The Popularity of Romanticism

Toward the end of the 18th century, the upheavals in society brought on by the American and French Revolutions had a profound effect on artistic style. Artists and writers were no longer satisfied with the Neoclassical obsession with order and reason, and instead turned to emotion and imagination for inspiration. This marked the beginning of the Romantic Movement.

Despite their disillusionment with Neoclassical ways of thinking, several Romantic artists were actually trained by prominent Neoclassical masters like Jacques-Louis David. Thus the beginnings of Romantic art had strong ties to the styles embraced by Neoclassicism, although Romantic artists soon developed their own original style.

Romanticism and Nature

Many Romantic artists were obsessed with nature. Its raw power and unpredictability were the perfect contrast to the older ideals of reason and logic. Because of this, many Romantic paintings focused on landscapes with extreme weather conditions or natural disasters like shipwrecks.

Related to the Romantics’ love for nature were Romanticism’s core tenets of individuality and subjectivity. Romantic art was all about the deep emotions of personal experience, and the closer an artist came to portraying genuine emotion, the more his or her art was appreciated.

Perhaps the biggest hallmark of Romanticism was its diversity. Romantic artists focused on feelings rather than realism, so much of their artwork went beyond the bounds of traditional subjects like historic figures and events.

Famous Romantic Paintings

One of the most famous paintings of the Romantic era was Théodore Gericault’s The Raft of the Medusa. It depicts the last survivors of a shipwreck clinging forlornly to a broken raft. It portrays intense emotions and elicits feelings of dread and awe at nature’s power.

Francisco Goya is another of the most famous Romantic painters. Several of his works such as The Third of May 1808 dealt with contemporary political issues in Goya’s home country of Spain.