Excess in ArtThe romantic period was a reaction against the excesses of baroque and rococo that is represented by the Amalienburg designed by Francois de Civillies. It was fueled by the discovery of Pompeii in 1948. While the Renaissance was a rediscovery of ancient Rome, early Romanticism looked to Greece for inspiration.
Romanticism (1750-1850)Romanticism is a generalized term for the art which followed the Baroque and Rococo. Although the neoclassical work of Canova and the architecture of Jefferson embody the rediscovery of Greek forms, gothic and eclecticism were also common. The power and expressiveness of nature and the struggles of man are common themes. Work is often emotional and tragic. It is not the subject matter or the forms, but often the feeling that defines Romanticism.
Mercury Attending his TalariaJean-Baptiste Pigalle
Pigalle created Mercury after more than two years in Rome. It was made for Louis XV to present to Frederick II of Prussia and Voltaire compared it to the best works of ancient Greece. Known for his Baroque sculpture, the Mercury is his best-known neo-classical work. Influenced by his travel, the twisting shape of Mercury’s body as he fastens his winged shoe displays a remnant of the Baroque.
Strawberry HillHorace Walpole
Little more than a cottage, Walpole rebuilt Strawberry Hill in stages. There was no formal plan, and the design was added to according to Walpole’s whim. He and his builders visited many Gothic buildings and borrowed liberally. It is generally considered to be the first neo-gothic design of the Romantic period.
The Dying GladiatorPierre Julien
Julien’s Gaul is a reinterpretation of the Roman sculpture at the Capitoline Museum. No doubt he had seen and studied the work while in Italy from 1769-1772.
Oath of the HorattiJacques Louis David
After receiving this commission, David returned to Rome for inspiration for the Oath. It is considered to be the first masterpiece to break from the Rococo tradition and became a model for neoclassical painting. David frames the scene with the architecture of the room and strong slanting light gives more definition to the subjects.
Temple of AesculapiusAntonio Asprucci
As artists rebelled against Baroque, the owners of large villas similarly grew tired of the French formal garden. Wanting a more natural landscape, the English garden resembled the Chinese in its meticulous planning, but organic appearance. Some included Chinese gates or bridges. But soon, neoclassical elements and neogothic ruins were incorporated.
Mrs. Richard Brinsley SheridanThomas Gainsborough
The pastel color of Mrs. Sheridan’s dress and the twisted and arching tree behind her are reminiscent of the rococo, but her melancholy expression will become associated with Romanticism.
Brandenburg GateCarl Gotthard Langhans
The Gate was inspired by the Propylaea in Athens. Of the 18 original gates into Berlin, it is the only one to survive. The Quadriga which sits atop the gate was taken by Napoleon after the city fell. It sat in storage until 1814 Prussian soldiers overtook Paris. The goddess originally held an olive branch to symbolize peace after the Batavian revolt, but after the defeat of France, it was replaced with an iron cross.
Landscape with Temple RuinsCaspar David Friedrich
Although Friedrich’s work fell out of favor in the late 19th century, he was rediscovered and appreciated by the Expressionists of the 1920s. Today, he is considered an icon of Romanticism. He is best known for his allegorical landscapes.
Tomb of Archduchess Maria ChristinaAntonio Canova
This monument, originally designed to memorialize Maria Christina, was reimagined by Canova. Rather than remembering one, he saw the tomb as a gateway for all and gives a different meaning of death. While the figures are clearly neoclassical, the inclusion of the pyramid is representative of the eclectic aesthetic of Romanticism.
U.S. Capitol BuildingLatrobe & Bullfinch
The neoclassical design of the Capitol was selected by George Washington and follows the aesthetic championed by Thomas Jefferson. The Greek imagery went hand in hand with the ideals of the new nation. The original plan of Latrobe was modified under Bulfinch. He enlarged the Rotunda to reflect the Pantheon of Rome.
Canova depicted Napoleon as the Roman god Mars. He is holding an image of Victory in one hand and a staff in the other. It is executed in the manner of Augustus. Napoleon wasn’t impressed and forbid the public to see it.
Aurora and CephalusBaron Pierre Nacisse Guerin
In the Greek myth, Cephalus is kidnapped by Aurora, goddess of the dawn. She is shown lifting the veil of night. Conceived against Cephalus’ will, their love child is also depicted. The theme of seduction and the natural rather than realistic pose is typical of the Romantic period.
Brighton PavilionJohn Nash
The pavilion was inspired by Britain’s colonialism and is a jumble of Gothic, Chinese, Moorish, and Tartar styles. The exoticism of the East was already becoming popular, but the seaside palace would become the iconic work of eclecticism popularized during the period.
The Raft of MedusaTheodore Gericault
Another icon of the Romantic period is this painting. Inspired by a tragedy at sea in which more than 150 soldiers perished two years earlier, Gericault interviewed some of the few survivors. The calming sea and brightening sky to the right of the painting seem optimistic, but it is a false hope.
Berlin Concert HallKarl Schinkel
Schinkel was a scenic designer who was asked to design a new theater. The iconic building is a huge neoclassical structure that features a portico atop a grand staircase. The design was so successful, Schinkel later became Surveyor to the Prussian Building Commission. In this role, he redesigned much of the layout of the city and created some of Berlin’s finest buildings.
St. Michael overcoming SatanJohn Flaxman
Flaxman was the English equivalent to Canova. His composition is inspired by Raphael’s painting of St. Michael. The sculpture depicts the archangel just before he casts Lucifer into Hell.
The Rotunda at UVAThomas Jefferson
The Rotunda was the last structure to be added to Jefferson’s Academic Village. He saw learning as a life-long pursuit and wanted to create an atmosphere that would foster the interaction between students and faculty. It was inspired by the rotunda of the Pantheon in Rome.
Liberty Leading the PeopleEugene Delacroix
Delacroix was already an established painter of the Romantic school when he commemorated the 1830 revolution. Liberty is represented as a goddess of the people. The subjects depict a cross-section of society and the gothic Notre Dame is seen in the background.
La MarseillaiseFrancois Rude
Rude was given this commission due to his very popular sculpture, Neapolitan Fisherboy. The down-to-earth boy reflects a carefree lifestyle and a return to a simpler time. La Marseillaise however, is dramatic and emotional. It adorns the Arc de Triomphe and depicts the volunteers of 1792.
The Architect’s DreamThomas Cole
Cole based the structures in his painting on real buildings but altered them to reflect an overview of architectural history. The rational designs of the Greeks are bathed in light while the gothic church of the dark ages is hidden in the shadows. The Roman temple rests atop its Greek foundation and a pyramid looms in the background.
Westminster PalaceCharles Barry
Built to replace the old medieval structure that was destroyed by fire in 1834, Barry’s design mimics the perpendicular gothic of the 15th and 16th Britain. Barry was a neoclassical architect but was assisted by neogothic proponent Augustus Pugin. Pugin reportedly was unsatisfied by the symmetry and layout of the floorplans because they were “too Grecian.”
Theseus Slaying the MinotaurAntoine Louis Barye
Well known for his detailed sculptures of animals, Barye also created a number of works depicting mythology. The pieces were dramatic, emotional, and more importantly, were considered the more “serious and meaningful subject matter.” Theseus is calm and in control as the Minotaur desperately tries to escape -representing rational man over brute animal strength.
Thumbs DownJean Leon Gerome
Gerome’s painting depicts a dramatic moment in Rome’s Colosseum. The crowd is casting their votes that will decide the fate of the fallen gladiator. The frame is an immersive view of the harsh sport. Note the blood-thirsty women in veils on the right. Gerome is satirizing the Vestal Virgins of the Vesta Temple.
The original work was a full-sized statue that Powers produced for the Capital. She wears a tierra emblazoned with thirteen stars to represent the original colonies. There was no commission, but he hoped that once finished, Congress would buy it. They didn’t and he never found a buyer for it. Undeterred, he reimagined the maiden as a bust. The smaller version was so successful, Powers completed at least 28 of them.
OpheliaJohn Everett Millais
The works of Shakespeare were popular during the Romantic period. His recurring themes of tragedy and love corresponded to the dramatic emotion of the Romantics. Although Ophelia’s death does not occur on stage in Hamlet, Millais has depicted the tragic scene.