Romanticism - Introduction

By Leffler Christopher J.

Romanticism was a period of time from the second half of the 18th Century to the middle of the 19th Century that coincides with the “age of revolutions.” It is also argued Romanticism begins at least in the 1770’s and goes through 1870’s. Romanticism can even be pushed farther back for American literature and the arts like painting and music. Romanticism had a great influence from the two major revolutions, American (1776) and French (1789), which took place during this time period. The Industrial Revolution also brought an energy to the Romantic Movement that is considered to core to Romanticism. The countries that were considered the strongholds of the Romantic Movement were England and Germany, and not those countries that of the romance languages. Contrary to the name this movement had nothing to do with what is popularly thought of when presented the term “romantic.” Instead, it generally emphasized intuition, imagination, feelings, and emotion. The feelings and emotions that were often generated through the work during the Romantic Movement were that of horror, terror, and awe. The term Romanticism was generally used to refer to certain artists, poets, writers, and musicians. This paper will focus primarily on three of the arts during the Romantic Movement painting, literature, and music.

The paintings during the Romantic Movement depicted clashed with neoclassicism that was currently being taught at all academies during the time. The art during this time also primarily focused around two central themes Nature and Nationalism. The use of Nature in the paintings meant many things to the Romantic painters. Unlike the Chinese and Japanese, the Europeans had very little to no interest in natural landscapes. The paintings of nature before the Romantic Movement usually were very unrealistic when it came to the landscape and usually depicted prim and proper well-trimmed gardens. The Romantic painters instead depicted works of art that showed death and decay and really showed that Nature is power full and will eventually overcome any creations that man has put here on earth. The American Romantic painters attempted to distinguish themselves from their European counterparts by focusing more on Nature. Many of the American Romantic paintings depicted the untamed landscapes that were everywhere across the country. American Romantic painters also often depicted the Noble Savage in their paintings by showing an untrue portrayal of Native Americans living in harmony with the natural world. Another central theme that was common in the paintings during the Romantic Movement was a strong sense of Nationalism. Many paintings during this time period depict tremendous political events of the time period like the American and French Revolution. In addition to these battles there are also many other smaller revolutions that have appeared in Romantic paintings. The list of artists that have work during the Romantic Movement is also extremely talented. This period of time produced some amazing work from artists like J.M.W. Turner, Theodore Gericault, Eugene Delacroix, and Francisco Goya. This paper will discuss in detail the lives and artwork produced by both Francisco Goya from Spain and Eugene Delacroix from France.

The Literature during the Romantic Movement found many recurrent themes in the evocation or criticism of the past, with its emphasis on women and children, the heroic isolation of the artist or narrator, and respect to the new, wilder and pure Nature. There were also two authors during the Romantic Movement, Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, who primarily focused their literature on the supernatural and human psychology (Wikipedia). Like in the paintings of the Romantic Movement the literature of the time also have two constantly recurring central themes of Nature and Nationalism. It was in Germany where the central theme of Nationalism is more apparent with the writings of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Many of his writings were done during the time when Germany was still separated into many different separate states because of World War II. It was his work along with others in Germany that really helped bring together a sense of Nationalism within Germany and finally the reuniting of Germany as one single country. The most influential writings during the Romantic Movement came from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who was also a German writer. His most notable works were that of Reveries of a Solitary Walker that has the central theme of Nature throughout and On the Social Contract. This paper will go through many different authors during this time period and touch on many introduced in the introduction.

Usually when discussing the term Romanticism with music the period of time that you are talking about is actually around 1820’s to around 1900. The term however has been used to describe many of the great composers like Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven even those these two of the three composers, Mozart and Haydn, are actually considered more Classical. However, it is the work of Beethoven that is really considered the start of the musical Romantic Movement. In addition to the works of Beethoven the Romantic Movement also brought along many other new forms of music. Folk Music was very popular during the Romantic Movement and again brings in the central theme of Nationalism that can be found in all of the arts during this time. Many Folk songs of this time brought together nations that were either separated because of the end of a war or nations that were going through a revolution. Many of the artists during this time expressed their Nationalism in their music through a number of different ways including dances and legendary histories. In addition to this external appearance to their music, musicians also made major changes to the musical language as composers used elements of rhythm, melody, and modality characteristics of their respective nations. It is really the period of 1815 to 1848, which can truly be regarded as the age of Romanticism in music. This period of time included many great composers like Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Berlioz, and Richard Wagner. This paper will discuss and explore the careers and life of two of the greatest musicians of the Romantic Movement: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) and Frederic Chopin (1810-1849).


"Romanticism." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 2011. Web.

Brians, Paul. “Romanticism.” HUM 303 Course Page. Web.

“Romanticism.” Brooklyn College. Web.