Classicism 1590 – 1800

Term referring to a web of ideas, attitudes and traditions derived from but not wholly dependent on a respect for and a close study of the literary and/or artistic activities of the ancient Greeks and Romans The aim of classicism, in all media, has been to construct an ideal vision and version of human experience that should inspire and instruct by its nobility, authority, rationality and truth (of which beauty may be considered a visible manifestation), and to provide convincing models for imitation The process started within the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations themselves, but the term classicism refers to the activity of generations succeeding the Greeks and Romans, who admired and sometimes imitated or reused antique works—plays, statues, temples, vases and the rest These admirers of antiquity studied what the ancients wrote about their own art and literature and the purposes these should serve in society Convinced that art is governed by reason, they sought to discover in the antique systems of measurement and proportion the means by which to attain beauty Finally, later generations attempted to rebuild a complete image of the antique past from the evidence of surviving works that offered a far from complete picture of what the Greeks and Romans produced

Classicism, in the arts, refers generally to a high regard for a classical period, classical antiquity in the Western tradition, as setting standards for taste which the classicists seek to emulate The art of classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained: of the Discobolus Sir Kenneth Clark observed, “if we object to his restraint and compression we are simply objecting to the classicism of classic art A violent emphasis or a sudden acceleration of rhythmic movement would have destroyed those qualities of balance and completeness through which it retained until the present century its position of authority in the restricted repertoire of visual images” Classicism, as Clark noted, implies a canon of widely accepted ideal forms, whether in the Western canon that he was examining in The Nude (1956), or the literary Chinese classics or Chinese art, where the revival of classic styles is also a recurring feature

[pt_view id=”e0a7c07agv”]

Classicism is a force which is often present in post-medieval European and European influenced traditions; however, some periods felt themselves more connected to the classical ideals than others, particularly the Age of Enlightenment, when Neoclassicism was an important movement in the visual arts

Classicism is a specific genre of philosophy, expressing itself in literature, architecture, art, and music, which has Ancient Greek and Roman sources and an emphasis on society It was particularly expressed in the Neoclassicism of the Age of Enlightenment

Classicism is a recurrent tendency in the Late Antique period, and had a major revival in Carolingian and Ottonian art There was another, more durable revival in the Italian renaissance when the fall of Byzantium and rising trade with the Islamic cultures brought a flood of knowledge about, and from, the antiquity of Europe Until that time the identification with antiquity had been seen as a continuous history of Christendom from the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine I Renaissance classicism introduced a host of elements into European culture, including the application of mathematics and empiricism into art, humanism, literary and depictive realism, and formalism Importantly it also introduced Polytheism, or “paganism”, and the juxtaposition of ancient and modern

The classicism of the Renaissance led to, and gave way to, a different sense of what was “classical” in the 16th and 17th centuries In this period classicism took on more overtly structural overtones of orderliness, predictability, the use of geometry and grids, the importance of rigorous discipline and pedagogy, as well as the formation of schools of art and music The court of Louis XIV was seen as the center of this form of classicism, with its references to the gods of Olympus as a symbolic prop for absolutism, its adherence to axiomatic and deductive reasoning, and its love of order and predictability

Italian Renaissance painting and sculpture are marked by their renewal of classical forms, motifs and subjects In the 15th century Leon Battista Alberti was important in theorizing many of the ideas for painting that came to a fully realised product with Raphael’s School of Athens during the High Renaissance The themes continued largely unbroken into the 17th century, when artists such as Nicolas Poussin and Charles Le Brun represented of the more rigid classicism Like Italian classicizing ideas in the 15th and 16th centuries, it spread through Europe in the mid to late 17th century