Get SmART – The Romantic Era

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Guest post by Kevin Twitchell, MOA Marketing intern

The MOA is beginning a new series of blog posts which will act as a brief introduction to different eras of art history (in case your memory from your CIV classes is a little bit fuzzy). We will explore how these eras developed, who was involved, what was created, and the impact each had on the world.

The first era we will explore is the Romantic Era.

Isaiah Berlin, a social and political theorist, once described Romanticism as “a new and restless spirit, seeking violently to burst through old and cramping forms, a nervous preoccupation with perpetually changing inner states of consciousness, a longing for the unbounded and the indefinable, for perpetual movement and change, an effort to return to the forgotten sources of life, a passionate effort at self-assertion both individual and collective, a search after means of expressing an unappeasable yearning for unattainable goals.”
But what is Romanticism, exactly?

With its roots in the latter half the the 18th century, the Romantic movement influenced art, music, and literature well into the middle of the 19th century. This style acted as an influential force for writers such as Jane Eyre, Henry David Thoreau and Emily Dickinson; for artists such as John Constable and Francisco Goya; and for composers such as Robert Schumann, and Felix Mendelssohn.

The Romantic movement emphasized deep emotion, individualism, the beauty of nature, and is largely seen as a reaction to the order, harmony, and balance of the previous Neoclassic period. The movement relied heavily on folk culture, myth, and medieval stylings and stories for its inspiration. It was a movement devoted to exploring the extremes of emotion, and often used the mysterious, the exotic, and at times even the occult as its subject. Originality was considered essential in the Romantic Era, while copying the subjects or styles of other artists was seen as an impediment to creativity.
What does “Romantic” mean?

While today we view anything romantic as having to do with love or desire, romantic (romantique) was a word commonly used in both English and French to describe beautiful natural phenomena.
Where did the Romanticism Era begin?
Romanticism can be traced back to England and France, where artists found themselves in the middle of extreme social change. In England, the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, leading to cramped cities, higher populations, the introduction of new technology, and the mass production of goods. During this same period, France was enduring the French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic Wars, which threw the nation into turmoil for several decades. In the midst of the confusion and chaos of progress and war, artists found their voice in the expression of deep emotion, channeling the confusion of the world around them into beautiful works of art. From its humble start in England and France, Romanticism slowly spread across Europe, and eventually crossed the Atlantic to influence artists in both North and South America.

Interested in seeing works from this time period? Visit to explore our digital collection.

A sample of artists from this period:
J.M.W. Turner
Claude Lorraine
Theodore Gericault
Eugene Delacroix
John Constable
A sample of musicians from this period:
Franz Liszt
Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky
Robert Schumann
Richard Wagner
Felix Mendelssohn
A sample of authors from this period:
Mary Shelley
Alexandre Dumas
Charlotte Bronte
Jane Austen
Ralph Waldo Emerson



Image: George Morland (1763-1804), The View of Pegwell Bay Kent, no date, oil on canvas, 36 x 55 5/8 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Joel N. Gillespie, 1973.

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