Classicism (Artistic Movement)



2015-06-26 11:23:38

The term Classicism is often applied to any artistic movement that is based upon the aesthetic foundations of the art culture of ancient Rome and Greece.

Description and History

Classicism tends to respect deliberate composition, proportion, logic and restrained emotion and it was this classical naturalism which was the foundation of Classical painting and sculpture.

Classical art is distinguished by its emphasis on symmetry and geometry and many paintings feature examples of Classical antiquities and references within the confines of the image. Raphael’s “The Betrothal of a Virgin” (1504) (Pinacoteca di Brera) includes a number of motifs and geometric patterns which adhere to Classical aesthetic formalities.

The Renaissance in thirteenth century Italy saw the first major revival of Classicism. During this time many painters and sculptures began to renew classical motifs, subjects and forms.

Michelangelo’s “Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel” (1508-1512) and the “Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli (1486) are good examples of Italian Renaissance painters being influenced by Classical themes, particularly their allegorical material and strong use of compositional clarity and order.

During the Italian Renaissance, many figures of Classical mythology were appropriated in Christian art and given new symbolic relevance. The Goddess Venus, a symbol of innocent love, was transformed into the new Eve and numerous paintings represent other instances of iconographic adoption.

The Classical movement was revived in the eighteenth century following the archaeological discoveries of Herculaneum and Pompeii. The ancient ruins sparked a further interest in the appreciation of Roman art and thus begun the Neoclassical movement. Although considered to be the formative stages of the Romanticist movement, Neoclassicism adhered to the traditional sensibilities of aesthetic order over expression and individuality. Neoclassical painters such as Jacques-Louis David and John Trumball display a tendency to use sharp outlines and cool, austere colours.

Guide for Collectors

Classical paintings, particularly those from the Italian Renaissance, are extremely desirable and very rarely emerge on the open market. However, both Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction paintings and drawings in their annual Old Masters Paintings and Sculpture events and have in the past featured drawings by Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

Notable Pieces

On December 8th 2009, a Raphael drawing was sold for £29.2m at Christie’s, London. The price was not only the highest ever paid for any work by Raphael at auction, but was also a world record price for any work on paper. Raphael’s previous record was set in July 2007 when “Portrait of Lorenzo de Medici, Duke of Urbino” was sold for £18.5m.

Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci previously shared the record for the most expensive work on paper. In July 2000, Michelangelo’s drawing that inspired his famous “The Risen Christ” (c.1514) was bought by a German based art dealer for £8.1m when it was sold through Christie’s, London.

In July 2001, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Horse and Rider” (1481) was auctioned at Christie’s, London, and realised a price of £8.1m.

Notable Artists

  • Michelangelo
  • Sandro Botticelli
  • Raphael
  • Jacques-Louis David
  • John Trumball
  • Nicolas Poussin
  • Charles Le Brun
  • Paolo Uccello
  • Leonardo da Vinci
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