Dissecting Neoclassical, Romantic and Modern Art 

Art is but conjecture. It begins with a man or woman creating. Whether rendering the work for themselves or to share with the world, they must make multiple decisions. One of those choices is the projection of style. The design of the artist’s handiwork will determine an audience and who may or may not be drawn to their work. The painters of the Neoclassical, Romanic and the Modern eras faced this decision each time they began to create. Though methods were evolving with every art movement, some found inspiration from the past, while others were forging new paths to the future.

Motivated by the art of ancient Greece and Rome, Neoclassicism began in the 1750s (Chilvers). In 1789, Jacques-Louis David painted Intervention of the Sabine Women. In true Neoclassicism form, the painting depicts a scene whose focal point is in Rome (Chilvers). As the tale goes, a group of Sabine women were taken by Roman men in a scrupulous way. Their relatives tried to retrieve the women, but by the time an attempted rescue could be made they had married and started families with many of the Roman men.

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The painting reflects the battle that brewed, and the women and children caught in the middle of the turmoil.

Intervention of the Sabine Women also reflects the Neoclassical feature considered at the time as conservatism (“Introduction to Neoclassicism”). During this period artists and society in general believed there were rules socially that everyone should follow. Everything had a reason, and there was really no spontaneity.

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It was believed that human nature was to adapt to what was considered normal behavior at the time, not individually but as a group. This was a period also referred to as the Age of Reason (“Introduction to Neoclassicism”). This reflected in David’s painting style. He was a very clean and precise artist. Lines were drawn clearly, shading was used neatly, and everything was placed intentionally on the canvas (“Neoclassicism, an Introduction”). Like the times itself, David’s painting style showcased in Intervention of the Sabine Women was organized, unemotional and required no use of imagination to decipher. It was orderly in a sensible way, as that was what was expected of him and culture during this time.

When reflecting on the painting itself, we see both limitation due to the lack of technology advances in paints and we see a heavy Greek style influence (“Neoclassical and Romantic Painting”). During this age there were not a lot of color options, so the affect is flat and lacks vibrancy. Though not vivid, this masterpiece gives homage to beauty in the human body. Men are naked except for their Roman war garb. Women are revealing their breast, or they are vagally hidden under thin clothing. The attire that is depicted in Intervention of the Sabine Women is reminiscent of the Roman times. The central woman in the figure has on a white, flowing dress with folds influenced by a past generation, clearly representing a time and style that could only be described as Neoclassical.

During the age of Neoclassicism, a new period of art rooted. It was called Romanticism. It began at a time that was influenced the American and French revolutions (“Introduction to Romanticism”). It was during this era that Eugene Delacroix painted Massacre at Chios. He, like many artist, began to focus more on individuality. Where Neoclassicism art focused on order, Romanticism was more relaxed. Lines were not as important as colors, and painters like Delacroix wanted the observer of their art to feel an emotional connection to the theme. Thanks to technological advancements in the transformation of pigments, artists no longer had to sketch in the field, and paint in the studio (“Neoclassical and Romantic Painting”). Color options that had not been possible years earlier, were now easily accessible and thanks to the invention of tin, could be transported easily in small tubes (“Neoclassical and Romantic Painting”). The rules and constraint that came along with Neoclassicism began to be replaced by daring unrestraint (“Romanticism”). While the painting Massacre at Chios, still had some visual traits influenced by it’s predecessor, attitudes were changing and so were techniques and times.

Massacre at Chios was based on an actual battle that took place in the early 19th century. It tells the story of a rebellion by the Greeks who were revolting against the Ottoman Empire. The Empire had invaded islands in the Mediterranean Sea that had been inhabited by the Greeks. The Greeks were ready to reclaim what they believed to be theirs. While Intervention of the Sabine Women also depicted war, it did not incite the emotion of Massacre at Chios. The latter was painted by Delacroix with the purpose of inciting a reaction. The work was the definition of symbolism, meant to bring focus to the French revolution and throw in peoples face a reminder of the sacrifices, death and destruction that war can cause. Delacroix shined a spotlight on a subject that previously would not have been addressed. Where emotion had once been ignored, Delacroix believed it needed to be emphasized and spotlighted. Artist at this time actively considered feelings, perception and reasoning important to society and the betterment of it (“Introduction to Romanticism”). Massacre at Chios is a culmination of all thing defined as Romanticism.

When reflecting on the painting itself, evident is the variation in color that once would not have been possible giving way to backgrounds that were move poignant than ever before. As in pure Romantic style, lines are not sharp and even some blurring occurs. While we still see nakedness, it is not as statuesque and beautiful as previously depicted in the Neoclassical era. There are no heroes in this story, only sadness, death and a bit of chaos that lends it’s influence solely to the Romanticism era in art.

Beginning in the 1900’s, changes in what was human nature began a transformation in society that influenced the arts (“Modernism: Introduction”). Paintings were still being influenced by the world around but seemed to be filtered in a way that was reflected more by those considered to be intellectuals. During this time referred to as the Modern era, Pablo Picasso painted Guernica. Though produced in a time of great technical advancements not only in art but the world, Picasso chose a simple black and white contrast. Where in the past, shading, distinct lines and homages to cultural paintings of the past where the norm, Modernistic painters chose angles that balked normal convention to express their ideas (“Modernism: Introduction”). Culturally times had shifting from a sense of society, to individualism, culminating in the Modernism era to a sense of loneliness and isolation. Past customs where being left behind and artist of this era were leading the charge of change (“Modernism: Introduction”).

While Guernica, like the two afore mentioned paintings, is based on an actual even of war, it is portrayed in a chaotic way cemented in the modernistic movement. There are no rules, no patterns, no perfect Greek bodies of beauty. The artwork reflects the awareness and the emotion of Picasso. He used his feelings to passionately portray death and pandemonium inflicted on a small town in Spain that was recently bombed during an attack during the Spanish Civil War. As was common in this period of painting, symbolism runs rapid through Guernica. In his passion, Picasso is shining a light on cruelty in humanity, hoping like many others at the time to influence a new social order that would encompass hope and values.

Though artistic methods were evolving with every art movement, some found inspiration from the past, while others were forging new paths to the future. The artist of the Neoclassical, Romanticism and Modernism eras were very influential and made decisions in style that not only influences society but demonstrated the changing culture at the time. Though art, through the eye of the artist and viewer is and always will be conjecture, it all starts with a man or a woman creating.

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Dissecting Neoclassical, Romantic and Modern Art . (2022, Jun 07). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/dissecting-neoclassical-romantic-and-modern-art-essay

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