Romanticism

artistic, literary, musical, and intellectual movement

Romanticism (also the Romantic era or the Romantic period) was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature.

To romanticize the world is to make us aware of the magic, mystery and wonder of the world; it is to educate the senses to see the ordinary as extraordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, the finite as infinite.
~ Novalis

QuotesEdit

  • Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor exact truth, but in the way of feeling.
  • I am eternally, devastatingly romantic, and I thought people would see it because 'romantic' doesn't mean 'sugary.' It's dark and tormented — the furor of passion, the despair of an idealism that you can't attain.
    • Catherine Breillat, "Catherine Breillat Bares Her Romantic Side" in The New York Sun (20 June 2008)
  • No realist can love romantic Art so much as he loves his own, but when that Art fulfils the laws of its peculiar being, if he would be no blind partisan, he must admit it. The romanticist will never be amused by realism, but let him not for that reason be so parochial as to think that realism, when it achieves vitality, is not Art. For what is Art but the perfected expression of self in contact with the world; and whether that self be of enlightening, or of fairy-telling temperament, is of no moment whatsoever. The tossing of abuse from realist to romanticist and back is but the sword-play of two one-eyed men with their blind side turned toward each other. Shall not each attempt be judged on its own merits? If found not shoddy, faked, or forced, but true to itself, true to its conceiving mood, and fair-proportioned part to whole; so that it lives — then, realistic or romantic, in the name of Fairness let it pass! Of all kinds of human energy, Art is surely the most free, the least parochial; and demands of us an essential tolerance of all its forms. Shall we waste breath and ink in condemnation of artists, because their temperaments are not our own?
  • What is Classical is healthy; what is Romantic is sick.
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maxims and Reflections (1833), maxim 1031
    • Original text:
      Das Klassische nenne ich das Gesunde und das Romantische das Kranke.
 
What was the Romantic School in Germany? It was nothing else but the reawakening of the poetry of the Middle Ages, as it had shown itself in its songs, images, and architecture, in art and in life. ~ Heinrich Heine
  • What was the Romantic School in Germany? It was nothing else but the reawakening of the poetry of the Middle Ages, as it had shown itself in its songs, images, and architecture, in art and in life.
  • Heinrich Heine, The Romantic School (1833-1835) as quoted in The Main Tendencies of Victorian Poetry: Studies in the Thought and Art of the Greater Poets (1907), p. 184
  • "Art for art's sake" was an invention of the romantic era in France. They looked towards a mythical past in which the "natural" person could cultivate self-expression, free of the claims of social utility. This fantasized past had an anti-industrial character. Work was despised because the growing industrial revolution was separating it from inventiveness, originality, and individualism. The inventiveness and spontaneity that independent artists sought were opposed to industrial work, products (with which they associated academic art) and for many cities. Women and men held parasols and croquet mallets, not sickles and hoes, and dahlias were more attractive than cabbages.
    • Robert L. Herbert, Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society (1988), p. 304–306
  • On the surface there was a strong monarchical, rightist, and "medievalist" reaction to be felt all over Europe; Chateaubriand, de Maistre, de Bonald, Schlegel, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Zacharias Werner, Clemens Brentano, the brothers Stolberg and Manzoni wrote their great works within this movement. Romanticism east of the Rhine was truly diversitarian and romantic. A wave of conversions swept over the Continent and the Tractarian movement in England was not far off. The Church seemed to regain her old influence. Yet, under the surface, the nationalists of the herdist pattern would render all efforts of the spiritual-intellectual elite illusory. The vast masses of Slav inhabitants of the East European plains began to raise their voices in favor of a union. And from the northwestern plains and islands another monster raised its head, another phenomenon bound to change the face of the earth — the Industrial Revolution. While Kaspar David Friedrich and Kriehuber painted mountain scenes and Schwind and Ludwig Richter dwelt on the subtle lore of small German towns, tall chimneys and great machines, heralding the advent of another scourge, made their appearance; while poets, painters, and princes spoke in glowing terms of the coming New Middle Ages a German of Jewish descent, horrified and bewildered by the spectacle of British industrialism, first conceived the ideas which a few years later led to the publication of the "Communist Manifesto."
  • To romanticize the world is to make us aware of the magic, mystery and wonder of the world; it is to educate the senses to see the ordinary as extraordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, the finite as infinite.
  • Novalis, as quoted in "Bildung in Early German Romanticism" by Frederick C. Beiser, in Philosophers on Education : Historical Perspectives (1998) by Amélie Rorty, p. 294
 
What I lack is the spiritual basis which under girded Romantic painting. We have lost the feeling of God's omnipresence in Nature. For us, everything is empty. Yet, these paintings [of a.o. Caspar David Friedrich] are still there. They still speak to us. We continue to love them, to use them, to have need of them. ~ Gerhard Richter
  • What I lack is the spiritual basis which under girded Romantic painting. We have lost the feeling of God's omnipresence in Nature. For us, everything is empty. Yet, these paintings [of a.o. Caspar David Friedrich] are still there. They still speak to us. We continue to love them, to use them, to have need of them.
  • The romantics were prompted to seek exotic subjects and to travel to far off places. They failed to realize that, though the transcendental must involve the strange and unfamiliar, not everything strange or unfamiliar is transcendental. The unfriendliness of society to his activity is difficult for the artists to accept. Yet this very hostility can act as a lever for true liberation. Both the sense of community and of security depend on the familiar. Free of them, transcendental experiences become possible.
    • Mark Rothko, Abstract Expressionism, Creators and Critics (1990), p. 167
  • Romanticism is no sign of powerful instincts, but, on the contrary, of a weak, self-detesting intellect. They are all infantile, these Romantics; men who remain children too long (or for ever), without the strength to criticize themselves, but with perpetual inhibitions arising from the obscure awareness of their own personal weakness; who are impelled by the morbid idea of reforming society, which is to them too masculine, too healthy, too sober. ...

And these same everlasting "youths" are with us again today, immature, destitute of the slightest experience or even real desire for experience, but writing and talking away about politics, fired by uniforms and badges, and clinging fantastically to some theory or other. There is a social Romanticism of sentimental Communists, a political Romanticism which regards election figures and the intoxication of mass-meeting oratory as deeds, and an economic Romanticism which trickles out from behind the gold theories of sick minds that know nothing of the inner forms of modern economics. They can only feel in the mass, where they can deaden the dull sense of their weakness by multiplying themselves. And this they call the Overcoming of Individualism.

  • [R]omanticism is the feeling that man is not the mere he has always taken himself for. Romanticism began as a tremendous surge of optimism about the stature of man. Its aim — like that of science — was to raise man above the muddled feelings and impulses of his everyday humanity, and to make him a god-like observer of human existence.
    • Colin Wilson, Introduction to the New Existentialism (1966), p. 96
  • The romantics of the 19th century thought that the artist is at war with society, and must be destroyed by it eventually; this is the theme of all of Hoffmann's stories. [T]he fault lies partly with the artist, for preferring pessimism and self-pity to serious thought, and that the 'outsider' must eventually learn to accept his position as a spiritual leader of society. The church once provided the link between 'outsiders' and society, standing for the world of values, of 'meanings' beyond the present. The artists of the 19th century found themselves without this visible symbol of non-material values, and were, as Hoffmann says, frequently destroyed by society, or by their own destiny of standing outside it. I concluded that they must learn to stand alone, to be twice as strong, for half the problems of our civilization are due to 'the treason of the intellectual', their tendency to opt out and collapse in self-pity.

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