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William Blake

Caspar David Friedrich

Henry Fuseli

Eugene Delacroix

Theodore Gericault

J.M.W. Turner

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An early 19th century, pan-European movement in the arts and philosophy. The term derives from the Romances of the Middle Ages, and refers to an idealization of reality. In the late 18th century, it came to mean anti-Classical and represented a trend towards the picturesque and the Gothic, and a love of nostalgia, mystery and drama (e.g. Walpole, Beckford and Fuseli). By the early 19th century it had been broadened to include: an enthusiasm for, and awe of, nature; a political support for liberty; an emphasis on the individual as a unique creative being; opposition to, and fear of, industrialization; an interest in the exotic and primitive; nationalism; and a dissatisfaction with life and a desire for new means of artistic expression. This breadth of meaning has led to the definition of Romanticism as a 'feeling' and very little else.

The Romantic movement took on different characteristics throughout Europe. In England, the poets Shelley and Keats sought beauty, Byron sought exotic glory and adventure, Wordsworth tried to express a love of nature in a new simple language and Blake railed against the Establishment. Landscape painting was seriously explored by Constable, Palmer and others. The Middle Ages were revived as a source of artistic and architectural interest. Most significantly Turner found a radical and expressive technique with which to depict his view of the natural world. In France the movement was politically motivated by the revolutions of 1789 and 1830, and with the patronage of Napoleon (see Gros and Gericault), artists looked increasingly to literature, history and exotic subjects. The art pour art movement promoted beauty for its own sake (e.g. Ingres), there was a search for painting of modern fife (by Baudelaire) and Delacroix experimented with new colour theories and free brushwork. In Germany, an enthusiasm for nationalism and liberalism generated by the Napoleonic invasion inspired writers, artists and architects (e.g. Friedrich, Schinkel and Klenze).

- From The Bulfinch Guide to Art History

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