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The Romantics


Romanticism originated in Germany and quickly moved to England in the early 1780s. In the beginning the romantic movement was advanced mainly by a number of German writers and poets. Their influence on painters was inspiring and lasting. According to French art historian W. C. Brownell, "The romantic painters were, however, by no means merely emotional. They were mainly imaginative. And in painting, as in literature, the great change wrought by romanticism consisted in stimulating the imagination instead of merely satisfying the sense and the intellect. The main idea ceased to be as obviously accentuated, and its natural surroundings were given their natural place; there was less direct statement and more suggestion; the artist's effort was expended rather upon perfecting the ensemble, noting relations, taking in a larger circle; a suggested complexity of moral elements took the place of the old simplicity, whose multifariousness was almost wholly pictorial. Instead of a landscape as a tapestry background to a Holy Family, and having no pertinence but an artistic one, we have Corot's "Orpheus."

The Romantics exalted courtly love and sought only poetry and truth. They refused to be restricted by the traditional approach to still-lifes, seascapes, and landscapes. They explored a classical and increasingly decorative painting style in which structure, forms and luminescent colors were seen as having the power to evoke an emotional, and even spiritual, response in the viewer.  Music, literature and art acquired profound or idealistic meaning. Legends, folklore, mythology and fairytales were rich sources of inspiration. Eugène Delacroix wrote the following entry into his journal in 1824 "I confess that I have worked logically, I, who have no love for logical painting. I see now that my turbulent mind needs activity, that it must break out and try a hundred different ways before reaching the goal towards which I am always straining. There is an old leaven working in me, some black depth that must be appeased." The Romantics dreamed of a world made better through art that would articulate ideal beauty and the nobleness of the true love.

Masters of  Romanticism Painting

William Bouguereau (1825 - 1905) French

John Constable (1776-1837) English,

Eugène Delacroix (1798 - 1863) French,

William Blake (1757 - 1827) English,

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References - French Art Classic and Contemporary Painting and Sculpture by W. C. Brownell