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The word Neoclassical comes  from the  translates to  'New Classical'

Neoclassical Art

"The Art of The French Revolution"


Description and Origins of the Neoclassic Art Movement

The heart of Neo-Classical movement was centered in Rome, where expatriate artists congregated around the flamboyant German classical archaeologist and art critic Johann Joachim Wincklemann.  Winckelmann gushed about the "noble simplicity and quiet grandeur” of Greek sculpture, which he believed to be the most perfect beauty ever created by human hands, and recommended that artists emulate these classical forms.  The period is called neoclassical because its artists looked back to the art and culture of classical Greece and Rome.  The word Neoclassical comes from the translates to 'New Classical'.

Wincklemann wrote about roman archeological excavations and touted the homoeroticism of Greco-Roman art, writing explicit descriptions erotic male sculptures from Classical Antiquity thereby encouraging an interest in Greek antiquities. According to Winckelmanns biographer, Walter Pater, "his affinity with Hellenism was not merely intellectual, that the subtler threads of temperament were interwoven in it, is proved by his romantic, fervent friendships with young men. He has known, he says, many young men more beautiful than Guido’s archangel. These friendships, bringing him into contact with the pride of human form, and staining the thoughts with its bloom, perfected his reconciliation to the spirit of Greek sculpture. "

Neoclassical art is characterized by its classical form and structure, clarity, and to an degree, realism. More than just a classical revival, Neo-Classicism was directly connected to contemporary political events. Neo-Classical artists at first wanted to supplant the eroticism and frivolity of the Rococo style with a style that was orderly and serious in character.  French Neoclassism painters emphasis's patriotism, as well as a sense of civility and honorableness. The movement was particularly connected with the beliefs of the French Revolution and was seen as anti-aristocratic. The fantasy-based aristocratic art of the
Rococo era seemed an insult upon the rights of men and was vilified by critics and the general public.  In an age of sweeping revolution and transformation Neoclassicism became the art of change.

French painter Jacques-Louis David was infatuated with the former grandeur of Rome and even painted the tiny, pudgy  Napoleon as a magnificent warrior astride a white stallion. David declared "I will never, for the future, paint the portrait of a tyrant until his head lies before me on the scaffold."

 Mythology, Revolutionary themes,
folklore, legends, and the calm grandeur of a bygone era were all favored themes for Neoclassical painters.




Important Neoclassical Artists

Antonio Canova (1757-1822) Italian, Neoclassical

Jacques-Louis David (1748 - 1824) French, Neoclassical

Francois Gerard (1770-1837) Italian, Neoclassical

Antoine-Jean Gros 1771-1835)  French, Neoclassical

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 - 1867) French, Neoclassical

Angelica Kauffman (1741 - 1807) Swiss, Neoclassical

Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860) American, Neoclassical

Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844) Dutch, Neoclassical

John Trumbull (1756-1843) American, Neoclassical

Élizabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun (1755 - 1842) French, Neoclassical

Benjamin West (1738 - 1820) American, Neoclassical



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