Art comes in many forms. From the mind-boggling adventures of Surrealism to the beautiful landscapes of the Hudson River School, every genre of art has its own unique appeal. One of the most mystifying, emotional, and beautiful genres is Romanticism.
The word romantic comes from 18th -century English, and originally meant “romance-like”, referring to anything resembling fanciful medieval romances. Later on, the word evolved into an association with the newly emerged hunger of the populace for wild scenery, ruins, and sublime prospects. This hunger stemmed from an emphasis in the art world on the sublime instead of the beautiful. Writer and statesman Edmund Burke thought of beauty as “delicacy and harmony”, and viewed the sublime as “vastness, obscurity, and a capacity to inspire terror”. In the 18th century, reason was abandoned for emotion in both literature and ethics. The leaders in this ‘Emotional Evolution’ were French novelist Jean Jacques Rousseau, English poet and painter William Blake and the Spanish artist Francisco Goya.
In France, romanticism went through its early stages at the same time as the Napoleonic Wars were fought (1799-1815). The first French romantics were inspired by the events of
In Wounded Cuirassier (1814) Gericault uses powerful brushstrokes and light and dark shades add to the isolation and vulnerability of a soldier as he limps off the field, rising smoke and clouds seeming to distort his figure. John Constable, instead of using wild landscapes as many other artists and poets did, infused quiet English landscapes with profound feeling. Polar Sea (1824) most directly expresses his romantic pessimism; the remains of a wrecked ship are barely visible beneath a pyramid of ice slabs that seems like a monument to the triumph of nature over humanity. However, English romantics were more creative and innovative in both style and technique. This genre of art is no doubt influencing people all over the world; not only artists, but also poets, musicians, and authors. Delacroix took some of his subjects from literature, but instead of just representing literature, he tried to go beyond the limits of literature by using color to create pure energy and emotion that he compared to music. Constable was the first English artist to work in the open air, and he found a fresh vision through luminous colors and bold brushstrokes. Turner became known for the most radical vision of any romantic artist. Gericault took dramatic color and emotion to the extreme, and switched the emphasis of battle paintings from heroism to pain and suffering. A group called the Nazarenes, who made an attempt to mirror medieval religious art, formed another school of German romanticism; its leader was Johann Friedrich Overbeck. The greatest product of this guild was Caspar David Friedrich, who painted landscapes in a lucid and meticulous style, combining a mystical feeling and melancholy solitude and estrangement. Antoine Jean Gros went from neoclassicism to romanticism by abandoning the sober style of his teacher and embracing the influence of the colorful and emotional style used by Flemish baroque painter Peter Paul Reubens. The driving force for French romanticism was Theodore Gericault.