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Neo Classicism and Romanticism 1750-1850 (Drum Roll Please) “We Enter the Modern World.” PowerPoint Presentation
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Neo Classicism and Romanticism 1750-1850 (Drum Roll Please) “We Enter the Modern World.”. Entire Era based on the ideas of the Enlightenment-new way of thinking about the world and humankind that was independent of religion, myth, or tradition

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Neo Classicism and Romanticism


(Drum Roll Please)

“We Enter the Modern World.”


Entire Era based on the ideas of the Enlightenment-new way of thinking about the world and humankind that was independent of religion, myth, or tradition

  • Based on the scientific method (Newton) and empirical evidence (Locke)
  • Believed that humans are born good and nature grants them natural rights of life, liberty, property, and freedom of conscious
  • Art preceded by the Enlightenment (Voltaire, Rousseau)- all human affairs should be ruled by reason and the common good rather than established authority
  • Made knowledge accessible to everyone
  • Rousseau-arts and sciences have corrupted “natural man”, preached return to innocence, ignorance and happiness- against progress
  • Caused three major revolutions- French, American, and Industrial
  • Romanticism hard to define, overlapped Neo-Classicism and Rococo
  • For the first time, art was political commentary
  • Modern Era begins with the Revolutionary War and the French Revolution-”Modern”- an awareness of history
  • This caused the return to the classics in art- the basis for all reason- based a lot on Poussin’s art
  • We keep revisiting classicism but for different reasons-
    • Renaissance- humanism
    • Baroque- power
    • Neo Classicism- reason

Jacques Louis David (1748-1825)

  • Neo-Poussinist
  • Took an active part in the French Revolution- artistic power similar to Lebrun
  • Marat murdered in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday
  • Stark Directness- a martyred hero- classical art + devotional image
  • Obviously influenced by Caravaggio (who wasn’t?!)

David, Death of Marat, 1793



  • Benjamin West (1738-1820)
  • martyrdom of another hero-General Wolfe from French and Indian War
  • AMERICAN PAINTER!!!- first American Artist to travel to Europe, but ended up staying in England and heading the Royal Academy (succeeding Reynolds)
  • merged classical feel (Poussin) with contemporary clothes and people (Indians!)
  • Recalls lamentation scene- shift in focus of Modern Society- from religion to nationalism

West, The Death of General Wolfe, 1770


John Singleton Copley (1738-1815)

  • Moved to London 2 years before American Revolution- was New England’s most outstanding portraitist
  • Watson and the Shark- attacked by a shark while swimming in the Havana Harbor and dramatically rescued- commissioned Copley
  • Made every detail as real as possible- Baroque emotions
  • Becomes a moral allegory- Jonah and the Whale, Archangel Michael fighting with Satan

Copley, Watson and the Shark, 1778


Houdon (1741-1828)

  • Sculpture was overwhelmed by the authority of ancient statues such as the Apollo Belvedere-most just copied these sculptures
  • Portraiture was the most viable option
  • Makes Voltaire seem worthy of Greek philosopher, but keeps the likeness

Houdon, Voltaire, 1781


In the Virginia State Capital!!!

  • Invited to America to sculpt Washington-
  • Completed two- one in contemporary clothing, one in classical clothing
  • Greek pose- leaning on a bundle of rods that symbolizes union

Houdon, George Washington, 1788-92


Burlington and Kent, Chiswick House, 1725

  • Palladian revival- adapted from the Villa Rotunda
  • Exact opposite of Baroque fancy
  • Seen as much more natural than the Baroque- Enlightenment thinkers thought that Classical times were the most “natural” state of man- satisfied the demands of reason

Jefferson, Monticello, 1770-84, 1796-1806

  • Rediscovery of Greek art coincided with excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii-archeology became the rage and interior decorating was influenced by what was found at the site
  • Palladianism called “Georgian” in the Colonies, Greek Revival
  • Jefferson used Roman Doric columns instead of Corinthian like Chiswick House


  • Enlightenment let loose the opposite of reason too- helped to create a new wave of emotionalism- known as Romanticism
  • Word derived from medieval tales of adventure (King Arthur)-Gothic!
  • Those that hated the current social, religious, or political order tried to form a new order based on reason, or seek release in an emotional experience
  • Romantic worshipped nature as unbounded and ever-changing
  • Believed that if people were free to behave “naturally”, then evil would disappear-exalted liberty, power, love, violence, Middle Ages
  • Creation of art cannot be truly Romantic because it requires detachment and discipline
  • Could not use established order of art, so revival of any past art was popular
  • Neo-classicism is actually part of this idea


Goya, The Family of Charles IV, 1800

  • Patrons had a greater appreciation for individual style-mostly merchants and professionals
  • Francisco Goya (1746-1828)- only artist that can be called genius of this age
  • Had revolution sympathies, but much admired at court as portrait painter- influenced by Velasquez and Rembrandt- Unmasks the royal family- makes them look human

Goya, The Third of May, 1808, 8’9”X13’4”

  • Commemorates the French murder of Spanish citizens during Napoleon’s occupation
  • Very Neo-Baroque style, emotional intensity of a religious work, but martyrs are dying for liberty- symbol of modern experience

Gericault, The Raft of the Medusa, 1818-19 16X23!!

  • In Napoleon, Gericault saw thrill of violent action, believed in Michelangelo’s idea of the expressive power of the nude
  • Rescue of stranded men from a ship wreck-raft had been set adrift by cowardly captain- men left to die- was a political scandal (he opposed the re-established monarchy)- search for the truth- interview survivors and examined corpses
  • Man against the elements-like Watson and the Shark

Ingres, Odalisque, 1814

  • Pupil of David, too young to be involved with the revolution (1780-1867)
  • Tried to continue the Neo-Classical dogmas- revisited the old argument of Poussinists v. Rubenistes- thought that drawing was more important than color
  • But this painting does not follow his own doctrine
  • “Odalisque”- Turkish word for a harem slave girl- exotic subject matter very popular

Last great professional in the portrait painting field- overtaken by photography!

  • Both academic and full of personality- unified psychological depth and reality

Ingres, Louis Bertin, 1832


Damier, Third Class Carriage, 1862

  • One of the only Romantics that did not shy from reality- Honore’ Damier-sometimes called a Realist
  • Remained unknown as a painter- known as a political cartoonist
  • Emotional content more important than depicting reality- physically crowded, yet are not connected in any way-a modern condition, dignity of the poor

Damier, Don Quixote, 1866

  • New Medium- Lithography- invented in Germany 1800
  • Print is made on a flat surface, using a greasy crayon- fixed onto stone with an acid wash. Surface is then dampened- the ink repels the water and is soaked up by the grease- paper is pressed onto the stone to make the prints
  • Very cheap way of reproducing art- used in commercial printing

Landscape art became the most characteristic form of Romantic art- cult of nature- modified the appearance of nature to reach a heightened state of emotion

  • Corot - became an important developer for modern landscapes
  • Completed most of his painting in one sitting- the “truth of the moment”
  • First to paint alla fresca- outside!

Corot, La Toilette, 1859


Millet, Shepherdess with her Flock, c. 1850

  • Part of the Barbizon School, a group centered around Barbizon, near Paris who painted landscapes and rural life
  • Makes peasants into timeless figures- memorializes a way of life that was disappearing due to the industrial revolution

Fuseli, The Nightmare, c. 1790

  • Contemporary of West and Copley, had a great impact on his time- forceful personality, influenced by the Mannerists and by Michelangelo and Shakespeare
  • Medieval-like feeling- quest for violence leads to the subconscious- often sexual in nature (horse is an erotic symbol)

Poet-Painter William Blake-very strange personality- a recluse and a visionary

  • Published his own illustrated volumes of poetry-like illuminated manuscripts
  • Great admirer of the Middle Ages
  • Figure is greatly foreshortened-mannerist sources
  • Stands not for God, but for the power of reason, which he believed was destructive

Blake, The Ancient of Days, 1794


Landscape painting from observable fact

  • Concerned with conditions of light, sky, and atmosphere
  • Sky is often the focal point
  • Show familiar scenes of English countryside but through his eyes
  • Painted oil sketches outdoors and then finished them in his studio

John Constable, Hampstead Heath 1821


JMW Turner, The Slave Ship, 1840

  • Obsessed with colored light, often unrecognizable from original sketches
  • Linked with literary themes, often added quotations at exhibitions this one is based on a real event
  • Defeat of man against nature is a theme- apocalyptic quality

Thomas Cole, Schoon Mountain, Adirondacks, 1838

  • Finally an art based on the present- saw nature like Europeans- as an escape from civilization, especially as exploration spread- seen as very American
  • Thomas Cole- leader of the Hudson River School (1825-1876)- trees and mountains became symbols for the American spirit

Sculpture is a lot less adventuresome than painting during this time period

  • Sculpture was more finished and less raw because of the process itself
  • Reinterpretation of the classical style
  • Antonio Canova- glorification of rulers by creating them in a classical style
  • Idealized, precursor to the Odalisque-although the sculpture actually looks less three-dimensional than the painting

Canova, Pauline Borghese As Venus, 1808


Walpole and Robinson, Strawberry Hill, 1749-77

  • Gothic Revival- mostly seen in England- vogue for Medieval romances
  • Playful and exotic looking- rather like a theme park!
  • Appeal is its strangeness

Most influential architect of “Federal” Neo-Classicism

  • Both Gothic and Classical styles
  • Inspired by Pantheon (has large dome at the center)
  • Has a light interior like Gothic Cathedrals- viewed from the “outside in”- should look mysterious and “looming”

Latrobe, Baltimore Cathedral, 1805


Garnier, Paris Opera House, 1861-74

  • Romantic style was all about revival! Neo-Baroque, Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Gothic
  • This is Neo-Baroque-sculpture and ornament especially-looks overdressed
  • People who were newly rich due to the industrial revolution saw themselves as heirs to the aristocracy before the revolution- looked more to that style of art

Joseph Paxton, Crystal Palace, 1850-51

  • Completely “undraped” architecture became popular
  • Experimentation of technique and material- glass and iron
  • Built for the Great Exhibition of 1851- to gather works of industry from all nations
  • Took only six months to construct and then dismantled-rebuilt at another site until it burned in 1936
  • Plan taken from Roman Basilicas