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The Early and Mid-Nineteenth Century: Romanticism

The Early and Mid-Nineteenth Century: Romanticism

Objective: In this activity, you will conduct a research project to answer a question or solve a problem write arguments to support claims using sound reasoning and evidence.

Literary Analysis:
Conduct and write a literary analysis about any work you have read in this unit.

Reread the work you select, making note of any particular literary element that stands out. Choose the literary element and aspect of the text that you will examine in your analysis. Follow the procedure outlined below to write your literary analysis. Your paper should be approximately two to three pages in length. It should include a logical introduction, body, and conclusion that develops and supports your thesis. Include a works cited page as well as in-text citations in MLA format to document your sources, including the literary text you selected to analyze.

Romanticism, very first described as an aesthetic in literary criticism around 1800, received energy as an artistic activity in France and Britain in the early years in the nineteenth century and prospered until the middle of-century. With its emphasis on the imagination and emotion, Romanticism emerged as a response to the disillusionment with the Enlightenment values of reason and order in the aftermath of the French Revolution of 1789. Though often posited in opposition to Neoclassicism, early Romanticism was shaped largely by artists trained in Jacques Louis David’s studio, including Baron Antoine Jean Gros, Anne Louis Girodet-Trioson, and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. This blurring of stylistic boundaries is best expressed in Ingres’ Apotheosis of Homer and Eugène Delacroix’s Death of Sardanapalus (both Museé du Louvre, Paris), which polarized the public at the Salon of 1827 in Paris. While Ingres’ work seemingly embodied the ordered classicism of David in contrast to the disorder and tumult of Delacroix, in fact both works draw from the Davidian tradition but each ultimately subverts that model, asserting the originality of the artist—a central notion of Romanticism.

In Romantic craft, nature—with its unmanageable energy, unpredictability, and likelihood of cataclysmic extremes—offered a substitute for the bought realm of Enlightenment believed. The violent and terrifying images of nature conjured by Romantic artists recall the eighteenth-century aesthetic of the Sublime. As articulated by the British statesman Edmund Burke in a 1757 treatise and echoed by the French philosopher Denis Diderot a decade later, “all that stuns the soul, all that imprints a feeling of terror, leads to the sublime.” In French and British painting of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the recurrence of images of shipwrecks (2003.42.56) and other representations of man’s struggle against the awesome power of nature manifest this sensibility. Scenes of shipwrecks culminated in 1819 with Théodore Gericault’s strikingly original Raft of the Medusa (Louvre), based on a contemporary event. In its horrifying explicitness, emotional intensity, and conspicuous lack of a hero, The Raft of the Medusa became an icon of the emerging Romantic style. Similarly, J. M. W. Turner’s 1812 depiction of Hannibal and his army crossing the Alps (Tate, London), in which the general and his troops are dwarfed by the overwhelming scale of the landscape and engulfed in the swirling vortex of snow, embodies the Romantic sensibility in landscape painting. Gericault also explored the Romantic landscape in a series of views representing different times of day; in Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct (1989.183), the dramatic sky, blasted tree, and classical ruins evoke a sense of melancholic reverie.

Another component of the Passionate attitude toward character emerges from the panoramas of John Constable, as their art work expresses his solution to his native English countryside. For his major paintings, Constable executed full-scale sketches, as in a view of Salisbury Cathedral (50.145.8); he wrote that a sketch represents “nothing but one state of mind—that which you were in at the time.” When his landscapes were exhibited in Paris at the Salon of 1824, critics and artists embraced his art as “nature itself.” Constable’s subjective, highly personal view of nature accords with the individuality that is a central tenet of Romanticism.

This interest in the person and subjective—at odds with eighteenth-century rationalism—is mirrored inside the Passionate procedure for portraiture. Traditionally, records of individual likeness, portraits became vehicles for expressing a range of psychological and emotional states in the hands of Romantic painters. Gericault probed the extremes of mental illness in his portraits of psychiatric patients, as well as the darker side of childhood in his unconventional portrayals of children. In his portrait of Alfred Dedreux (41.17), a young boy of about five or six, the child appears intensely serious, more adult than childlike, while the dark clouds in the background convey an unsettling, ominous quality.

Such explorations of psychological says extended in to the animal empire, marking the Enchanting fascination with wildlife as both forces of nature and metaphors for human being behavior. This curiosity is manifest in the sketches of wild animals done in the menageries of Paris and London in the 1820s by artists such as Delacroix, Antoine-Louis Barye, and Edwin Landseer. Gericault depicted horses of all breeds—from workhorses to racehorses—in his work. Lord Byron’s 1819 tale of Mazeppa tied to a wild horse captivated Romantic artists from Delacroix to Théodore Chassériau, who exploited the violence and passion inherent in the story. Similarly, Horace Vernet, who exhibited two scenes from Mazeppa in the Salon of 1827 (both Musée Calvet, Avignon), also painted the riderless horse race that marked the end of the Roman Carnival, which he witnessed during his 1820 visit to Rome. His oil sketch (87.15.47) captures the frenetic energy of the spectacle, just before the start of the race. Images of wild, unbridled animals evoked primal states that stirred the Romantic imagination.

As well as plumbing mental and behavior extremes, Passionate designers widened the repertoire of material, rejecting the didacticism of Neoclassical record painting in support of imaginary and unique subject areas. Orientalism and the worlds of literature stimulated new dialogues with the past as well as the present. Ingres’ sinuous odalisques (38.65) reflect the contemporary fascination with the exoticism of the harem, albeit a purely imagined Orient, as he never traveled beyond Italy. In 1832, Delacroix journeyed to Morocco, and his trip to North Africa prompted other artists to follow. In 1846, Chassériau documented his visit to Algeria in notebooks filled with watercolors and drawings, which later served as models for paintings done in his Paris studio (64.188). Literature offered an alternative form of escapism. The novels of Sir Walter Scott, the poetry of Lord Byron, and the drama of Shakespeare transported art to other worlds and eras. Medieval England is the setting of Delacroix’s tumultuous Abduction of Rebecca (03.30), which illustrates an episode from Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.