folk culture, the national and ethnic origins, the exotic, the occult and the diseased – the areas which Science and rational thinking consciously chose to avoid. In “The storm,” we can notice that the focus is not on the people but on the images of nature – the awkwardly standing tree and the clouds.
There is an element of being diseased in the people, as they were toiling hard for their livelihood. However, this element was put into the background as we were more primarily led to notice the bleak image of nature. Despite the threats of an upcoming storm, as visualized in the appearance of the clouds, the people keep on working. The striving of the people only depicts the endless struggle between the intention to achieve perfection and the limitations of man. Even though the people know that a storm is forthcoming, they do not stop from working until it arrives.
The cult of nature is likewise evident. In this insular setting, we can see nature stripped off extravagant portrayals. This is nature at its barest form. There were not so many colors; in fact the hues of brown and orange were the dominant hues in this picture. The painting limns nature as it is, without exaggerations and attempts to be swanky. Meanwhile, “Sea of Galilee” is a Neoclassical painting as looking at it will likely bring into mind the paintings of the Classical times.
It is reminiscent of the visual arts existent during the times of Ancient Greeks and Romans. What we can see in this work of Delacroix is a dark background and a seemingly fragmented landscape. The group of people riding the ship was marked by a sense of defeat as the ship was faltering against the ravaging weather. The sails are beginning to get shattered as it travels below the dark clouds and above the dark grey ocean. The people in the ship are trying their best to save themselves and the ship they are riding.
Obviously, they were facing a tough situation and in order to triumph, an earnest, concerted effort must be put. The neoclassical painting goes back to the lost luminescence of the Classical paintings during the Ancient civilization. It incorporates every element that can be possibly used to recast the Classical. They reused the Classical styles, recalled the Classical themes and reinterpreted the Classical subjects. By doing that, they lead in pushing forth the resurgence of the loss tradition and rendering them in slightly new, and better forms.
With the advances in techniques and artistic devices, the Neoclassical extends the Classical by attempting to render their arts and make their interpretations of their subjects in a more accurate manner. Majority of these subjects have references to history and mythology. As we can see in this dominantly dark painting, there is much emphasis on the quality of lines that the elements of color and atmosphere were quite downplayed. It also has a tendency to appear as simplistic as possible. We can see the elements of the people, the straggling ship with its breaking sails and the dark sea.
With just three elements incorporated in the painting, it was able to convey a strong idea – man’s being caught in the thick of a wide adventure that is life and encountering tough challenges where a mettlesome character is needed to attain victory. References Antal, Frederick. (1966). Classicism and romanticism: with other studies in art history. London : Routledge Irwin, David G. (1966). English neoclassical art: studies in inspiration and taste. London: Faber. Sypher, Wylie, ed. (1963). Art history: an anthology of modern criticism. New York: Vintage Books.
Courtney from Study Moose