Neoclassical, Romantic, and Realist Art
From the period of 1800 to 1850, three conflicting schools of thought were present on the canvas-Neoclassicism ( 1750-1830), Romanticism (1800-1850), and Realism (1830-1900). These three schools of art flourished side by side.
In 1775, Winckelmann published Reflections on the Imitation of Greek Art. In this important volume of art history, Winckelmann defined classic as "art [that] should aim at noble simplicity and calm gradeur (Clark 20)." Such would be achieved through reviving the classical sculptures and art of Greece and Rome and including such themes as order, reason, and discipline, often among an idyllic setting. An example of a typical neoclassic painting is Jacques-Louis David's Death of Socrates (1787).The painting is obviously based on a historical moment in ancient Greek history. Socrates' face is calm and stoic, even as he is about to swallow the hemlock, and his body is idealized. The brush strokes are smooth and barely noticeable. Yet the artist, David, was a classicist that challenged Winckelmann's doctrines of Classicism. His classicism "was nourished by a contact with nature and a passionate involvement with human life and society (Clark 21)." Of course, this was all before the revolution. David would later unveil his own political opinions through his paintings The Death of Marat and Napoleon crossing the Alps.
The Revolution marked an era of change; the age of balance and order was to be done away with. Strong imagination and wild emotion governed reason and intellect. This called for a defiance of the conventional principles of art to create more original and profound work. The Romantics proclaimed a return to nature-the sky would fill typically fill ¾ of the page and the people admiring the landscape would be minuscule in comparison. Common themes include family, nature, heroism, religion, and emotion (especially fear), anger, love, and hope. Eugène Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People (1830) symbolized the sweeping away of classicism; in the painting, the commoners, not the distinguished generals, march with liberty. Natural, muted, and soft colors as well as an abundance of light dominated the landscapes of Joseph Malford William Turner, John Constable, and Caspar David Friedrich.
of Delacroix in 1863 allowed Realism to be fully pronounced.
Yet its rebellious and revolutionary nature made it only
a continuation of Romanticism. Symbolists in literature
bore the slogan "art for art's sake," yet Romanticism
did not altogether disappear (Longyear 20). Realist art
came with Edgar Degas; daily life and common people were
the center of the canvas. Artists attempted to portray
light as it really looked and the human body was not idealized.
Landscapes were irrelevant; only the struggle of the working
class was worth painting. However Jean-Francois Millet's
drab and unpleasant pictures of rustic and working-class
life contained some elements of eroticism and color techniques
borrowed from Decamps and Goya. Millet was thought a socialist
for his work; in response, he merely stated "the
human side of art is what touches me most" (Clark
293). Evidently Romanticism was not altogether dead. By
the early 1900s, Romanticism would directly influence
the symbolist, expressionist, and surrealist movements.