Romanticism (Art and Literature movement)



2015-06-26 10:46:22

Romanticism was an artistic movement that emerged towards the end of the eighteenth century in Europe and was an intellectual response against the scientific rationalisation of nature and the rapid age of industrialisation.

Background and History

The movement placed new emphasis on the untamed essence of nature and created artworks which explicitly intensified emotions such as fear, admiration, apprehension and awe. Romantic art was directly opposed to Neoclassicism, particularly its stoic representation of antiquities and the banal realism that it offered. Romanticism, on the other hand, exaggerated nature and emotion and realised this via the unlimited potential of individualism, creativity and irrationalism.

The term “romanticism” was first coined by the German poets and critics August Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel to describe the Christian struggle between heavenly perfection and human carnal desires in Medieval Europe. Although this may partially explain the Romantics interest with the Middle Ages, the ideologies and the rapid social change created by the French Revolution laid the foundations from which Romanticism emerged. As the Industrial Revolution and the age of Enlightenment sought to reduce the world to reason and realist sensibilities, Romanticism offered an alternative view and was an attempt to transcend from modern realities.

In Romantic art, nature is invariably portrayed as a restless and uncontrollable entity. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, many paintings depicted the one sided battle between man and the absolute power of nature. Théodore Gericault's horrifying "Raft of the Medusa" (1818-19) (Louvre) became an icon for the nascent movement and the archetypal Romantic painting. In essence, the Romantic ideal was that nature was so powerful and absolute that it would eventually overcome the flawed ephemeral artefacts of men.

Guide for Collectors

Due to the popularity and significance of Romantic artwork, very few paintings are available for private sale and are instead exhibited at various art galleries worldwide. However, when on occasion they have appeared at auction, artworks by the pioneers of the Romantic movement, such as Gericault, J.M.W Turner and John Constable, can reach up to £10m.

Delacroix and his French contemporaries are mainly a French market and just over half of all lots go on auction in France. Both Sotheby's and Christie's regularly auction sketches and watercolours from British Romantic artists, including Turner, Constable and Samuel Palmer, and tend to range from £20,000 to £500,000.

Notable Pieces

In July 2010, J.M.W Turner's “Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino” (1839), the painters final depiction of Rome before his death, was sold at Sotheby's for £29.7m in five minutes. Prior to the sale the painting had only been on the open market once since it was created one hundred and seventy one years before. The £29.7m price tag is the highest ever for a Turner or any work from a British artist. The painting is now on show at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles

In 1998, at Drouot's in Paris, Eugene Delacroix's “Choc de Cavaliers Arabes” was sold for £6.4m, beating the artist’s previous record of £3.2m when his painting “Les Natches” (MoMA) was auctioned in 1989.

Notable Artists

  • William Blake
  • Louis Boulanger
  • Theodore Chassériau
  • John Constable
  • Eugene Delacroix
  • Caspar David Friedrich
  • Théodore Gericault
  • Francisco Goya
  • Samuel Palmer
  • J.M.W Turner
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