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Art of the Enlightenment and Neoclassical Art. William Hunter Child in Womb from Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus 1774.

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William Hunter

Child in Wombfrom Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus



Two ways in which European art was changed as a result of the scientific and technological advances made from the end of the eighteenth through the early nineteenth centuries

Increased practice of dissection led to the anatomical artist’s skill becoming a specialty and anatomical drawings an instrument for the education of surgeons.

The theories and inventions of the Industrial Revolution could be elevated to the plane of history painting, as in Joseph Wright of Derby’s works.

Age of Enlightenment

A new way of thinking critically about the world and about humankind, independent of religion, myth, or tradition, and instead based on using reason to reflect on the results of physical experiments. In the arts, this new way of thinking can be seen in the general term “modern” used to describe the art from the eighteenth century on, indicating an awareness of history and the idea of being up-to-date.


Wright of Derby’s Philosopher Giving a Lecture at the Orrery reflects the scientific view of the universe by the light from the lamp, representing the sun, pours forth from in front of the boy silhouetted in the front of the picture. The metal orbs in the orrery represent the planets. Everyone in the painting is caught up in the wonders of scientific knowledge.

Joseph Wright of Derby

A Philosopher Giving a Lecture at the Orrery

ca. 1763-1765oil on canvas4 ft. 10 in. x 6 ft. 8 in.


The type of lighting that was often used by Joseph Wright of Derby was usually a single light from within the picture, candlelight, and moonlight.

Joseph Wright of Derby

Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump

1768oil on canvas6 x 8 ft.


The Coalbrookdale bridge was the first bridge that used iron. Iron allowed a bridge to span a much greater distance than wood and to carry heavier volumes.

Abraham Darby III and Thomas E. Pritchard

Iron Bridge at Coalbrookdale

Coalbrookdale, England



Voltaire was the most representative figure of the Enlightenment, Voltaire was instrumental in introducing Newton and Locke to the French intelligentsia. His writings protested against government persecution of the freedom of thought and religion.

Jean-Antoine Houdon


1781marbleapproximately life-size


According to Rousseau, The arts, sciences, society, and civilization in general had corrupted the “natural man”

His views differ from those of Voltaire in that Voltaire thought that the salvation of humanity was in the advancement of science and in the rational improvement of society. Rousseau thought that humanity’s salvation lay in a return to something like “the ignorance, innocence, and happiness” of its original condition.

Rousseau’s views were largely responsible for the turning away from the Rococo sensibility and the formation of a taste for the “natural,” as opposed to the artificial.


Sentimentality and moralizing are obvious traits of the work of the French

painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze.

Jean-Baptiste Greuze

The Village Bride

1761oil on canvas3 ft. x 3 ft. 10 1/2 in.


The social class of the majority of Chardin’s patrons came from the bourgeoisie.

His work appeal to them because the peasants are happy because happiness is the reward of “natural” virtue. They preferred narratives that taught moral lessons, dismissing the frivolities and indecent subjects of the Rococo.

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin

Grace at Table

1740oil on canvas1 ft. 7 in. x 1 ft. 3 in.


Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin

The Soap Bubble

ca. 1739oil on canvas61 x 63 cm


The French painter Elisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrune specialized in portraits of nobility.

In contrast to Rococo artificiality, the style of her self-portrait can be described as “Natural,” self-confidence of a woman who has won herself an independent role in her society, close-up and intimate.

Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun


1790oil on canvas8 ft. 4 in. x 6 ft. 9 in.


Adélaide Labille-Guiard

Self-Portrait with Two Pupils

1785oil on canvas6 ft. 11 in. x 4 ft. 11 1/2 in.


Satires of contemporary life was the subject matter did Hogarth work.

William Hogarth

Breakfast Scene from Marriage à la Mode

ca. 1745oil on canvas2 ft. 4 in. x 3 ft.


Although Gainsborough preferred to paint landscapes, he is best known for his portraits.


Soft-hued light, feathery brushwork, interest in the natural, the innocent, and the pastoral. He began as a landscape painter and incorporated landscape elements into his portraits.

The genre in which Gainsborough’s portraits belonged was called Grand Manner portraiture.

Thomas Gainsborough

Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan

1787oil on canvas7 ft. 2 5/8 in. x 5 ft. 5/8 in.


The type of portraits that Sir Joshua Reynolds was most famous for were contemporaries who participated in the great events of the latter part of the century, including military hero portraits.

Sir Joshua Reynolds

Lady Sarah Bunbury Sacrificing to the Graces

1765oil on canvas7 ft. 10 in. x 5 ft.


Sir Joshua Reynolds

Lord Heathfield

1787oil on canvas4 ft. 8 in. x 3 ft. 9 in.


Charles Wilson Peale

George Washington

ca. 1779-81oil on canvas95 x 61 3/4 in.


Benjamin West was an American painter who was influential in the Anglo-American school of history painting

Benjamin West

The Death of General Wolfe

1771oil on canvasapproximately 5 x 7 ft.


Copley’s portrait of Paul Revere differs from contemporary British and continental portraits in that unlike Grand Manner portraiture, Copley’s portrait conveys a sense of directness and faithfulness to visual fact that marked the taste for “downrightness” and plainness many associated with America.

John Singleton Copley

Portrait of Paul Revere

ca. 1768-1770oil on canvas2 ft. 11 1/8 in. x 2 ft. 4 in.


A veduta painting are “Views” of Venice, painted to sell to British visitors.


dome of the Chapel of Saint Ivo College of the Sapienza

Rome, Italy

begun 1642


Neoclassicism was stimulated by the excavation of the Roman cities of

Herculaneum and Pompeii in the mid18th century.

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 BCE enabled modern scholars to learn so much about life in a Roman town


Angelica Kauffmann combined Rococo and Neoclassicism in her work.

Angelica Kauffmann

Mother of the Gracchi

ca. 1785oil on canvas3 ft. 4 in. x 4 ft. 2 in.


Jean-Antoine Houdon


1778marble18 7/8 in. high


Jean-Antoine Houdon

George Washington

1788-92marble6 ft. 2 in. high


Two Neoclassical stylistic features that are found in that work:

It deals with a narrative of patriotism and sacrifice from Roman history.

It is painted with force and clarity.

The importance of the subject matter in the Oath of the Horatii is that the leaders of two warring cities decide to resolve the cities’ conflicts by sending their sons to fight as representatives. The active, forceful forms of the men, associated with the Enlightenment, contrast with the curvilinear shapes of the distraught women. It marked a revolutionary change from the feminine Rococo to the masculine Neoclassical.

Jacques-Louis David

Oath of the Horatii

1784oil on canvasapproximately 11 x 14 ft.


Jacques-Louis David

Death of Socrates

1787oil on canvas51 x 77 1/4 in.


Politics behind David’s Death of Marat:

In 1793 Jean-Paul Marat, a friend of David’s and a revolutionary radical and writer, was assassinated in the bath by a member of a rival political faction. Narrative details like the knife and the wound are composed to sharpen the sense of pain and outrage and to confront viewers with the scene. It presented Marat to the French people as a tragic martyr who died in the service of the state. The painting functions as an “altarpiece” to the new civic “religion.”

Jacques-Louis David

The Death of Marat

1793oil on canvasapproximately 5 ft. 3 in. x 4 ft. 1 in.


Jacques-Louis David

Napoleon at St. Bernard’s Pass

1800oil on canvas9 ft. 11 1/2 in. x 7 ft. 2 in.


Napoleon Bonaparte was a major patron of David’s work after the fall of the Revolutionary party

Jacques-Louis David

The Coronation of Napoleon

1805-1808oil on canvas20 ft. 4 1/2 in. x 32 ft. 1 3/4 in.


The Coronation of Napoleon documents the relationship between church and state by showing the coronation taking place in Notre Dame Cathedral. Napoleon insisted that David show the pope with his hand raised in blessing. The painting shows the moment just after Napoleon has crowned himself, instead of letting the pope crown him, as was traditional.

Neoclassic features that are apparent in the painting:

The structured composition and the action is presented as on a theater stage. Also, David grouped the figures to represent polarities—the group of the clergy on the right, contrasting with members of Napoleon’s imperial court on the left.


Jacques-Louis David

Monsieur Lavoisier and His Wife

1788oil on canvas8 ft. 8 1/4 in. x 7 ft. 4 1/8 in.


Étienne-Louis Boulée

Cenotaph for Isaac Newton (never built)

1784ink and wash drawingseach 15 1/2 x 25 1/2 in.


Inspiration for Soufflot’s design for the church of Ste. Genevieve in Paris were the Roman ruins at Ballbek in Syria, especially its titanic colonnade.


The Panthéon(Sainte-Geneviève)

Paris, France



Stylistic features:

The high podium, broad flight of stairs leading to a deep porch in the front, Corinthian columns, and a sequence of three domes on the interior.

The original purpose of La Madeleine was a church before being changed to a “temple of glory” for Napoleon’s armies and as a monument to the newly won glories of France. After his defeat in 1807 it reverted to a church.

Pierre Vignon

La Madeleine

Paris, France



Pierre Vignon

La Madeleine

Paris, France



Antonio Canova

Paulene Borghese as Venus



Aspect of Canova’s portrait of Pauline Borghese that comes from the earlier Rococo style is the sensuousness of the figure and her portrayal as the goddess of love.

Realistic aspects:

The sharply detailed rendering of the couch and drapery.

Neoclassical aspects:

The pose and drapery; it is also not as idealized as might be expected.

Antonio Canova

Paulene Borghese as Venus



Antonio Canova

Paulene Borghese as Venus



Antonio Canova

Perseus with the Head of Medusa

ca. 1800marblelife-size


Antonio Canova

Cupid and Psyche

1787-93marble5 ft. 1 in. x 5 ft. 8 1/4 in.


Karl Gotthard Langhans

Brandenburg Gate

Berlin, Germany



Four of its stylistic features:

Simple symmetry.

Unadorned planes.

Right angles.

Stiffy wrought proportions.

In reaction to Baroque buildings like Blenheim, the restraint of the Palladian doctrine was restated in buildings like Chiswick House.

Chiswick House was designed by Richard Boyle and William Kent.

Richard Boyle and William Kent

Chiswick House

near London, England

begun 1725


Richard Boyle and William Kent

Chiswick House

near London, England

begun 1725


The Importance of the Royal Crescent at Bath:

The classical Roman designs, with many variations, became a standard for British urban architecture for a century.

John Wood the Younger

The Royal Crescent

Bath, England



James Stuart

Doric Portico

Hagley Park, Worcestershire, England



Wedgwood and Co.

Vase with Bridal Preparation Scene

black basalt stoneware1769-177518 in. high



It shows how completely symmetry and rectilinearity had returned, but with great delicacy and none of the massive splendor of the Louis XIV style.

Robert Adam

Etruscan RoomOsterley Park House

Middlesex, England

begun 1761


Two buildings that apparently influenced Jefferson’s designs for Monticello were the Villa Rotondaand the Chiswick House

Jefferson believed that the Neoclasssic style was appropriate for the architecture of the new American republic because he felt the style was representative of the new American democratic qualities.

Thomas Jefferson


Charlottesville, Virginia



Horatio Greenough

George Washington

1832-1841marbleapproximately 11 ft. 4 in. high


Benjamin Latrobe

Capitol Building

Washington, DC


Major L’Enfant

Plan of Washington

Washington, DC



Benjamin Latrobe

Tobacco Capital

Washington, DC



Benjamin Latrobe

Corncob Capital

Washington, DC



Political significance Edmonia Lewis’ Forever Free is that it was an abolitionist statement produced four years after Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Edmonia Lewis

Forever Free

1867marble3 ft. 5 1/4 in. x 11 in. x 7 in.


Hiram Powers

The Greek Slave

1843marble5 ft. 5 1/2 in. high


Hiram Powers

The Greek Slave

1843marble5 ft. 5 1/2 in. high


Jacques-Louis David

Three of David’s pupils:

Antoine-Jean Gros

Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres


In breaking with David, Ingres adopted a manner that he felt was based on true and pure Greek style. Two characteristics of that style include:

Flat and linear forms approximating those found in Greek vase painting.

The figures are placed in the foreground, like a piece of low-relief sculpture.

Ingres used Raphael’s School of Athens. as the model for the composition of his Apotheosis of Homer.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Apotheosis of Homer

1827oil on canvas12 ft. 8 in. x 16 ft. 10 3/4 in.


Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres


1819pencil drawing1 ft. x 8 1/2 in.


Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Grande Odalisque

1814oil on canvas2 ft. 11 in. x 5 ft. 4 in.


The story of Atala from the novel The Genius of Christianity. Atala and Chactas were two Native American youths who fell in love and ran away together. Atala committed suicide rather than break her vow of lifelong virginity.

The setting for Girodet-Troison’sBurial of Atala was Louisiana.

Anne-Louis Trioson

The Burial of Atala

1808oil on canvas6 ft. 11 in. x 8 ft. 9 in.


Antoine-Jean Gros

Napoleon at the Pesthouse at Jaffa

1804oil on canvas17 ft. 5 in. x 23 ft. 7 in.


Gros’ Pest House at Jaffa differs stylistically from David’s Oath of the Horatii by the depiction of Near East architecture, attire, and terrain was a departure from Neoclassicism, as well as the emphasis on death and suffering, and an emotional rendering of the scene.

Jacques-Louis David

Oath of the Horatii

1784oil on canvasapproximately 11 x 14 ft.

Antoine-Jean Gros

Napoleon at the Pesthouse at Jaffa

1804oil on canvas17 ft. 5 in. x 23 ft. 7 in.