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Neoclassicism and Romanticism

 


(Neoclassicism, Romanticism and Art Styles in 19th ceytury - Art Map)

 

 

 



William Pars

Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg




see collections:


Joseph Mallord William Turner


Claude-Joseph Vernet


 

 




Romantic Era



 
 
 



" The mysterious way leads in ward. Within us,
 

or nowhere, is eternity with its worlds, pastand present."


Novalis

 

 


Ideals in Nineteenth-Century Painting
 

   

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 a neo-classicism that had become entrenched in the traditions of Greco-Roman antiquity, and advocated an open-ended and progressive - that is, a modern - 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 could not, nor wished to, 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 scene to spectacularly staged event. 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.
 

 

 
Caspar David Friedrich
 
 


Clarity and Vagueness of the Stylistic Category
 

"Oh Dear Friend, I wish Romanticism had never been invented in the first place," sighed Fortunat, the hero of an 1834 novel by the Romantic author Joseph von Eichen-dorff. That sigh has since been repeated many times over by modern historians of the era, in grappling with a term that so persistently eludes precise definition and yet, despite its irritating vagueness, has long since become indispensable.
 In contemporary usage, the adjective "romantic" carries an enormous range of connotations, being applied to the scenic roads of Europe and the hotels that dot them, to "romantic love" in the movies and television soap operas, to sunsets behind palm trees and cozy garden nooks, apart from standing for certain aspects of literature, music and visual art. When we say something is romantic, we think of sentiment and sentimentality, a poetic, nostalgic, or dreamy mood, but one that might also verge on the irrational, even the insane. The term invariably has an undertone of the imaginative and fantastic, and of a remoteness from reality paired with longing. As antonyms, we think of mundane, banal, pedantic.
 Not even the scholarly disciplines concerned with Romanticism have been able to do more than arrive at an approximate definition, because the content and substance of the movement, by their very nature, invite controversial interpretations and speculations. The only point on which everyone seems to agree is that Romanticism was an intellectual and artistic transition that occurred at the turn of the eighteenth to the nineteenth century. Yet problems arise as soon as we try to date its beginning and end. While in the field of music, most composers from Beethoven to Richard Strauss are considered Romantics, literary history concentrates on two or three decades around the year 1800. Art history either restricts itself to the period between about 1790 and 1840, or, on the other hand, extends the research field enormously, seeing the Romantic attitude at work in painting from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, which inevitably leads to an overlapping with other stylistic categories.
 Then again, due to the tendency of Romantic art to the fantastic and irrational, it is often treated as a substream of Symbolism, which, after many fits and starts, blossomed in the Sturm und Drang of the late eighteenth century and bore its finest fruit in the latter half of the nineteenth. On the other hand, the sentimental and, as it were, cozy aspects of Romanticism make it difficult to distinguish from the style known in German as Biedermeier, which is usually dated from about 1815 to 1850. And finally, since Romantic art includes not only an escape from reality but a fearless confrontation with it, such terms as "romantic naturalism" and "idealistic naturalism" have been coined in an attempt to bridge the gap. Basically all of these names reflect scholars' embarrassment in face of a range of artistic expressions which, unlike earlier styles such as Renaissance and Baroque, resist being pressed into a hard and fast system.
 The word "romance" itself goes back to the Old French word "romanz", which characterized the vernacular Romance dialects as opposed to church Latin. Soon, verse and prose narratives about chivalrous knights and their adventures came to be called "romances," which developed into the medieval "roman," a term still used in many European languages today to designate the novel.
 In the seventeenth century, we find the word employed in two different senses. When the Englishman Thomas Baily used the adjective "romantick" for the first time in 1650, it was to criticize the untruth of fictional writings. At the same period, "romantic" was applied in a positive sense to the landscape paintings of Claude Lorrain (1600-1682), Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), and Salvator Rosa (1615-1673). So in parallel to the motley untamed inventiveness of the fictional world we have the "picturesqueness" of depictions of nature informed with emotion.
 In the eighteenth century, when tales of horror set in the Gothic past came into fashion, the aspect of the eerie and spine-tingling phantasmagoria came into play. In France, the Shakespeare translators Letourneur and Girardin used the term "romantique" in 1776 to characterize the emotional qualities of a scene. And in 1777, in his Musings of a Lonely Vagabond, the philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712— 1778) firmly established the Romantic ideal in French thought.
 For a long period the concept remained synonymous with the content of popular novels, with medieval chivalry and adventures in remote times and lands. Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg, 1772—1801), who was the first to speak of "the Romantic", meant nothing other than a writer of novels. Novalis belonged to a young generation of German authors who, around 1800, gave the term an entirely new twist, and who himself provided what may be the best-known definition of Romanticism: "By giving the commonplace a high meaning, the ordinary a mysterious aspect, the known the dignity of the unknown, the finite an aura of infinity, I romanticize it."
 

Sir Joshua Reynolds
General Sir Banastre Tarleton

Jean Paul (1763-1825), explaining why everything that fed only on longing and memory, everything remote, dead, unknown, had the charm of transfiguration, said that these things triggered the magic power of the imagination and helped it soar into infinity. And it was Novalis, again, who formulated a rule that was taken to heart by many painters and well as writers: "Everything seen from a distance becomes poetry: distant mountains, distant people, distant events. Everything becomes romantic."
 In reaction, the English painter Joshua Reynolds (1723— 1792), in an academy lecture of 1778, attacked pictures that expressed nothing but vague ideas and ignored ail rules of science and scholarship as established by the classical art of antiquity. This was a slap at precursor forms of Romanticism and an argument in favor of classical clarity, which, according to academic doctrine, was even capable of morally improving mankind. Ever since Reynolds, Romanticism has borne the onus of representing anti-classicism per se. Even its subjects, derived from the medieval world and European Christianity, were said to run counter to the repertoire of Greco-Roman art.

In 1820, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749—1832) reported on "classicists and romanticists in Italy, violently battling one another." One could not simply jettison the classical education if one wished to be modern, Goethe concluded, yet neither could one belie the thought that stemmed from the Bible. For the great mass of people, he said, it was enough to attach the label "romantic" to "everything that is dark, absurd, confused, incomprehensible." Nor was all "patriotic and home-grown" art necessarily romantic, either.
 It was Goethe, celebrated by the Germans as their quintessential classical writer, but elsewhere usually considered a Romantic, who supplied the prime example of that often-sought blend of classical theme with medievalist setting, of clarity with phantasmagoria. This was his Faust, the first French translation of which, published in 1827, not coinci-dentally fueled the fire of French Romanticism. Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) illustrations to this edition struck Goethe as being "devilishly good stuff."
 The earliest, most cogent and comprehensive theories of Romantic art were developed in the German-speaking countries around the year 1800. This circumstance has led many commentators to state that the Germans invented the style, whose intellectual and aesthetic attitudes were supposedly particularly attuned to the "German character." One such author was the historian Gordon Craig. In his highly praised 1982 book, The Germans, Craig saw a certain melancholy wistfulness, an undefined longing, an alienation from reality, sentimentality, a tendency to introversion, an unpolitical attitude, an immersion of the self in "the mysterious forces of nature and God," and finally, a pervasive pessimism and obsession with death as symptoms that led to this potentially pathological alliance. Though much of this argument is correct, many aspects of it are placed in historically incorrect contexts.
 There can be no doubt that Romanticism, though it had an enormous resonance in Germany, was a phenomenon that pervaded all of Europe during the late years of the eighteenth century and the transition period to an industrialized society in the nineteenth. It even occasionally overleapt the borders of Europe, for instance stimulating American painters of the late nineteenth century to develop a unique version of the style, above all in the field of landscape painting. As far as the unreal and eerie, the dark and evil ingredients of the Romantic mood are concerned, sufficient examples are found in English and French literature and art, where they were indeed often carried to extremes, giving rise to the concept of "black Romanticism."
 


Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Carceri
1761

An indicative example is the interpretation placed on the work of the Italian engraver Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720—1778). Piranesi was an extravagant artist. His penchant for the fantastic culminated in the dungeon imagery of the Carceri, depicting interiors that ran counter to all spatial logic, fitted with instruments of torture that called orgies of violence to mind. The demoniacal character of these prints inspired the English writer Thomas De Quincey (1785 —1859) to his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, which, on its publication in 1822, caused a furore throughout Europe and had a profound influence on on French Romanticism in particular. Alfred de Musset (1810-1857) translated the book in 1828, and stimulated later terror fantasies, including an "aesthetics of evil," among such writers as Charles Nodier (1780-1844), Victor Hugo (1802-1885), Theophile Gautier (1811-1872), and Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867).
 


Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Self-Portrait
 

 


Giovanni Battista Piranesi

(b Mogliano, nr Mestre, 4 Oct 1720; d Rome, 9 Nov 1778).
Italian etcher, engraver, designer, architect, archaeologist and theorist. He is considered one of the supreme exponents of topographical engraving, but his lifelong preoccupation with architecture was fundamental to his art. Although few of his architectural designs were executed, he had a seminal influence on European Neo-classicism through personal contacts with architects, patrons and visiting artists in Rome over the course of nearly four decades. His prolific output of etched plates, which combined remarkable flights of imagination with a strongly practical understanding of ancient Roman technology, fostered a new and lasting perception of antiquity. He was also a designer of festival structures and stage sets, interior decoration and furniture, as well as a restorer of antiquities. The interaction of this rare combination of activities led him to highly original concepts of design, which were advocated in a body of influential theoretical writings. The ultimate legacy of his unique vision of Roman civilization was an imaginative interpretation and re-creation of the past, which inspired writers and poets as much as artists and designers.
 





Impulses from the Eighteenth Century

 

The example of Piranesi in itself suggests the enormous influence exerted by eighteenth-century art on the emergence of Romanticism. Many of the ideas developed back then were revived at the turn of the nineteenth century, and incorporated into a new philosophical and artistic view of the world.
 From the late seventeenth century until well into the following decades, for example, artists and intellectuals in France and elsewhere struggled with the question of the extent to which the dominant classical model should be retained. Advocates of "modernity" doubted the continuing validity of its norms. This reservation not only led to a reevaluation of Judeo-Christian culture, it subsequently raised the issue of what artistic standards could take the place of the classical codex. Instead of an aesthetics based on ineluctable values, there developed in England and France a doctrine of the beautiful based on individual taste and sensibility. The feeling and "sentiment" of the individual artist and viewer of art now became the key factor. Ultimately this implied a turn to a psychological approach to art, which by the middle of the nineteenth century had begun to concentrate on its more sensational aspects.
 Divergencies from the normal and mundane led writers and artists into the realm of the "romanesque", as the French philosopher Charles de Montesquieu (1689-1755) put it, the realm of the exciting, alarming, and the range of qualities which at the time were subsumed under the notion of "the interesting." Artistic spontaneity that ignored all borderlines, strokes of genius and creative intoxication which spirited the artist into exotic, archaic, and barbaric realms, were praised as the new means of aesthetic experimentation.

 In the book A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, published in 1757, Edmund Burke (1729-1797) paved the road to an aesthetics of awesome and pleasurable terrors. After Burke's attempt to base the visual arts on a theory of human passions, the categories of the grand and sublime, the archaically rugged, the mental stimuli provoked by the bizarre, obscure, chaotic, even the shock effects which exposed the depths and abysses of the human soul, came increasingly to figure in European thinking as the motive forces behind truly compelling works of art.
 Around the time of Burke's treatise, the concept of the "picturesque" became a key term of the epoch. As in "romanesque" landscapes a la Claude Lorrain, Nicolas Poussin, and Salvator Rosa, the word connoted psychological moods triggered by certain themes, but also by certain modes of formal depiction. The year 1795 saw the publication of Uvedale Price's Essays on the Picturesque, followed around the turn of the century by several publications by Richard Payne Knight, who maintained that picturesqueness was based above all on values of light and color. This amounted to a theoretical anticipation of the dissolution of concrete subject matter into pure coloristic effects, which a short time later would be put into practice most superbly by William Turner (1775-1851) in watercolors and oils of a decidedly Romantic flavor.
 As we can see, much of what moved Romantic artists around and after 1800 had already been prepared in theory years before. This also holds for artistic practice. A good example is the English Garden, which emerged around 1720 and whose apparently untamed, natural tree groupings burst the geometric constrictions of the French Baroque garden, had from the start been looked upon as a reservoir of picturesque and atmospheric moods. It was no coincidence that the diverse views and vistas of the English Garden were often based on the romantic pictures of Claude Lorrain. After the appearance of Burke's treatise on the sublime, gardens were increasingly fitted out with artificial ruins, Gothic chapels, Chinese pagodas, and Moorish kiosks. Their layouts were suffused with the same sublime longing for distant places and times, a penchant for the exotic and medieval, and an aesthetics of decline and decay, which would come to characterize later Romantic painting.

 Even more: The landscape gardener William Chambers (1726-1786) planned (though never executed) landscapes of "terror" and "melancholy" that would have fit seamlessly into pre- and early Romantic Gothic novels. He envisaged burned out and inundated ruins populated by half-starved wild animals, instruments of torture strewn about the grounds, subterranean dungeons from which the screams of the martyred could be heard, artificial volcanoes spewing fiery red clouds of smoke. In gloomy caves visitors to the park would come across wax corpses of famous kings and the most heinous criminals of all time, as eerie celestial music from water organs played in the background. Not only would the pedestrian be visually and acoustically assaulted but physically as well, by artificial earthquakes, electric shocks, mechanical rainshowers, and sudden explosions. A walk through the park was to be transformed into a theatrical spectacle, a spine-chilling experience.
 The English Neo-Gothic style that arose in close conjunction with the gardens in the eighteenth century, soon became a means of romantic self-expression on the part of its first contractors. Strawberry Hill, for instance, was based on the ideas of Horace Walpole (1717—1797), an aristocratic art collector who in addition, with The Castle of Otranto (1764), penned one of the earliest horror novels in literary history. The interior decoration of Walpole's house was derived from Gothic cathedrals and funerary chapels, an extravagant suffusion of the private sphere with the enigmatic sacred aura of the Middle Ages.
 The medieval chivalrous romance had, as it were, found its concrete setting in preindustrial England. This was even more strikingly the case with Fonthill Abbey (built 1796—1807). Once again its builder, William Beckford (1759-1844), was the author of an "oriental" novel, Vathek, of 1786. Initially conceived as a church, painting gallery and sepulcher, the huge complex of buildings in the Neo-Gothic style was soon converted into a residence. Those who lived there must have felt lost in the overwhelmingly dimensioned, cavernous rooms and staircases descending into abysmal depths.
 Another eighteenth-century phenomenon that fits into the prehistory of Romanticism is the change in people's experience of distant and foreign places. This change initially took place with respect to that traditional land of European dreams, Italy. For about two centuries well-placed young men had been travelling to Italy to expand their knowledge of antique sites and Renaissance art. In addition to this educational interest, in the eighteenth century ever more travellers felt the desire to cultivate moods, feelings, and sensations, especially those inspired by the beauties of the Italian landscape.
At the same time, the English in particular took water-colorists along with them on their journey in order to record the atmosphere they so enjoyed. Ever since Burke and that
magic word, the sublime, their interest had been increasingly attracted by areas seen on the way south which were especially picturesque or thrilling.
 While the Swiss Alps, the quintessence of sublime landscape, had already been painted in the 1760s by William Pars (1742-1782), Lord Byron (1788-1824) subsequently raised the Rhine Valley and Venice to embodiments of romantic scenery, and soon streams of tourists were following in his footsteps. For young intellectuals and artists, the poet Byron became a symbolic figure of Romantic melancholy. In addition, with his travels in Albania and Greece, where he fought in the war of independence against the Turks, Byron embodied that striving for ever more distant and exotic climes which, likewise, had its roots far back in the eighteenth century.
 

 


William Pars

(b London, 28 Feb 1742; d Rome, 1782). English painter. He first established himself in London as a portrait painter, exhibiting at the Society of Artists in 1760 and at the Free Society of Artists from 1761. In 1764 he won the third premium of the Royal Society of Arts for his history painting depicting Caractacus before the Emperor Claudius (untraced). In the same year he was selected by the Dilettanti Society to accompany Richard Chandler and Nicholas Revett on an archaeological expedition to Asia Minor and Greece (1764–6). His views of Classical monuments in Asia Minor were engraved and published in Ionian Antiquities (1769), while those he made in Greece, which included pioneering drawings of the Parthenon sculptures, were used in the second volume of James Stuart’s Antiquities of Athens (1777). In 1769 seven of the crisp, coolly lit watercolour originals (London, BM) with their lively figures (probably influenced by Stuart’s own gouache drawings) were exhibited at the Royal Academy; Pars was elected ARA the following year.
 

 
 


William Pars

Bridge near Mount Grimsel
1770
Watercolor
British Museum, London
 


William Pars

The Glacier of Grindelwald
1770
Watercolor
British Museum, London
 

 


William Pars

The Valley of Lauterbrunnen and the Staubbach
1770
Watercolor
British Museum, London
 

 


William Pars

The Devil's Bridge in the Canton of Uri
1770
Watercolor
British Museum, London
 

 


William Pars

The Rhone Glacier and the Source of the Rhone
1770
Watercolor
British Museum, London

 

 

In Germany in the 1770s, Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) attempted to make the Orient popular, an attempt continued by Friedrich Schlegel (1772—1829), who in 1800 declared that "the supremely romantic" must be sought "in the Orient" - which for him encompassed North Africa and all of Asia. Schlegel also waxed enthusiastic about the travel reports of Georg Forster (1754-1794), who had accompanied Captain Cook on a South Seas expedition in 1772— 1775. In France, the heroes of the novels of Abbe Prevost (Manon Lescaut, 1797) and Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (Paul et Virginie, 1788), surfeited with civilization, experienced their adventures in the New World, as later did Francois Rene Chateaubriand's (1768-1848) "romantic" hero Rene (Rene, 1802), in French America.
 Finally, mention must certainly be made of the new role that landscape painting had begun to play. Art theory in earlier eras had denigrated this genre, since it could not fulfil the classical demands which were met above all by history painting. In academic instruction this judgement was largely to retain its validity far into the nineteenth century. Yet already in the eighteenth, when such thinkers as Henri Rousseau, Denis Diderot (1713-1784), and Friedrich Schiller (1759—1805) had lamented the alienation of man from nature, a fundamental change in attitude had begun to emerge. The subjectively felt moods of landscape, impossible to capture in rules, now came to be valued as qualities in their own right.
 Burke had viewed landscape as the arena of the sublime, and accordingly, wild, untamed nature, the Scottish highlands or the Alpine ranges - dramatic scenery in general, as a setting for thrilling occurrences — increasingly attracted artists' attention. The French painter Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789) depicted storms at sea and foundering ships; Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg of Strasbourg (1740—1812) took up Vernet's themes before eventually, in England, applying their sensational effects principally to depictions of industrial landscapes. Portions of German and English Romanticism after 1800, and American Romanticism during the nineteenth century, then exalted the landscape to a favorite, and often enough symbolically charged subject.
 

 


Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg

(b Strasbourg, 31 Oct 1740; d London, 11 March 1812). Alsatian painter, illustrator and stage designer, active in France and England. Loutherbourg’s father, Philipp Jakob (1698–1768), was an engraver and miniature painter to the court of Darmstadt. In 1755 he took his family to Paris, where Loutherbourg became a pupil of Carle Vanloo; he also attended Jean-Georges Wille’s engraving academy in the Quai des Augustins and Francesco Casanova’s studio. Wille directed Loutherbourg’s attention to 17th-century Dutch landscape artists, such as Philips Wouwerman and Nicolaes Berchem, and in 1763 Denis Diderot noticed the inspiration of the latter in Loutherbourg’s first Salon exhibit, a landscape with figures (Liverpool, Walker A.G.). In this and other works, focus is on the foreground figures, which are framed by natural formations that occasionally fall away to reveal distant horizons. This informal style found favour with the French public; Loutherbourg’s vivid, fresh colour and ability to catch specific light and weather conditions made the pastoral subjects of François Boucher and his school seem contrived and fey. Rather more romanticized were Loutherbourg’s shipwreck scenes (e.g. A Shipwreck, exh. Salon 1767; Stockholm, Nmus.), inspired by Claude-Joseph Vernet, and pictures of banditti recalling Salvator Rosa. Loutherbourg became the most prolific painter to exhibit at the Salon between 1762 and 1771. In 1766 he was elected to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture and nominated as a Peintre du Roi.
 

 
 
 


Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg
An Avalanche in the Alps
1803
oil on canvas
Tate Gallery, London
 

 


Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg
Abendliche Seelandschaft mit Cumberland
 

 


Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg
Coalbrookdale bei Nacht
 

 


Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg
Defeat of the Spanish Armada
 




Literature and Philosophy Set the Tone

 

The Romantic Movement was able to recur to the rich stores of material provided by the eighteenth century in many respects. But rather than merely developing this material, it reshaped it into an entirely new view of the world. The first signs of this became apparent in German literature and philosophy around the year 1800.
 At the beginning stood such works as Goethe's epic, Torquato Tasso (1790), or Wilhelm Heinse's (1746-1803) Ardinghello (1787), Italian fantasies suffused with early Romantic nostalgia. Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder's (1773-1798) Effusions of an Art-Loving Friar (1797) and Ludwig Tieck's (1773—1853) Franz Sternbald's Peregrinations (1798) followed suit, but now describing Italy not as the land of classical art but as that of churches, palaces, museums, seat of the papacy, center of the Christian world. Especially important for the formation of Romantic thought was the novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen (published 1802) and the lyric cycle Hymns to the Night (1800), both from the pen of the young Novalis. Further, the tradition of Gothic tales of terror found a continuation not onlv in trivial literature but in the genius and divided reality of an E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776—1823).
 Tieck worked from 1799 to 1801 on his German translation of Cervantes's Don Quixote, "the perfect masterpiece of higher Romantic art," as August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767— 1845) called it a short time later. Schlegel's interest also concentrated on Italian literature of the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries. But above all, from 1797 he translated the works of Shakespeare, and firmly implanted the great "anticlassical" English author in the German Romantic canon.
 Another British contribution eagerly accepted throughout Europe, but especially in Germany, was the Ossian, a literary sensation of the latter half of the eighteenth century which, though purported to be the poem of an Old Gaelic bard, turned out to be largely a new imitation, written by a Scotsman by the name of James Macpherson. Ossian accorded perfectly with that Romantic enthusiasm for the remote past which also expressed itself in the rediscovery of the German Middle Ages, the Nibelungenlied, and the minnesongs, or love lyrics, of the Hohenstauffen period. After the minnesingers came the mastersingers, as embodied by Hans Sachs of Nuremberg (1494-1576). With Tieck and Wackenroder, an enthusiasm for the "Germanic" character of the Durer period entered a harmonious marriage with that for things Italian, the Renaissance, Italian poetry, and the painting of Michelangelo (1475-1564) and Raphael (1483-1520).
 Seen as a whole, this literature, whether newly written or adapted, emphasized the emotions felt and the atmosphere sensed in face of landscapes seen or imagined, as well as subjectively negating classical rules. Its broad-based recurrence to the most diverse eras and cultures reflected an urge to create universal links and bonds; yet its parallel emphasis on Christian values was intended to have current relevance, and its revival of the local past was aimed at strengthening national consciousness. The latter was particularly evident in the case of the fairy-tales written by Romantic authors, and the collections of folktales and songs of the period. Both fields were veritably predestined to serve as repositories of Romantic fantasy. They opened up a realm of the miraculous, not to mention the horrifying and cruel. But above all the fairy-tale anthologies, foremost that of the Brothers Grimm (1812), hoped to discover the buried wellsprings of the German popular soul.
  

Durer
Lamentation over the Dead Christ
1500

Michelangelo
The Holy Family
1506

Raphael
St George and the Dragon
1506

 

In the other European countries as well, the role of literature as a catalyst for Romanticism cannot be emphasized strongly enough. In England, the tradition of the Gothic novel continued unbroken from the eighteenth to far into the nineteenth century, culminating in the works of Jane Austen (1775-1817) and Mary Shelley (Frankenstein, 1818), and finally in those of the American Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849). Also unbroken since the eighteenth century were the influence of Ossian, of John Milton's (1608-1674) Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, and of Edward Young's Night Thoughts (1742—1745). The preface written in 1798 by William Wordsworth (1770—1850) to Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads, in its emphasis on nature as a counterworld to society, is considered to mark the inception of the English Romantic Movement.
 In France, in the wake of the Revolution around 1800, the Napoleonic Era had seen the emergence of first, quite idiosyncratic versions of Romanticism. An approach comparable to German developments was reflected in Chateaubriand's publication of 1802, The Spirit of Christianity, or The Beauties of the Christian Religion, in which the novels Atala and Rene were included. Here Christianity was reinterpreted on an aesthetic basis. In a typically Romantic ambivalence, faith was tempered by doubt, hope by melancholy, enthusiasm for a universal life by fear of what lurked in the depths of the human soul. The book on Germany by Madame Germaine de Stael (1766-1817), published in London in 1813 and, after Napoleon's fall, in Paris in 1814, popularized the Romantic philosophy and literature of Germany and recommended that the French overcome moribund neoclassicism with its aid.
 In the Jena Circle mentioned above, not only writers but philosophers, such as the Schlegel brothers, Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762—1814), Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling (1775 — 1854), and also the Protestant theologian Friedrich Schleier-macher (1768-1834), contributed to the journal Athenaum, which appeared from 1789 to 1800 and may justifiably be called the first and clearest manifesto of Romanticism.
 Its main purpose was to supplant the scientific, empirical view of the world by a "poetical" one. Contemporary society, these authors believed, lacked a binding mythology whose contents and symbols would be capable of expressing what eluded rational thought, and which could come into being only through idealism. Were this to be achieved, modern history would lead to a truly divine realm on earth. This would entail a shift of the external, confessional forms of religion into the consciousness of the individual. Only the creative self was capable of measuring the infinite. An important mediatory role in this process would be played by nature.
 August Wilhelm Schlegel compared the silent dialogue between spectator and nature to Holy Communion, and many a Protestant theologian placed the experience of nature on the same plane as the experience of the sacrament. Art, too, came to be seen in an ever more religious light. All fields of human thought and creativity were to contribute to a revolution of existence, were to proclaim the liberty of the individual with all of its consequences, from triumphant omnipotence to despairing loneliness.
 It was precisely this split in the human character, thought the Romantics, that would enable man to rise above himself. Change and transformation, a liberation from norms, and a blurring of borderlines became the program of the movement. Contradictions and existential crises were considered not a negative but a positive, creative factor, encouraging what Schlegel called "the progressive," an incessant process of becoming. Despite the positive tenor of the program, however, its high claims contained the seed of despair, of an absolute weariness with life. Jean Paul gave this the name "Weltschmerz", but even before him, Chateaubriand and Byron had raised comparable feelings and literary characters to icons of the modern, Romantic myth.
 The Romantic Movement saw itself as embodying the new mythology of modern Europe, as a kind of summing up and "progressive" continuation of European thought and achievement since the Christian Middle Ages, aimed at emancipating the human individual from his role of subject and giving him a meaningful place in a contemporary age whose political and industrial revolutions had lent all the more urgency to the question of meaning.
 Seen in this light, Romanticism, for all its suffering at the state of the world, was at least initially and in its best works something quite different from a pathetic self-abnegation. Rather, it was borne by the optimism of new beginnings, by an idealism that envisioned the whole of religion, philosophy, politics, art, psychology, and individual destinies raised to a new, meaningful, and forward-looking plane. This universal goal explains why the Romantics made continual borrowings from earlier epochs and yet reached quite different intellectual conclusions and artistic results. It was only when their ideals foundered on the rocks of political and economic reality that many proponents of Romanticism retreated into a domestic and non-committal "inwardness."
 

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Joseph Mallord William Turner

Claude-Joseph Vernet
 

 

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