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Index by Period

Romantic Era
(1780 - 1880)

Around the year 1800, philosophers, writers and artists in Germany began to propagate a new vision of the world they described as "romantic". The term covered a range of ideas: that nature was informed with the divine spirit and that the individual human imagination could immerse itself in the universal fabric; but also that the creative mind, being profoundly solitary, would yearn for harmony between man and nature.

Romantic ideals developed largely in opposition to the neo-classicism that had become entrenched in the traditions of Greco-Roman antiquity, and advocated an open-ended and progressive view of the age. Yet Romantic artists also turned back to the late medieval and Renaissance periods, for themes from the Judeo-Christian heritage, because only with its aid, they believed, could the utopia of a politically and intellectually enlightened European future be achieved.

The openness and highly subjective character of such ideals suggest why the Romantic Movement did not produce any normed artistic style, and why painting in the various European countries, and by extension in the United States, employed a great gamut of subjects and treatments extending from tranquil contemplative scenes to spectacularly staged events. It is precisely this diversity that lends Romantic art its fascination, a fascination from which many subsequent art movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries would not remain immune.

contributed by Gifford, Katya

16 March 2002

Exposing Rationalism (1800 - 1899)
Artists rebelled against the rigid academism of the Neo-classical ideals, focusing less on universal truths and more on their own individual hopes, fears, and beliefs. Romantic ideals - with an emphasis on subjective interpretations and the concept of intuition over reason - -opened the door to freedom in artistic technique.

19th Century Landscape (1800 - 1899)
By the 19th century, the Romantic movement in literature was in full swing and the landscape emerged as the single greatest subject in art.

Pre-Raphaelite Movement (1848 - 1854)
A group of English artists which formed an association in 1848 to recapture the beauty and simplicity of the medieval world. Their painting style and art movement reacted to the sterility of English art, along with the materialism resulting from England's industrialisation. They identified Raphael (Italian, 1483-1520) with the scientific interests of Renaissance art, which they felt had led to modern technological development. They aimed to study nature, to sympathise with what is direct, serious and heartfelt in earlier art, and to infuse their works with literary symbolism, bright colours, and attention to detail.

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