Nationalism resulted as a natural consequence of widespread creative folk genius. In France, the formative stage of Romanticism coincided with the Napoleonic Wars, which inspired earlier romantics who painted with themes of battle. Painter Peter Paul Rubens had a series of battle paintings glorifying Napoleon. Thédore Géricault shifted for the emphasis of battle from heroism to suffering and endurance. Géricault's masterpiece, Raft of the Medusa (1818-19, Louvre) portrays the suffering of ordinary humanity, a theme echoed by many others. Delacrox, inspired by English romantic poet Lord Byron, painted his Death of Sardanapalus which had the effect of chaos engulfing the immobile and indifferent figure of the king.
William Shakespeare influenced Dramatic romantics. Although he is looked upon as the epitome of a great writer, his reputation was very different when he was alive. Before Shakespeare, dramatic concepts were derived from ancient Roman and Greek patterns, and critics scorned Shakespeare's unorthodoxy in style as he intermingled ideas of comedy with tragedy or proliferated plots and subplots.
The English romantics glorified Shakespeare's works and the German romantics welcomed his style with open arms. French classical theater had been the preeminent model for drama in much of Europe; but when the German Romantics began to explore and translate Shakespeare's plays, they were overwhelmed. His disregard for the classical rules inspired them. Writers like Friedrich von Schiller and Goethe created their own dramas inspired by Shakespeare. Faust contains many Shakespearian allusions as well as imitating all of the nonclassical qualities enumerated above. Romantics regarded Shakespeare as the essence of folk poetry. His influence of European Drama of the 1800s was enormous and he was also a sprinting board for young romantic painters, composers, and operas.
While classical art often referred to the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Romantics embraced the wilder aspects of creativity of Western Europeans form the 12-14 centuries. From stained glass windows of cathedrals to King Arthur and the knights of the round table, the medieval period heavily influenced Gothic romantics and generally all art forms of Europe. Artists longed for the simplicisty of the Medieval time period that was not present in the heaviness of the Classical world. Sir Walter Scott was by far the most successful in deriving simplicity in art. Almost forgotten now, his novels like The Bride of Lammermoor and Ivanhoe nevertheless inspired writers, painters, and composers in Germany, France, Italy, Russia and many other lands.
In this time period, artistic interpretation of religion underwent dramatic development. As time passed, artists were drawn to religious imagery in the similar ways, as they were attracted to Arthurian or other ancient traditions in which they no longer believed. Religion became estheticized and artists felt a need to present the Bible with the same freedom as their predecessors with classical mythology, and with as little reverence. For example, Faust begins and concludes in Heaven with characters of God, the Devil, angles, and demons. The Enlightenment had weakened the hold of Christianity over society to the extent that some at least, like Goethe, no longer felt the need to engage in the sort of fierce battles with it Voltaire had fought, but felt instead free to play with it. A comparable attitude can be seen in much of the work of the English Pre-Raphaelite painters who began in mid-century to treat Christian subjects in the context of charmingly "naive" Medievalism.
Romantic art looks like it sounds. This art is highly imaginative, subjective, emotionally intense, and dreamlike. This new romantic taste favored simplicity and naturalness; thoughts were to flow from the canvas as a blatant trace of thought from untutored common people. Specifically in Germany, the idea of collectivity was a dominant idea in the arts. These scholars admired anonymous masses that expressed themselves from the soul rather than popular individual artists. The fantasy of creative folk reflected the lack of knowledge in regards to the process in which the Nazis of the 1930s created songs and stories; also the idealogy of the essence of a German soul was used to dire effect.
Rousseau heavily influenced the Romantic Movement. He wrote of themes such as love and refined the idea of sensitivity. Love is the most cherished topic of the Romantics, whether buried under rage or terror, the motives of such emotions all root from the fundamental emotion of love. In the classical world, love was often synonymous with sex, yet the Romantics developed something else from the word. They portrayed lives of realistic young men and women in love rather than the Classical tradition. Love, for the first time, was celebrated as the most genuine human emotion. So thoroughly has love become identified with romance that the two are now generally taken as synonyms, disregarding the earlier associations of "romance" with adventure, terror, and mysticism.
The exotic intrigued Romantics. Just as Romantics responded to the longing of people for a distant past, so they provided images of distant places. The Spanish looked upon the French as exotic while Asian exoticism was introduced to Europeans. These ideas of the exotic originated from stereotypes, but the Romantic age was also a period in which Europeans traveled more than ever to examine at first hand the far-off lands of which they had read. Much of this was a result of European colonialism and the inhabitants were often regarded as innately lazy or unable to govern themselves. Male travelers viewed the native women of foreign lands as more sexually desirable and these women often show up in Romantic works. Lord Byron was the most influential force in popularizing exoticism in literature. Romantic lyric poetry of Coleridge, Shelley, Keats and Wordsworth had a negligible influence outside of their native tongue, the sweep of Byron's longer poems translated well into other languages and other artistic media.
The mixture of disbelief in and fascination with religion evident in such works illustrates a general principal of intellectual history: artistic and social movements almost never behave like rigid clock pendlums, swinging all the way from one direction to another. A better metaphor for social change is the movement of waves on a beach, in which an early wave is receding while another advances over it, and elements of both become mixed together. For all that many of its features were reactions against the rationalist Enlightenment, Romanticism also incorporated much from the earlier movement, or coexisted with the changes it had brought about.
Prior to the 1700s, individualistic beliefs were not looked upon seriously. The feudal system meant that people were born into nobility and one was a peasant if their parent was one too. However, as ideas of mercantilism and capitalism emerged, the class system began to wane. New industrialists wanted to credit themselves for their labor and rejected taxes and regulation. Along with individualistic thoughts regarding work, they developed their own tastes in the arts and created new social and artistic movements alien to the old aristocracy. This process can be seen operating as early as the Renaissance in the Netherlands.
These new concepts of the market also affected painters, composers, and writers who caught fans of their works for money. They no longer had to pay the Church or rich sponsors. They could now afford to pursue their individual tastes in a way not possible even in the Renaissance.
The most influential exemplar of individualism of the 1800s was Napoleon Bonaparte. His leadership of France in the chaotic wake of a bloody revolution as he led his army to a series of triumphs in Europe to build a brief but influential Empire created new styles, tastes, and even laws with disregard for public opinion that fascinated the people of the time. People loved him and hated him. Yet he was the epitome of individualism.
The concepts and attitudes
of nature today can be traced back to Romanticism. German romantics
were inspired by the concept of nature as a manifestation of the divine.
This led to symbolic landscaping, first started by Phillipp Otto Runge.
Landscapes expressed a mystical feeling and a sense of melancholy
solitude and estrangement. Europeans traditionally painted perfect
cityscapes with tidy gardens with tastes of ancient Rome and Greece.
Rousseau played an important part in changing this as would often
go on hikes and experience nature. After the Enlightenment, there
was an increase in security and people had more freedom to travel
for pleasure. Nature was no longer a mysterious evil as people experienced
God through it. Ironically, it is because of the industrial revolution
that pushed others to seek refuge in others.
Brians, Paul. Homepage. September 21, 2000. http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~brians/hum_303/romanticism.html
Romantic Chronology. University of California Berkeley. 2001. http://english.ucsb.edu:591/rchrono/default.htm