Romanticism to Realism

I have added notes or responses to my tutor feedback for this assignment at the end of these notes and also have made any necessary amendments.

I am aware of my notes exceeding the required single page of notes but my justification to this is I feel is the important changes that were happening across the spectrum of the headings – the political, economic and social elements had a knock on effect throughout society and the styles and movements were ever changing and varying as each artist had his own variations.  I now feel the only way I can fully and deeply understand the periods is to extend my notes but change the way that I am doing them.  I do feel this period was desperately important, along with the previous on Enlightenment and Liberty, as it seems to set the tone for the changes that were continued with Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.


Political and social unrest in Europe/Russia/America, revolutions in France, Civil War in USA. Rise in population combined with industrial production enriching entrepreneurs. People moving from countries to cities /changing social structures.  Industrial Revolution – began 1780’s plus expansion of global markets including colonial empire/India annexed to compensate for losing America. Public parks – improve living conditions in highly industrial areas in order to purify air and provide outdoor recreation/Derby Arboretum was first deliberately planned in an urban setting.  Revolutions in France (1830) – immediate cause of press censorship – artists such as Honore Daumier satirized in lithographs. Photography – accurate records of earlier works of art, architecture and visual appearance as well as events.  History took position of reason in thought – 18th Century in all areas of politics, economic and social areas as well as for artists/problems referred to historical precedents and principles.  Yosemite/Yellowstone National Parks created to protect wilderness land in 1864 despite Civil War/America had booming industrial economy/active promoter for the parks included Frederick Law Olmsted (leading landscape architect and designer of Central Park).  African Americans effected by no further effort to implement Fifteenth Amendment (1876 – WHA p. 680)/segregation ever more enforced.  William Blake (mystic, poet, painter) like Casper David Friedrick confronted a world in his art which Christianity and Enlightenment have become clouded over.  Art for Arts Sake/centre of much 19th C thought and attacked as much as commended.


Artists concerned with artistic freedom more than political liberty. Public demand dictated style of art required (wanted escapist art with romantic evocations).  Women artists started to achieve prominence despite continued restrictions – being prevented from studying at art schools and life models. Artists such as Antoine-Jean Gros (pupil of Jacques-Louis David) reflected aspirations of empire as well as masters. Theodore Gericault typical of new type of artist – middle class with private income large enough to work without commissions/financial independence helped notion of artistic independence. Art dealers sold individual prints from calotypes. Choice of subject important for paintings to secure wide and profitable diffusion of prints plus exhibiting in London, Paris and Berlin enabled artists such as the American Albert Bierstadt to achieve international reputations.


Development of lithography.  Colouring of prints by hand (using watercolours) – artists such as William Blake. John Constable prepared works with drawings and full size painted sketches. Watercolour much used in the Orient but only occasionally in Europe until second half of 18th C when used for small landscapes especially in England. Studies (etudes) in drawing and painting outside equivalent of life classes.  Nicephore Niepce – fixed images of camera obscura on metal and glass plates/imparted to Louise-Jacques-Mande Daguerre who developed technique to become images on copper plate coated with silver (first time in 1837)(prints made from these)/Daguerreotypes/improved to become widely adopted in Europe and America for next 2 decades. William Henry Fox Talbot – before 1839 had fixed natural projected images through first a negative on translucent paper which then had to be placed over a second sensitized paper and exposed to light to make positive print/called negatives calotypes. Talbot’s invention meant numerous prints could be taken. Glass negatives developed in 1850s – sharper definition. Sensitive plates and mechanical shutter developed – recording of swift action. Flash-light power invented 1887. Half-tone processes developed – enabled cheap widespread diffusion of photographic images.


Romanticism – expression of own feelings allowed artists to express individuality but no specific single style unlike that of the Renaissance etc/ Neoclassism not rejected only fragmented. Hypersensitive response to human form such as by German Nazarene artists/non-European people began to be seen as individuals rather than exotic.  Artists depicting scenes of contemporary life including reportage of events/style change seen in works such as by Gros – focus no longer heroism but suffering. Francisco de Goya – morally improving works with insight into tortured mind in a chaotic world. Individual artists had individual styles/Eugene Delacroix personal style of dynamic energy, colour – combined reportage with allegory and real life – painted The 28th July: Leading the People (most famous visual image of revolution created). Sincerity in art and literature recognisable feature of Romanticism – art based on thoughts and emotions not words. John Constable, natural painter of natural landscape scenes with preference for canals, dams and worked land, caught moments in time of work day experience. Joseph Mallord William Turner – more impulsive style and concerned with visual appearances including the fleeting effects of light/believed  practice of painting as an end in itself/art concealed art. Jean-August-Dominique Ingress style of painting women – sensuous through use of line and colour and view of women gave his style.  Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – greatest landscape painter of his time/sensitive to qualities of light and atmosphere with the knowledge of tone indicating form and suggestive of distance/naturalism of etudes and impression of being determined by a single viewpoint.  Photographs – answers Romantic desire for direct records of visual appearance.  Architecture – no one set style but each building done in singular style.  Gothic Revival in architecture – Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin – inside and outside of Houses of Parliament  – Gothic adopted for historic associations as much as structural purposes (taken across to America by Richard Upjohn who built Gothic churches for Episcopalians. Juste milieu style – literally happy medium paintings which avoided all extremes of 19th Century/demanded detail and local colour in literary and artistic sense/artists expected to research historically/Paul Delaroche with The Execution of Lady Jane Grey good example. Pre-Raphaelite movement – started by group of young artists in France, England and Germany/return to nature and renunciation of academic practices. Realism – Gustave Courbet (A Burial At Ornans). Jean-Francois Millet – specialised in depicting rural working class people/refused to accept Socialist interpretations of his work. Edouard Manet – hailed as first modern painter/believed in sincerity of art and realism and used photographs as aids to provide him with records of events.  Manet redefined sincerity to signify artistic honesty rather than emotional honesty. Americans had own style of portraits, genres, still lifes and landscapes based on naturalism and realism /Thomas Cole said ‘All nature is new to art’ (WHA, p. 674) – attention to detail and no social tension plus preservation of simple rural life . Realist style encouraged choosing of unconventional subject matter including sordid scenes and industrial scenes.


Old masters such as Rubens.  Antoine-Jean Gros most influential painter of his generation. Byron – poet who inspired Delacroix (Death of Sardanapalux). Philosophy – German philosophy inspired and coloured ideas by nationalism – developed by Johann Gottfried Herder with new concept of Germaness (Deutschheit)/poets and philosophers associated more with painters in Germany than in France – Casper  David Friedrich one such painter.  Painted portraits influenced photography more than the other way around /Photography subjects showed clear composition influence from Dutch still lifes. Personality and circumstances direct influence on individual artistic styles. William Wordsworth (poet) influenced artists such as William Blake.


Jean-Baptiste Lamarck & Erasmus Darwin (classification of species) and later Charles Darwin (evolution of species).  Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels – the Communist Manifesto. George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel – founded philosophies on historical studies with Karl Marx. Charles Dickens – author. Charles Boudelaire – poet and art critic. Historian Jules Michelet – history of the French revolution and said “France herself, our whole society is on that raft” (WHA p. 647) in response to The Raft of Medusa by Gericaults (based on the scandal La Meduse  as the clouds of revolution were gathering. Victor Hugo – leader of French Romantic Literature. John Ruskin – anti-papist gave Pugin’s views of Gothic revival wider circulation  – admirer of Turner – writer, social reformer and art critic.  Fox Talbot published The Pencil of Nature – revealed his photographic invention as new means of artistic expression. ‘In Which Style Should we Build’ – 1829 – German critic  and architect Heinrich Hubsch – defines Romantic architecture of no singular overall style but dictates each architectural design must be one style. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – French socialist who wrote of his friend Courbet. Lev Nicolayevich Tolstoy – Russian thinker, social reformer and novelist. Asher B Durand – theorist who wrote Letters on Landscape Painting (New York 1855) about work of Hudson River painters including Thomas Cole. Moncure F. Conway – outspoken critic of slavery.


Fleming, J and Honour, H. 1984. A World History of Art. Seventh Edition. London.  Laurence King Publishing Ltd.

My tutor has asked me to list as many features of Romantic art or the artists as I can and includes examples such as:

  • “the idea of the Romantic artist as set apart from humanity, because they possess a mysterious faculty of genius/inspiration
  • the growing status of feeling/emphasis on sentiment
  • the increasing incorporation of the personal and private into public culture and an increasing use of public culture for self-promotion
  • the compulsion to innovate and modernise
  • the attraction towards the Gothic and the fantastic”

To add to these examples:

  • artistic freedom more concerning than political liberty which meant growing variances of individual styles
  • women still being restricted from art schools but achieving prominence nevertheless
  • artistic independence due to financial freedom which enabled artists to work without need of patrons
  • hypersensitive response to human form so peoples of distant countries no longer seen as exotic but as individuals
  • focus on reportage of events changed from depiction of heroism to that of suffering
  • artists such as Goya painting morally improving works giving insight into a tortured mind
  • art based on thought and emotions not words
  • Turner believed in painting as an end to itself and art concealed art
  • appearance of photography which encapsulated Romantic desire for direct records of visual appearance.
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