Romanticism 1770 – 1850

Dominant cultural tendency in the Western world in the late 18th and early 19th centuries It caused a re-evaluation of the nature of art and the role of the artist in society Significantly, from the 1790s it was a self-proclaimed movement, the first such, and so initiated a tradition that has remained in Western culture since Romanticism was rejected or ignored by most of the major artists later seen as associated with it, but it nevertheless identified several key tendencies of the period Though hard to define precisely, it essentially involves: 1) placing emotion and intuition before (or at least on an equal footing with) reason; 2) a belief that there are crucial areas of experience neglected by the rational mind; and 3) a belief in the general importance of the individual, the personal and the subjective In fact it embodies a critique of that faith in progress and rationality that had characterized the main trend of Western thought and action since the Renaissance

Romanticism (also the Romantic era or the Romantic period) was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850 Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, and the natural sciences It had a significant and complex effect on politics, and while for much of the Romantic period it was associated with liberalism and radicalism, its long-term effect on the growth of nationalism was perhaps more significant

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The movement emphasized intense emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as apprehension, horror and terror, and awe—especially that experienced in confronting the new aesthetic categories of the sublimity and beauty of nature It elevated folk art and ancient custom to something noble, but also spontaneity as a desirable characteristic (as in the musical impromptu) In contrast to the Rationalism and Classicism of the Enlightenment, Romanticism revived medievalism and elements of art and narrative perceived as authentically medieval in an attempt to escape population growth, early urban sprawl, and industrialism

Although the movement was rooted in the German Sturm und Drang movement, which preferred intuition and emotion to the rationalism of the Enlightenment, the events and ideologies of the French Revolution were also proximate factors Romanticism assigned a high value to the achievements of “heroic” individualists and artists, whose examples, it maintained, would raise the quality of society It also promoted the individual imagination as a critical authority allowed of freedom from classical notions of form in art There was a strong recourse to historical and natural inevitability, a Zeitgeist, in the representation of its ideas In the second half of the 19th century, Realism was offered as a polar opposite to Romanticism The decline of Romanticism during this time was associated with multiple processes, including social and political changes and the spread of nationalism

In the visual arts, Romanticism first showed itself in landscape painting, where from as early as the 1760s British artists began to turn to wilder landscapes and storms, and Gothic architecture, even if they had to make do with Wales as a setting Caspar David Friedrich and J M W Turner were born less than a year apart in 1774 and 1775 respectively and were to take German and English landscape painting to their extremes of Romanticism, but both their artistic sensibilities were formed when forms of Romanticism was already strongly present in art John Constable, born in 1776, stayed closer to the English landscape tradition, but in his largest “six-footers” insisted on the heroic status of a patch of the working countryside where he had grown up—challenging the traditional hierarchy of genres, which relegated landscape painting to a low status Turner also painted very large landscapes, and above all, seascapes Some of these large paintings had contemporary settings and staffage, but others had small figures that turned the work into history painting in the manner of Claude Lorrain, like Salvator Rosa a late Baroque artist whose landscapes had elements that Romantic painters repeatedly turned to Friedrich often used single figures, or features like crosses, set alone amidst a huge landscape, “making them images of the transitoriness of human life and the premonition of death”