Dictionary of Art and Artists



 

 


History of

Architecture and Sculpture

 
 

 

 
 

 
 

CONTENTS:

 
 

PART ONE
THE ANCIENT WORLD
PREHISTORIC ART
EGYPTIAN ART

ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN ART
AEGEAN ART
GREEK ART
ETRUSCAN ART
ROMAN ART
EARLY CHRISTIAN AND BYZANTINE ART

PART TWO
THE MIDDLE AGES
EARLY MEDIEVAL ART
ROMANESQUE ART
GOTHIC ART

PART THREE
THE RENAISSANCE THROUGH THE ROCOCO
LATE GOTHIC
THE EARLY RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
THE HIGH RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
MANNERISM AND OTHER TRENDS
THE RENAISSANCE IN THE NORTH
THE BAROQUE IN ITALY AND SPAIN
THE BAROQUE IN FLANDERS AND HOLLAND
THE BAROQUE
THE ROCOCO

PART FOUR
THE MODERN WORLD
NEOCLASSICISM AND ROMANTICISM
REALISM AND IMPRESSIONISM
POST-IMPRESSIONISM, SYMBOLISM, AND ART NOUVEAU

PART FIVE
TWENTIETH-CENTURY
TWENTIETH-CENTURY SCULPTURE
TWENTIETH-CENTURY ARCHITECTURE


INDEX
FIGURES
 

 
 

 
 

CHAPTER ONE
 

NEOCLASSICISM AND ROMANTICISM
 

NEOCLASSICISM
PAINTING
SCULPTURE and ARCHITECTURE- Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT
PAINTING
SCULPTURE and ARCHITECTURE - Part1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20
PHOTOGRAPHY
 

 


THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT

 

Of all the "isms" that populate Western art of the past two centuries, Romanticism has always been the most difficult to define. It deserves to be termed an "ism" only because its practitioners (or at least some of them) thought of themselves as being part of a movement. But none have left us anything approaching a definition. Romanticism, it seems, was a certain state of mind rather than the conscious pursuit of a goal. If we try to analyze this state of mind, it breaks down into a series of attitudes, none of which, considered individually, is unique to Romanticism. It is only their peculiar combination that seems characteristic of the Romantic movement.

How did Romanticism come about? The Enlightenment, paradoxically, liberated not only reason but also its opposite: it helped to create a new wave of emotionalism that was to last for the better part of a half-century, and came to be known as Romanticism. The word derives from the late-eighteenth-century vogue for medieval tales of adventure (such as the legends of King Arthur or the Holy Grail), called "romances" because they were written in a Romance language, not in Latin. This interest in the long-neglected "Gothick" past was symptomatic of a general trend. Those who shared a revulsion against the established social order and religionagainst established values of any sortcould either try to found a new order based on their faith in the power of reason, or they could seek release in a craving for emotional experience. Their common denominator was a desire to "return to Nature." The rationalist acclaimed nature as the ultimate source of reason, while the Romantic worshiped it as unbounded, wild, and ever-changing. The Romantic believed that evil would disappear if people were only to behave "naturally," giving their impulses free rein. In the name of nature, the Romantics acclaimed liberty, power, love, violence, the Greeks, the Middle Ages, or anything else that aroused them, although actually they exalted emotion as an end in itself. This attitude has motivated some of the noblest, as well as vilest, acts of our era. In its most extreme form. Romanticism could be expressed only through direct action, not through works of art. No artist, then, can be a wholehearted Romantic, for the creation of a work of art demands some detachment, self-awareness, and discipline. What William Wordsworth, the great Romantic poet, said of poetry in 1798that it is "emotion recollected in tranquility"applies also to the visual arts.

To cast fleeting experience into permanent form, Romantic artists needed a style. But since they were in revolt against the old order, this could not be the established style of the time. It had to come from some phase of the past to which they felt linked by "elective affinity" (another Romantic concept). Romanticism thus favored the revival not of one style, but of a potentially unlimited number of styles. In fact, the rediscovery and utilization of forms hitherto neglected or scorned evolved into a stylistic principle in itself, so that revivals became the "style" of Romanticism in art, as it did, to a degree, in literature and music.

Seen in this context, Neoclassicism was simply the first phase of Romanticism, a revival that continued all the way through the nineteenth century, although it came to represent conservative taste. Perhaps it is best, then, to think of them as two sides of the same modern coin. If we maintain the distinction between them, it is because, until about 1800, Neoclassicism loomed larger than the other Romantic revivals, and because of the Enlightenment's dedication to the cause of liberty as against the cult of the individual represented by the Romantic hero.

 

 

PAINTING

It is one of the many apparent contradictions of Romanticism that it became, despite the desire tor untrammeled freedom of individual creativity, art for the rising professional and commercial class, which effectively dominated nineteenth-century society and which replaced state commissions and aristocratic-patronage as the most important source of support for artists. Painting remains the greatest creative achievement or Romanticism in the visual arts precisely because, being less expensive, it was less dependent than architecture or sculpture on public approval. It held a correspondingly greater appeal for the individualism of the Romantic artist. Moreover, it could better accommodate the themes and ideas ol Romantic literature. Romantic painting was not essentially illustrative; but literature, past and present, now became a more important source of inspiration for painters than ever before, and provided them with a new range of subjects, emotions, and attitudes. Romantic poets, in turn, often saw nature with a painter's eye. Many had a strong interest in art criticism and theory. Some, notably Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Victor Hugo, were capable draftsmen; and William Blake cast his visions in both pictorial and literary form. Art and literature thus have a complex, subtle, and by no means one-sided relationship within the Romantic movement.



Spain


Francisco Goya.

We must begin with the great Spanish painter Francisco Goya
(1746-1828), David's contemporary and the only artist of the age who may unreservedly be called a genius. When Goya first arrived in Madrid in 1766. he found both Mengs and Tiepolo working there. He was much impressed with the latter, whom he must have recognized immediately as the greater of the two. Goya's early works, in a delightful late Rococo vein, reflect the influence of Tiepolo, as well as the French masters of the Rococo. (Spain had produced no painters of significance tor over a century.) Nor did he respond to the growing Neoclassic trend during his brief visit to Rome five years later.

In the 1780s, however, Goya became more of a libertarian. His involvement with Enlightenment thought is best seen in his etchings, which made him the most important printmaker since Rembrandt. Published in series at intervals throughout his career, they ridicule human folly from the same moral viewpoint as Hogarth. But what a vast difference separates the two artists! Although suggested by proverbs and popular superstitions, many of Goya's prints defy exact analysis. He creates terrifying scenes such as The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters from the series Los Caprichos of the late 1790s (fig. 877). The subtitle, added later, elaborates its meaning: "Imagination abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters; united with her, she is the mother of the arts." The artist, shrinking from the assault of his visions, suffers from the same affliction as Durer's Melencolia I (see fig. 717), but his paralysis is psychological rather than conceptual. The image belongs to that realm of subjectively experienced horror which we will meet in Fuseli's The Nightmare (see fig. 899), but is infinitely more compelling.


877. Francisco Goya.  
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters,
1798
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Goya's etching owes part or its success to the technique of aquatint, whose potential he was the first to exploit fully, although he did not invent it. The process involves melting resin powder on the plate, which leaves a tine crackle pattern exposed to the acid bath. The result is an even, medium tone-similar to that of a wash drawing. Aquatint is one of two new print techniques devised in the eighteenth century, the other, called mezzotint, is found almost exclusively in portrait and other reproductive engravings. It utilizes a cylindrical rocker covered with tiny teeth to pit the surface, providing velvety grays and rich blacks.

Goya surely sympathized with the French Revolution, and not with the king of Spain, who had joined other monarchs in war against the young Republic. Yet he was much esteemed at court, where he was appointed painter to the king in 1799. Goya now abandoned the Rococo for a Neo-Baroque style based on Velazquez and Rembrandt, the masters he had come to admire most. It is this Neo-Baroque style that announces the arrival or Romanticism.

The Family of Charles IV (fig. 878), Goya's largest royal portrait, deliberately echoes Velazquez' The Maids of Honor (see fig. 774). The entire clan has come to visit the artist, who is painting in one of the picture galleries of the palace. As in the earlier work, shadowy canvases hang behind the group and the light pours in from the side, although its subtle gradations owe as much to Rembrandt as to Velazquez. The brushwork, too, has an incandescent sparkle rivaling that of The Maids of Honor. Goya does not utilize the Caravaggesque Neoclassicism of David, yet his painting has more in common with David's work than we might think. Like David, he practices a revival style and, in his way, is equally devoted to the unvarnished truth: he uses the Neo-Baroque of Romanticism to unmask the royal family.

Psychologically, The Family of Charles IV is almost shockingly modern. No longer shielded by the polite conventions of Baroque court portraiture, the inner being of these individuals has been laid bare with pitiless candor. They are like a collection of ghosts: the frightened children, the bloated king, andin a master stroke of sardonic humorthe grotesquely vulgar queen, posed like Velazquez' Princess Margarita. (Note the left arm and the turn of the head.) How could Goya get away with this? Was the royal family so dazzled by the splendid painting of their costumes that they failed to realize what he had done to them? Goya, we realize, must have painted them as they saw themselves, while unveiling the truth for all the world to see.
 

When Napoleon's armies occupied Spain in 1808, Goya and many other Spaniards hoped that the conquerors would bring the liberal reforms so badly needed. The barbaric behavior of the French troops crushed these hopes and generated a popular resistance of equal savagery. Many of Goya's works from 1810 to 1815 reflect this bitter experience. The greatest is The Third of May, 1808 (fig. 879), commemorating the execution of a group of Madrid citizens. Here the blazing color, broad, fluid brushwork, and dramatic nocturnal light are more emphatically Neo-Baroque than ever. The picture has all the emotional intensity of religious art, but these martyrs are dying for Liberty, not the Kingdom of Heaven. Nor are their executioners the agents of Satan but of political tyranny: a formation of faceless automatons, impervious to their victims' despair and defiance. The same scene was to be reenacted countless times in modern history. With the clairvoyance of genius, Goya created an image that has become a terrifying symbol of our era.

After the defeat of Napoleon, the restored Spanish monarchy brought a new wave of repression, and Goya withdrew more and more into a private world. Finally, in 1824, he went into voluntary exile. After a brief stay in Paris, Goya settled in Bordeaux, where he died. His importance for the Neo-Baroque Romantic painters of France is well attested by the greatest of them, Eugene Delacroix, who said that the ideal style would be a combination of Michelangelo's and Goya's art.
 


878. Francisco Goya.  The Family of Charles IV.
1800.
Oil on canvas, 2.8 x 3.4 m.
Museo del Prado, Madrid


879. Francisco Goya. The Third of May, 1808.
1814-15.
Oil on canvas, 2.7 x 4.1
m.
Museo del Prado, Madrid




France


Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson.

By
1795 Neoclassicism had largely run its course, and rapidly lost its purity and rigor. Thus within a few years French Romantic painting began to emerge among the Primitif faction of Jacques-Louis David's studio. These rebellious students simplified his stringent Neoclassicism still further by reverting to the linear designs of Greek and Etruscan vase painting, and the unadorned manner of the Italian Early Renaissance. At the same time, they subverted its content by preferring subjects whose appeal was primarily emotional rather than intellectual. Their sources were not the classical authors such as Horace or Ovid but the Bible, Homer, Ossian (the legendary Gaelic bard whose poems were forged by James Macpherson in the eighteenth century), and Romantic literature anything that excited the imagination. The ablest, as well as most radical, member of the group was Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson (1767-1824), whose Funeral of Atala (fig. 880) has all the hallmarks of the Primitif style. Without abandoning his teacher's exacting technique, he reduces the composition to a rhythmic play of lines across the picture plane by emphasizing simple shapes with strong contours, which are further accentuated by the selective highlighting. The scene is taken from the wildly popular Atala, or The Love of Two Savages in the Desert by Francois-Rene tic Chateaubriand, one of the first Romantic authors and later foreign minister of France. The unfinished novel, published as excerpts in 1801, unites the character of a classical idyll and the taste for the exotic with a religious theme at a time of resurgent Catholicism. These elements are conspicuously present in Girodet's canvas, which treats the burial of the virtuous young woman in the cave as the entombment of a Christian martyr. (Note the cross on the hillside.) Yet unlike the secular martyrdom memorialized by David in The Death of Marat, the painting is a celebration of sentiment. Girodet uses an eerie light to evoke an elegiac mood that is his real aim.


880. Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson. The Funeral of Atala. 1808.
Oil on canvas,
167 x 210
cm.
Musee du Louvre, Paris



 

Jean-Antoine Gros.

With its glamour and its adventurous conquests in remote parts of the world, the reign of Napoleon (which lasted from 1799 to 1815, with one interruption) gave rise to French Romanticism. David became an ardent admirer of Napoleon and executed several large pictures glorifying the emperor. As a portrayer of the Napoleonic myth, however, he was partially eclipsed by artists who had been his students. They felt the style of David too confining and fostered a Baroque revival to capture the excitement of the age. Jean-Antoine Gros (1771-1835), David's favorite pupil, shows us Napoleon as a 27-year-old general leading his troops at the Battle of Arcole in northern Italy (fig. 881). Painted in Milan, soon after the series of victories that gave the French the Lombard plain, it conveys Napoleon s magic as an irresistible "man of destiny," with a Romantic enthusiasm David could never match.

Alter Napoleon's empire collapsed, David spent his last years in exile in Brussels, where his major works were playfully amorous subjects drawn from ancient myths or legends and painted in a coolly sensuous Neo-Mannerist style he had initiated in Paris. I le turned his pupils over to Gros, urging him to return to Neoclassic orthodoxy. Much as Gros respected his teacher's doctrines, his emotional nature impelled him toward the color and drama of the Baroque. He remained torn between his pictorial instincts and these academic principles. Consequently, he never achieved David's authority and ended his life by suicide.
 


881. Jean-Antoine Gros.
Napoleon at Arcole.
1796.
Oil on canvas, 74.9 x 58.2 cm.
Musee du Louvre, Paris





Theodore Gericault.

The Neo-Baroque trend initiated in France by Gros aroused the imagination of many talented younger artists. The chief heroes of Theodore Gericault (1791-1824), apart from Gros, were Michelangelo and the great Baroque masters. Mounted Officer of the Imperial Guard (fig. 882), painted by Gericault at the astonishing age of 21, offers the same conception of the Romantic hero as Gros' Napoleon at Arcole (see fig. 881), but on a large scale and with a Rubens-like energy. For Gericault, politics no longer had the force of a faith. All he saw in Napoleon's campaigns was the thrill irresistible to the Romanticof violent action. Ultimately, the ancestors of this splendid figure are the equestrian soldiers in Leonardo's Battle of Anghiari (see fig. 636); as in Leonardo's equestrian image, the rider becomes one with his animal, whose frenzy he shares. Gericault, himself an enthusiastic horseman, later became interested in the British animal painters such as George Stubbs.

Gericault painted his most ambitious work, The Raft of the "Medusa" (fig. 883), in response to a political scandal and a modern tragedy of epic proportions. The Medusa, a government vessel, had foundered off the West African coast with hundreds of men on board. Only a handful were rescued, after many days on a makeshilt rait which had been set adrift by the ship s heartless captain and officers. The event attracted Gericault's attention because, like many French liberals, he opposed the monarchy that was restored after Napoleon. He went to extraordinary lengths in trying to achieve a maximum of authenticity. He interviewed survivors, had a model of the raft built, even studied corpses in the morgue. This search tor uncompromising truth is like David's, and The Raft is indeed remarkable for its powerfully realistic detail. Yet these preparations were subordinate in the end to the spirit of heroic drama that dominates the canvas. Gericault depicts the exciting moment when the rescue ship is first sighted. From the prostrate bodies of the dead and dying in the foreground, the composition is built up to a climax in the group that supports the frantically waving black man, so that the forward surge of the survivors parallels the movement of the raft itself. Sensing, perhaps, that this theme of "man against the elements" would have strong appeal across the Channel, where Copley had painted Watson and the Shark 40 years before (fig. 861), Gericault took the monumental canvas to Fngland on a traveling exhibit in 1820.

His numerous studies for The Raft of the "Medusa" had taught him how to explore extremes of the human condition scarcely touched by earlier artists. He went now not only to the morgue, but to the insane asylum of Paris. There he became a friend of Dr. Georget, a pioneer in modern psychiatry, and painted for him a series of portraits of individual patients to illustrate various types of derangement, such as that in figure 884. The conception and execution of this oil sketch has an immediacy that recalls Frans Hals, but Gericault's sympathy toward his subject makes his work contrast tellingly with Malle Babbe (see fig. 788). This ability to see the victims of mental disease as fellow human beings, not as accursed or bewitched outcasts, is one of the noblest fruits of the Romantic movement.


882. Theodore Gericault. Mounted Officer of the Imperial Guard. 1812. Oil on canvas, 2.9 x 1.9 m. Musee du Louvre, Paris
883. Theodore Gericault. The Raft of the "Medusa." 1818-19. Oil on canvas, 4.9x7.2 m. Musee du Louvre, Paris
884. Theodore Gericault. The Madman. 1821-24. Oil on canvas, 61 x 50.8 cm. Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent




Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres.

The mantle of David finally descended upon his pupil Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867). Too young to share in the political passions of the Revolution, Ingres never was an enthusiastic Bonapartist. In 1806 he went to Italy and remained for 18 years, so that he largely missed out on the formation of Romantic painting in France. Thus after his return he became the high priest of the Davidian tradition, defending it from the onslaughts of younger artists. What had been a revolutionary style only half a century before now congealed into rigid dogma, endorsed by the government and backed by the weight of conservative opinion.

Ingres is usually called a Neoclassicist, and his opponents Romantics. Actually, both factions stood for aspects of Romanticism after 1800: the Neoclassic phase, with Ingres as the last important survivor, and the Neo-Baroque, first announced in France by Gros' Napoleon at Arcole. Indeed, the two seem so interdependent that we should prefer a single name for both if we could find a suitable one. ("Romantic Classicism," which is appropriate only to the classical camp, has not won wide acceptance.) The two sides seemed to revive the old quarrel between Poussinistes and Rubenistes. The original Poussinistes had never quite practiced what they preached, and Ingres' views, too, were far more doctrinaire than his pictures. He always held that drawing was superior to painting, yet a canvas such as his Odalisque (fig. 885) reveals an exquisite sense of color. Instead of merely tinting his design, he sets off the petal-smooth limbs of this Oriental Venus (odalisque is a Turkish word for a harem slave girl) with a dazzling array of rich tones and textures. The exotic subject, redolent with the enchantment of the Thousand and One Nights, is characteristic of the Romantic movement. (It would be perfectly at home in the Royal Pavilion at Brighton; see fig. 927.) Despite Ingres' professed worship of Raphael, this nude embodies no classical ideal of beauty. Her elongated proportions, languid grace, and strange mixture of coolness and voluptuousness remind us, rather, of Parmigianino (compare fig. 678).


885. Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres. Odalisque. 1814.
Oil on canvas, 89.7 x 162 cm. Musee du Louvre, Paris

 

History painting as defined by Poussin remained Ingres' lifelong ambition, but he had great difficulty with it, while portraiture, which he pretended to dislike, was his strongest gift and his steadiest source of income. He was, in fact, the last great professional in a field soon to be dominated by the camera. Ingres' Louis Bertin (fig. 886) at first glance looks like a kind of "super-photograph," but this impression is deceptive. Comparing it with the preliminary pencil drawing (fig. 887), we realize how much interpretation the portrait contains. The drawing, quick, sure, and precise, is a masterpiece of detached observation, but the painting endows the sitter with a massive force of personality. Bertin's pose is shifted slightly to the left, his jacket open to lend the figure greater weight. The position of his powerful hands, which are barely indicated in the drawing, has been adjusted to convey an almost leonine strength. Ingres further applies the Caravaggesque Neoclassicism he had inherited from David to introduce slight changes of light and emphasis in the face, subtly altering its expression, which now manifests a frightening intensity.

Among the Romantics, only Ingres could so unity psychological depth and physical accuracy. His followers focused on physical accuracy alone, competing vainly with the camera. The Neo-Baroque Romantics, in contrast, emphasized the psychological aspect to such a degree that their portraits tended to become records of the artist's private emotional relationship with the sitter. Often these are interesting and moving, but they are no longer portraits in the proper sense of the term.
 


886. Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres. Louis Bertin. 1832.
Oil on canvas, 116.7 x 95,3 cm. Musee du Louvre, Paris
887. Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres. Louis Bertin. 1832.
Pencil drawing. Musee du Louvre, Paris




Eugene Delacroix.

The year 1824 was crucial for French painting. Gericault died after a riding accident. Ingres returned to France from Italy and had his first public success. The first showing in Paris of works by the English Romantic painter John Constable was a revelation to many French artists. The Massacre at Chios (fig. 888) 'established Eugene Delacroix as the foremost Neo-Baroque Romantic painter. An admirer of both Gros and Gericault, Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) had been exhibiting for some years, but The Massacre made his reputation. Conservatives called it "the massacre of painting," others acclaimed it enthusiastically. For the next quarter-century, he and Ingres were acknowledged rivals, and their polarity, fostered by partisans, dominated the artistic scene in Paris.

Like The Raft of the "Medusa," The Massacre at Chios was inspired by a contemporary event: the Greek war of independence against the Turks, which stirred a wave of sympathy throughout western Europe. (The full title of the painting is Scenes of the Massacre at Chios: Creek Families Awaiting Death or Slavery.) Delacroix, however, aimed at "poetic truth" rather than at recapturing a specific, actual event. In this, he relied on tradition to a surprising degree, for he has conjured up a scene as brutal as The Rape of the Sabine Women by Nicolas Poussin (compare fig. 809). The picture is treated as the kind of secular martyrdom already familiar to us from Benjamin West's The Death of General Wolfe (fig. 860). Now, however, the victims are as nameless as those in The Raft of the "Medusa."

Such sources have been combined into an intoxicating mixture of sensuousness and cruelty. Delacroix does not entirely succeed, however, in forcing us to suspend our disbelief. While we revel in the sheer splendor of the painting, we do not quite accept the human experience as authentic. We react instead much as we do to J. M. W. Turner's Slave Ship (see fig. 905). One reason may be the discontinuity of the foreground, with its dramatic contrasts of light and shade, and the luminous sweep of the landscape behind. Delacroix is said to have hastily repainted part of the background after seeing Constable's The Haywain (see fig. 903). Originally, the background of The Massacre was probably like that in Gericault's Mounted Officer (fig. 882), and the Turkish horseman, too, directly recalls the rider in the earlier picture.

Delacroix's sympathy with the Greeks did not prevent him from sharing the enthusiasm of fellow Romantics for the Near East. He was enchanted by a visit to North Africa in 1832, finding there a living counterpart of the violent, chivalric, and picturesque past evoked in Romantic literature. His sketches from this trip supplied him with a large repertory of subjects for the rest of his life: harem interiors, street scenes, lion hunts. It is fascinating to compare his Odalisque (fig. 889) with Ingres' (fig. 885). Sonorous color and the energetically fluid brushwork show Delacroix to be a Rubeniste of the first order. In his version, Ingres also celebrates the exotic world of the Near Eastalien, seductive, and violentbut how different the result! Reclining in ecstatic repose, Delacroix's Odalisque exudes passionate abandon and animal vitalitythe exact opposite of Ingres' ideal.

The Entombment of Christ (fig. 890), painted in 1848, marks a shift in Delacroix's art. The painting has a new grandeur and an air of almost classical restraint. This change was perhaps an outgrowth of a decorative cycle Delacroix did over the previous several years in the Bourbon Palace, which brought him into renewed contact with the tradition of Western art: his work shows a preference for literary and biblical themes, without abandoning his earlier subjects. This may be seen as part of a larger crisis of tradition that gripped French art beginning in 1848, when revolution was in the air everywhere. Delacroix was now seen, with Ingres, as the last great representative of the mainstream of European painting. As the critic Charles Baudelaire wrote in his Salon of 1846: "Delacroix is ... heir to the great tradition. . . . But take away Delacroix, and the great chain of history is broken and slips to the ground. It is true that the great tradition has been lost, and that the new one is not yet established." The Entombment suggests Delacroix's awareness of his new status. The painting combines overtones of Titian and Rubens with Poussinesque nobility to make it that rarity in nineteenth-century arta truly moving religious image.
 


888. Eugene Delacroix. The Massacre at Chios. 1822-24.
Oil on canvas,
4.2 x 3.5 m. Musee du Louvre, Paris
889. Eugene Delacroix. Odalisque. 1845-50.
Oil on canvas, 37.3 x 46.5 cm. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England
890. Eugene Delacroix. The Entombment of Christ. 1848.
Oil on canvas, 162.6 x 132.1 cm. Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston




Honore Daumier.

The later work of Delacroix reflects the attitude that eventually doomed the Romantic movement: its growing detachment from contemporary life. History, literature, the Bible, and the Near East were the domains of the imagination where he sought refuge from the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution. It is ironic that Honore Daumier (1808-1879), one of the few Romantic artists who did not shrink from reality, remained in his day practically unknown as a painter. He turned to painting in the 1840s but found no public for his work. Only a few friends encouraged him and, a year before his death, arranged his first solo exhibition. Thus his pictures had little impact during his lifetime.

A biting political cartoonist, Daumier contributed satirical drawings to, various Paris weeklies for most of his career (fig. 891). Nearly all of Daumier's cartoons were done with lithography. Invented in Germany shortly before 1800 by Alois Senefelder, it is the most important of the planographic processes, meaning that the print is made on a flat surface. Using a greasy-crayon or ink, called tusche, the artist draws or brushes the design onto a special lithographic stone; alternatively, it can be transferred from paper. (Metals such as zinc and aluminum have also been used as plates.) Once the design is fixed by an acid wash, the surface is dampened, then rolled with oily ink, which adheres to the greasy design but is repelled by water. The print is made by rubbing moistened paper under light pressure against the stone. Because a limitless number of prints can be pulled relatively cheaply, lithography has been closely associated from the beginning with commercial printing and the popular press.

Although Daumier is sometimes called a realist, his work falls entirely within the range of Romanticism. The neat outlines and systematic crosshatching in Daumier's early cartoons (fig.
891) show his conservative training. He quickly developed a bolder and more personal style of draftsmanship, however, and his paintings of the 1850s and 1860s have the full pictorial range of the Neo-Baroque. Their subjects vary widely. Many show aspects of everyday urban life that also occur in his cartoons, now viewed with a painter's eye rather than from a satirist's angle. In The Third-Class Carnage (fig. 892), Daumier's forms reflect the compactness of Millet's (compare fig. 897), but are painted so freely that they must have seemed raw and "unfinished" even by Delacroix's standards. Yet its power derives from this very freedom. Daumier's concern is not for the tangible surface of reality but for the emotional meaning behind it. In The Third-Class Carriage, he has captured a peculiarly modern human condition: "the lonely crowd." These people have in common only that they are traveling together in a railway car. Though they are physically crowded, they take no notice of one another, for each is alone with his or her own thoughts. Daumier explores this state with an insight into character and a breadth of human sympathy worthy of Rembrandt, whose work he revered. His feeling for the dignity of the poor also suggests the Le Nains, who had recently been rediscovered by French critics. Indeed, the old woman on the left in Louis Le Nain's Peasant Family (fig. 806) seems the direct ancestor of the central figure in The Third-Class Carriage.

Other paintings by Daumier have subjects more characteristic of Romanticism. The numerous canvases and drawings of the adventures of Don Quixote, from Cervantes' sixteenthcentury novel, show the fascination this theme had for him. The lanky knight-errant, vainly trying to live his dream of noble deeds, and Sancho Panza, the dumpy materialist, seemed to embody for Daumier a tragic conflict within human nature that forever pits the soul against the body, ideal aspirations against harsh reality. In Don Quixote Attacking the Windmills (fig. 893), this polarity is forcefully realized. The mock hero dashes off in the noonday heat toward an invisible, distant goal, while Panza helplessly wrings his hands, a monument of despair. The sculptured simplicity of Daumier's shapes, and the expressive freedom of his brushwork, make Delacroix's art seem almost conventional by comparison.


891. Honore Daumier. It's Safe to Release This One! 1834. Lithograph
892. Honore Daumier. The Third-Class Carnage, 1862. Oil on canvas, 66 x 90.3 cm.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

893.
Honore Daumier. Don Quixote Attacking the Windmills, . 1866. Oil on canvas, 56.5 x 83.7 cm.
Collection Mr. Charles S. Payson, New York



 

French Landscape Painting

Thanks to the cult of nature, landscape painting became the most characteristic form of Romantic art. The Romantics believed that God's laws could be seen written in nature. While it arose out of the Enlightenment, their faith, known as pantheism, was based not on rational thought but on subjective experience, and the appeal to the emotions rather than the intellect made those lessons all the more compelling. In order to express the feelings inspired by nature, the Romantics sought to transcribe landscape as faithfully as possible, in contrast to the Neoclassicists, who subjected landscape to prescribed ideas of beauty and linked it to historical subjects. At the same time, the Romantics felt equally free to modify nature's appearance as a means of evoking heightened states of mind in accordance with dictates of the imagination, the only standard they ultimately recognized. Landscape inspired the Romantics with passions so exalted that only in the hands of the greatest history painters could humans equal nature in power as protagonists. Hence, the Romantic landscape lies outside the descriptive and emotional range of the eighteenth century.




Camille Corot.

The first and undeniably greatest French Romantic landscape painter was Camille Corot
(1796-1875). In 1825 he went to Italy for two years and explored the countryside around Rome, like a latter-day Claude Lorraine. What Claude recorded in his drawingsthe quality of a particular place at a particular timeCorot made into paintings, small canvases done on the spot in an hour or so (fig. 894). In size and immediacy, these quickly executed pictures are analogous to Constable's oil sketches (see fig. 902), yet they stem from different traditions. If Constable's view of nature, which emphasizes the sky as "the chief organ of sentiment," is derived from Dutch seventeenth-century landscapes, Corot's instinct for architectural clarity and stability recalls Poussin and Claude. But he, too, insists on "the truth of the moment." His exact observation and his readiness to seize upon any view that attracted him during his excursions show the same commitment to direct visual experience that we find in Constable. The Neoclassicists had also painted oil sketches out-of-doors. Unlike them, Corot did not transform his sketches into idealized pastoral visions. His willingness to accept them as independent works of art marks him unmistakably as a Romantic.


894. Camille Corot.
View of Rome: The Bridge and Castel Sant Angela
with the Cupola of St. Peter's.
1826-27.
Oil on paper mounted on canvas, 22 x 38 cm.
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
 

After returning from his second visit to Italy in 1834, Corot began to paint historical landscapes which combine stylistic and topographical features from Italy and the North in eclectic fashion. But during the 1840s he gradually developed a unique style that appears in its definitive form in Morning: Dance of the Nymphs (fig. 895). The painting has rightly been called a souvenir of the opera, especially the ballets traditional in Parisian productions which he habitually sketched. He found in them a common bond of feeling with painting that provided inspiration for his work. The landscape shows a new unity between the figures and their setting. The silvery light creates a veiled atmosphere that envelops the forms and lends the painting an elusive mood reminiscent of that in Poussin's late works (see fig. 810). In this way, Corot reconciles romantic sentiment and classical content.

Morning: Dance of the Nymphs was the outgrowth of the crisis of tradition in French art and of a personal crisis: when he painted it, Corot was approaching old age with considerable anxiety, and in Poussin he discovered a kindred spirit burdened with similar fears. Thus it was Corot's own development that enabled him to unlock the secret of late Poussin and learn how to interpret nature in a deeply poetic way.
 


895. Camille Corot. Morning: Dance of the Nymphs. 1850.
Oil on canvas, 97.1 x 130 cm. Musee du Louvre, Paris





Theodore Rousseau.

Corot's early fidelity to nature was an important model for the Barbizon School, though he was not actually a member. This group of younger painters, centering on Theodore Rousseau (1812-1867), settled in the village of Barbizon on the edge of the forest of Fontainebleau near Paris to paint landscapes and scenes of rural life. Enthused, however, by Constable, whose work had been exhibited in Paris in 1824, they turned to the Northern Baroque landscape as an alternative to the Neoclassical tradition. From Ruisdael's example (fig. 798), Rousseau learned how to imbue his encrusted forms and gnarled trees with a sense of inner life, but it was the hours of solitary contemplation in the forest of Fontainebleau that enabled him to penetrate nature's secrets. A Meadow Bordered by Trees (fig. 896) is a splendid representative of his landscapes, which are filled with a simple veneration that admirably reflects the rallying cry of the Romanticssincerity.


896. Theodore Rousseau. A Meadow Bordered by Trees, . 1840-45.
Oil on panel, 41.6 x 61.9 cm.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York






Jean-Francois Millet

Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875) became a member of the Barbizon School in 1848, the year revolution swept France and the rest of Europe. Although he was no radical, The Sower (fig. 897) was championed by liberal critics, because it was the very opposite of the Neoclassical history paintings sanctioned by the establishment. Millet's archetypal image nonetheless has a self-consciously classical flavor that reflects his admiration for Poussin. Blurred in the hazy atmosphere, this "hero of the soil" is a timeless symbol of the ceaseless labor that the artist viewed as the peasant's inexorable fate. (Could Millet have known the pathetic sower from the October page of Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry? Compare fig. 537.) Ironically, the painting monumentalizes a rural way of life that was rapidly disappearing under the pressure of the Industrial Revolution. For that very reason, however, the peasant was seen as the quintessential victim of the evils arising from the Machine Age.


897. Jean-Francois Millet. The Sower.
c. 1850. Oil on canvas, 101.6 x 82.6 cm.
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston





Rosa Bonheur.

The Barbizon School generally advocated a return to nature as a way of fleeing the social ills attendant to industrialization and urbanization. Despite their conservative outlook, these artists were elevated to a new prominence in French art by the popular revolution of 1848. That same year Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), also an artist who worked out-of-doors, received a French government commission that led to her first great success and helped to establish her as a leading painter of animalsand eventually as the most famous woman artist of her time. Her painting Plowing in the Nivernais (fig. 898) was exhibited the following year, after a winter spent making studies from life. The theme of humanity's union with nature had already been popularized in the country romances of George Sand, among others. Bonheur's picture shares Millet's reverence for peasant life, but the real subject here, as in all her work, is the animals within the landscape. These she depicts with a convincing naturalism that later placed her among the most influential realists.


898. Rosa Bonheur. Plowing in the Nivernais. 1849.
Oil on canvas, 1.8 x 2.6 m.
Musee d'Orsay, Paris





England



Henry Fuseli


England was as precocious in nurturing Romanticism as it had been in promoting Neoclassicism. In fact, one of its first representatives, Henry Fuseli
(1741-1825), was a contemporary of West and Copley. This Swiss-born painter (originally named Fussli) had an extraordinary impact on his time, more perhaps because of his adventurous and forceful personality than the merits of his work. Ordained a minister at 20, he had left the Church by 1764 and gone to London in search of freedom. Encouraged by Reynolds, he spent the 1770s in Rome. There he encountered Gavin Hamilton, but Fuseli based his style on Michelangelo and the Mannerists, not on Poussin and the antique. A German acquaintance of those years described him as "extreme in everything, Shakespeare's painter." Shakespeare and Michelangelo were indeed his twin gods. He even visualized a Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo's figures transformed into Shakespearean characters where the sublime would be the common denominator for "classic" and "Gothic" Romanticism. Such fusion marks Fuseli as a transitional figure. He espoused many of the same Neoclassical theories as Reynolds, West, and Kauffmann, but bent their rules virtually to the breaking point.

We see this in The Nightmare (fig. 899). The sleeping woman, more Mannerist than Michelangelesque, is Neoclassical. The grinning devil and the luminescent horse, however, come from the demon-ridden world of medieval folklore, while the Rembrandtesque lighting reminds us of Reynolds (compare fig. 843). Here the Romantic quest for terrifying experiences leads not to physical violence but to the dark recesses of the mind. What was the genesis of The Nightmare Nightmares often have a strongly sexual connotation, sometimes quite openly expressed, at other times concealed behind a variety of disguises. We know that Fuseli originally conceived the subject not long after his return from Italy, when he had fallen violently in love with a friend's niece who soon married a merchant, much to the artist's distress. We can see in the picture a projection of his "dream girl," with the demon taking the artist's place while the horse, a well-known erotic symbol, looks on.



899. Henry Fuseli
. The Nightmare, . 1790.
Oil on canvas, 75.5 x 64 cm.
Frankfurter Goethe-Museum, Frankfurt





William Blake.

Later, in London, Fuseli befriended the poet-painter William Blake (1757-1827), who possessed an even greater creativity and stranger personality than his own. A recluse and visionary, Blake produced and published his own books of
poems with engraved text and hand-colored illustrations. Though he never left England, he acquired a large repertory of Michelangelesque and Mannerist motifs from engravings, as well as through the influence of Fuseli. He also conceived a tremendous admiration for the Middle Ages, and came closer than any other Romantic artist to reviving pre-Renaissance forms. (His books were meant to be the successors of illuminated manuscripts.)

These elements are all present in Blake's memorable image The Ancient of Days (fig. 900). The muscular figure, radically foreshortened and fitted into a circle of light, is derived from Mannerist sources (see fig. 901), while the symbolic compasses come from medieval representations of the Lord as Architect of the Universe. With these precedents, we would expect the Ancient of Days to signify Almighty God, but in Blake's esoteric mythology, he stands rather for the power of reason, which the poet regarded as ultimately destructive, since it stifles vision and inspiration. To Blake, the "inner eye" was all-important; he felt no need to observe the visible world around him.


900. William Blake. The Ancient of Days,
frontispiece of Europe, A Prophesy.
1794.
Library of Congress, Washington. D.C.


901. Taddeo Zuccaro.
The Conversion of St. Paul
(detail),
. 1555.
Oil on canvas. Palazzo Doria-Pamphili. Rome

 
 

English Landscape Painting



John Constable.

It was nevertheless in landscape rather than in narrative scenes that English painting reached its fullest expression. During the eighteenth century, landscape paintings had been, for the most part, imaginative exercises conforming to Northern and Italian examples. John Constable
(1776-1837) admired both Ruisdael and Claude, yet he strenuously opposed all flights of fancy. Landscape painting, he believed, must be based on observable facts. It should aim at "embodying a pure apprehension of natural effect." Toward that end, he painted countless oil sketches outdoors. These were not the first such studies, but, more than his predecessors, he was concerned with the intangible qualitiesconditions of sky, light, and atmosphererather than the concrete details of the scene. Often, as in Hampstead Heath (fig. 902), the land serves as no more than a foil for the ever-changing drama overhead, which he studied with a meteorologist's accuracy, the better to grasp its infinite variety. In endeavoring to record these fleeting effects, he arrived at a painting technique as broad, free, and personal as that of Cozens' "ink-blot landscapes," even though his point of departure was the exact opposite.

All of Constable's pictures show familiar views of the English countryside. It was, he later claimed, the scenery around his native Stour Valley that made him a painter. Although he painted the final versions in his studio, he prepared them by making oil studies based on sketches from nature. The sky, to him, remained "the keynote, standard scale, and the chief organ of sentiment," as a mirror of those sweeping forces so dear to the Romantic view of nature. In The Haywain (fig. 903), painted the same year as Hampstead Heath, he has caught a particularly splendid moment: a great expanse of wind, sunlight, and clouds over the spacious landscape. The earth and sky have both become organs of sentiment informed with the artist's poetic sensibility. At the same time, there is an intimacy in this monumental composition that reveals Constable's deep love of the countryside. This new, personal note is characteristically Romantic. Since Constable has painted the landscape with such conviction, we see the scene through his eyes and believe him, even though it perhaps did not look quite this way in reality.


902. John Constable. Hampstead Heath. 1821.
Oil sketch on paper, mounted on canvas,
25.3 x 30.5
cm. City Art Galleries, Manchester, England
903 . John Constable.
The Haywain. 1821.
Oil on canvas,
130.1
x 185.4 cm. The National Gallery, London
 

In 1829 a marked change came over Constable's work. Deeply affected by his wife's death a year earlier, he was subject to darkened moods. Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (fig. 904), begun that summer, stands as his most personal statement. When the canvas was exhibited two years later, he appended nine lines from The Seasons by the eighteenth-century poet James Thompson that reveal its meaning: the rainbow is a symbol of hope after a storm that follows on the death of the young Amelia in the arms of her lover Celadon. Although a political intent has sometimes been seen in the landscape, there can be little doubt of its autobiographical significance. To the left of the huge ash tree, a symbol of life, is a cenotaph; to the right the great church, one of his major themes, a symbol of faith and resurrection. The rainbow, added late in the composition's development, suggests the artist's renewed optimism. Thus the painting reflects his changing frame of mind.

Constable continued to work on The Rainbow, as he called it, on and off for several more years. He attached great importance to the painting, which he regarded as the fullest expression of his art and felt would be considered his finest work by future generations. It is indeed an astonishing achievement. The amazingly free application of paint (much of it done with a palette knife) and rich, somber color evoke an agitation not seen before in his landscapes. All nature is caught up in the fury of a cataclysmic event beyond human comprehension. Every leaf, every branch acts as an index of feeling, expressing the artist's turbulent emotions. Once again it is the sky that provides the keynote: now the storm has clearly passed. No other painter before or since was able to capture the play of the elements with such power. Even paintings by his great rival Joseph Mallord William Turner seem tame by comparison.


904. John Constable. Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows. 1829-34.
Oil on canvas, 151.8 x 189.9 cm. Private collection




Joseph Mallord William Turner.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) arrived at a style that Constable deprecatingly but accurately described as "airy visions, painted with tinted steam." Turner began as a watercolorist; the use of translucent tints on white paper may help to explain his preoccupation with colored light. Like Constable, he made copious studies from nature (though not in oils), but the scenery he selected satisfied the Romantic taste for the picturesque and the sublimemountains, the sea, or sites linked with historic events. In his full-scale pictures he often changed these views so freely that they became quite unrecognizable.

Many of Turner's landscapes are linked with literary themes and bear such titles as The Destruction of Sodom, or Snowstorm: Hannibal Crossing the Alps, or Childe Harold's Pilgrimage: Italy. When they were exhibited, he would add appropriate quotations from ancient or modern authors to the catalogue, or he would make up some lines himself and claim to be "citing" his own unpublished poem, "Fallacies of Hope." Yet these canvases are the opposite of history painting as defined by Poussin: the titles indeed indicate "noble and serious human actions," but the tiny figures, lost in the seething violence of nature, suggest the ultimate defeat of all endeavor"the fallacies of hope."

The Slave Ship (fig. 905) is one of Turner's most spectacular visions and illustrates how he transmuted his literary sources into "tinted steam." First entitled Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and DyingTyphoon Coming On, the painting compounds several levels of meaning. Like Gericault's The Raft of the "Medusa" (see fig. 883), which had been exhibited in England in 1820, it has to do, in part, with a specific incident that Turner had recently read about.

When an epidemic broke out on a slave ship, the captain jettisoned his human cargo because he was insured against the loss of slaves at sea, but not by disease. Turner also thought of a relevant passage from James Thompson's poem The Seasons that describes how sharks follow a slave ship during a typhoon, "lured by the scent of steaming crowds, or rank disease, and death." But what is the relation between the slaver's action and the typhoon? Are the dead and dying slaves being cast into the sea against the threat of the storm, perhaps to lighten the ship? Is the typhoon nature's retribution for the captain's greed and cruelty? Of the many storms at sea that Turner painted, none has quite this apocalyptic quality. A cosmic catastrophe seems about to engulf everything, not merely the "guilty" slaver but the sea itself, with its crowds of fantastic and oddly harmless-looking fish.

While we still feel the force of Turner's imagination, most of us enjoy, perhaps with a twinge of guilt, the tinted steam for its own sake rather than as a vehicle of the awesome emotions the artist meant to evoke. Even in terms of the values he himself acknowledged, Turner strikes us as "a virtuoso of the Sublime," led astray by his very exuberance. He must have been pleased by praise from the theorist John Ruskin, that protagonist of the moral superiority of Gothic style, who saw in The Slave Ship, which he owned, "the true, the beautiful, and the intellectual"all qualities that raised Turner above older landscape painters. Still, Turner may have come to wonder if his tinted steam had its intended effect on all beholders. Soon after finishing The Slave Ship, he could have read in his copy of Goethe's Color Theory, recently translated into English, that yellow has a "gay, softly exciting character," while orange-red suggests "warmth and gladness." Would these be the emotions aroused by The Slave Ship in a viewer who did not know its title? Interestingly enough, Turner soon modified his approach to take Goethe's ideas into account.

Many of Turner's paintings had their origin in watercolors called "color beginnings" that are as abstract as American Color Field Painting. Nevertheless, they always retained a basis in the artist's actual experiences. Indeed, Turner seems to have sought them out. Rain, Steam and Speed The Great Western Railway (fig. 906) shows the recently completed Maidenhead railway bridge looking across the Thames River toward London. It was painted after Turner stuck his head out of a window on the Exeter express for some nine minutes during a rainstorm. One could hardly ask for a more vivid impression of speed and atmospheric turbulence! Yet, in a touch of delicious irony, he has added a hare (hardly visible in our illustration) racing ahead of the oncoming train.


905. Joseph Mallord William Turner. The Slave Ship. 1840.
Oil on canvas, 90.5 x 122 cm. Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
906. Joseph Mallord William Turner. Rain, Steam and SpeedThe Great Western Railway. 1844.
Oil on canvas, 90.8 x 122 cm. The National Gallery, London




WATERCOLORS.

Turner was the preeminent watercolorist of his time. Watercolors were first introduced into Britain by visiting Northerners, who had used them as a means of recording on-the-spot observations since the time of Durer (see fig. 712), but the English made the medium their own. Because they became an indispensable part of the genteel person's education, watercolors are often thought of as an amateur's medium. After the middle of the eighteenth century, however, they emerged as a vehicle of serious artistic expression in the hands of gifted painters like Thomas Gainsborough and Alexander Cozens. There was a direct lineage from them to Turner and Constable, who turned to them late in his career. It descended through Cozens' equally talented son, John Robert Cozens (1752-1797), the first to introduce poetic melancholy into watercolors, and Thomas Girtin (1752-1802), Turner's brilliant contemporary, who during his brief career revolutionized the English landscape by investing it with a Romantic mood. The full potential of watercolors was realized only in the nineteenth century, when artists like Turner greatly extended the range of subjects, techniques, and expression. Many of its most famous practitioners are all but forgotten today, while others, such as John Sell Cotman (1782 1842), who were largely ignored, are now seen as having made important contributions.



John Sell Cotman.

John Cotman started out in London, where he moved in the same circles as Turner, but spent most of his career as a drawing master in the north of England, as much out of a weakness in his character as the force of circumstances. Although he achieved modest local recognition as a leader of the Norwich landscape school, he died in obscurity and was only rediscovered in the 1920s, when his highly unusual style suddenly seemed remarkably modern. Cotman's watercolors are distinguished by an economy of means that endows even the simplest subject with monumentality and dignity. His formalism grew out of the landscape tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorraine, yet he was no classicist. And although he was affected by the Dutch and Flemish Baroque artists who so influenced Constable, Cotman's watercolors are among the most original creations of the English Romantic landscape school during its formative phase. Durham Cathedral (fig. 907), a finished watercolor painted in the studio from nature studies, bears the individual stamp of his genius. The artist has concentrated on the essential elements, reducing the scene to a flat, nearly abstract pattern. The result is an expressiveness of astonishing intensity. Cotman emphasizes the sheer massiveness of the great church, which looms over the house below, as if threatening to crush it. The landscape bespeaks the English Romantic fascination with the Gothic. It inspired him with much the same sentiment found in Ruisdael's The Jewish Cemetery (fig. 798), while the picture has the elemental power of Constable's Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (fig. 904). Did Cotman intend it as a testimony of his personal faith? Of man's works, he seems to say, only the cathedral, a house of worship, will endure. Yet we know surprisingly little about his beliefs.



907. John Sell Cotman.
Durham Cathedral.
1805.
Watercolor on paper, 43.8 x 33
cm.
The British Museum, London


 


Germany



Caspar David Friedrich.

In Germany, as in England, landscape was the finest achievement of Romantic painting, and the underlying ideas, too, were often strikingly similar. About
1800 German artists rediscovered the Gothic, which they regarded as their native heritage. For the most part, this "Gothic Revival" remained limited in subject matter and scope, but in the hands of Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), the most important German Romantic artist, it acquired a haunting mystery. A devout Protestant, he had a pantheistic love of nature that became a vehicle of profound religious sentiment. In Abbey in an Oak Forest (fig. 908) all is deaththe ancient graves, the barren trees, and ruined church silhouetted against the somber

winter sky at twilight. Yet we contemplate the forlorn scene with the same hushed reverence as the solemn procession of monks. Hardly distinguishable from the tombstones, they seek the crucifix enshrined in the arched portal, which offers eternal life to the faithful. The frozen stillness is in marked contrast to the painting by Ruisdael that probably inspired it (similar to fig. 798). Infinitely lonely, the bleak landscape is a reflection of the artist's own melancholy.

When Friedrich painted The Polar Sea (fig. 909), he may have known of Turner's "Fallacies of Hope," for in an earlier picture on the same theme (now lost) he had inscribed the name "Hope" on the crushed vessel. In any case, he shared Turner's attitude toward human fate. The painting, as so often before, was inspired by a specific event which the artist endowed with symbolic significance: a dangerous moment in William Parry's Arctic expedition of 1819-20.

One wonders how Turner might have depicted this scene. Perhaps it would have been too static for him, but Friedrich was attracted by this very immobility. He has visualized the piled-up slabs of ice as a kind of megalithic monument to human defeat built by nature itself. There is no hint of tinted steamthe very air seems frozennor any subjective handwriting. We look right through the paint-covered surface at a reality that seems created without the painter's intervention.

This technique, impersonal and meticulous, is peculiar to German Romantic painting. It stems from the early Neoclassicists, but the Germans, whose tradition of Baroque painting was weak, adopted it more wholeheartedly than the English or the French. Friedrich absorbed this approach at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen, and although in his hands it yielded extraordinary effects, the results proved disappointing for most German artists, who lacked his compelling imagination.


908. Caspar David Friedrich. Abbey in an Oak Forest. 1809-10.
Oil on canvas, 111.8 x 174 cm. Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin

909. Caspar David Friedrich. The Polar Sea. 1824.
Oil on canvas, 97.7 x 128.2 cm. Kunsthalle, Hamburg



 

Philipp Otto Runge.

Philipp Otto Runge (1777-1810), who attended the Copenhagen academy soon after Friedrich, shared many of the same ideas but expressed them very differently. His most important work was a series of four allegorical landscapes devoted to the times of day that occupied him throughout his brief career and was left incomplete at his death. The paintings incorporate an ambitious program having several levels of meaning. They stand for, among other things, the seasons and the Ages of Man. The set was intended for a Gothic chapel of Runges own design, where poetry and music by his friends would be heard.

Morning, the only picture to be finished, was later cut up and survives only in fragments, but a slightly earlier, smaller version (fig. 910) gives a good idea of its appearance. The landscape represents spring and childhood. Within Runge's program, it also signifies "the boundless illumination of the universe." Aurora-Venus (compounding the rising sun and the morning star) hovers over the Christlike infant as child genii sprout from a lily above. (Flowers in Runge's highly personal system become symbols of universal life through emotional identification with their forms.) The decorated frame, inspired by medieval manuscripts (compare fig. 438), expands on the meaning of the central image. The light of revelation, eclipsed by darkness below, liberates the soul trapped beneath the earth within the roots of the bulb. Above, the soul rises transcendent as a genius from the lily to the heavens and is transformed into an angel.

Morning is an extraordinary synthesis of Classical mythology and Christian faith, Romantic attitudes and Neoclassical technique. Painting for Runge was a deeply spiritual act revealing the divinity of nature. To him, this elevated conception required abstraction to express the poetic idea. Thus the artist communicates his intent through the stylized forms and symmetrical composition. More generally, Morning represents the mystical yearning of the soul for the infinite so dear to the German Romantic. This ecstatic vision, the "chord" of harmony as he put it, is depicted using the same method as Friedrich's. Every detail has been precisely observed. The picture surface, transparent as glass, makes us look at nature with the same innocence as the newborn child. As a result, the landscape has a disarming simplicity, despite the complexity of its program. In the end, it is the painting technique that validates Runge's ideas and makes them convincing.


910. Philipp Otto Runge. Morning. 1808.
Oil on canvas, 109 x 85.4 cm.
Kunsthalle, Hamburg





THE NAZARENES.

In 1808 a group of young German painters at the Vienna Academy banded together to form the Guild of St. Luke, after the artists' guilds of old. They equated simplicity with pious virtue, as against virtuosity, which precluded the heartfelt sincerity that was their goal. Two years later they decided to lead the life of artists-monks at an abandoned monastery near Rome, where they became known as the Nazarenes. Although their work at first had a striking purity, the painstaking precision of the old German masters and the style of the Early Renaissance they also affected reinforced the Neoclassic emphasis on form at the expense of color, which was put to the service of an increasingly inflated rhetoric. The Nazarene movement gradually petered out as its members died or returned to Germany, where they established the mainstream of German Romanticism.


Johann Friedrich Overbeck

The Nazarenes were at their best in intimate subjects, such as Italia and Germania (fig. 911) by Johann Friedrich Overbeck (1789-1869). This manifesto by the movement's "priest" expresses the North's long-standing love-hate relationship with the South. It shows personifications of the two countries, so different in every respect, reconciled in tender friendship. The painting is at once a nostalgic reminiscence of the artist's homeland and a celebration of the beauty he found around him in Rome, both united in harmony and mutual respect. Its source, we recognize, is Angelica Kauffmann's self-portrait (fig. 862), byway of German portraiture.


911. Johann Friedrich Overbeck. Italia and Germania.
1811-28.
Oil on canvas, 96 x 106.4 cm.
Bayerische Staatsgemaldesammlungen,
Neue Pinakothek, Munich



 

United States

Painting following the American Revolution was dominated by proteges of Benjamin West, who took every young artist arriving in London from the New World under his wing. Strangely enough, the only ones to enjoy much success were portraitists such as Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828). Using the fashionable conventions of Joshua Reynolds, they conferred the aura of established aristocracy on the Federalists, who were only too eager to forget the recent revolutionary past enshrined by the history painters. What Americans wanted was an art based not on the past but on the present. Romantic painting in the United States rode the tidal wave of cultural nationalism fostered by Jacksonian democracy. Collectors now began to support artists who could articulate their vision of the United States. For perhaps the only time in the country's history, artists, patrons, and intellectuals came to share a common point of view.



Sidney Mount.

During the 1820s, America found its history painting in genre scenes descended from Dutch and English examples. The first native genre painter of real talent, William Sidney Mount
(1808-1868), spent his career on rural Long Island, which provided him with a rich vein or subjects. Although he began as a history painter and was associated with the leading ones in New York City, Mount quickly turned to subjects of everyday life, which he imbued with the humor of Jan Steen. Dancing on the Barn Floor (fig. 912), one of his first efforts, projects the ideal of America as a land of contentment in which its fun-loving people enjoy a simple, happy life as the fruit of their honest labor. The carefully observed violinist testifies to the artist's love of music, his favorite theme. Indeed, this ingenious inventor and theoretician wrote considerable "fiddle" music himself, and later patented a violin of unusual design.


912. Sidney Mount. Dancing on the Barn Floor. 1831.
Oil on canvas, 63.5 x 76.2 cm.
Collection of The Museums at Stony Brook.





THE HUDSON RIVER SCHOOL.

At about the same time, Americans began to discover landscape painting. Before then, settlers were far too busy carving out homesteads to pay much attention to the poetry of nature's moods. The attitude toward landscape began to change only as the surrounding wilderness was gradually tamed, allowing Americans for the first time to see nature as the escape from civilization that inspired European painters. As in England, the contribution of the poets proved essential to shaping American ideas about nature. By 1825, they were calling on artists to depict the wilderness as the most conspicuous feature of the New World and its emerging civilization. Pantheism virtually became a national religion during the Romantic era. While it could be frightening, nature was everywhere, and was believed to play a special role in determining the American character. Led by Thomas Cole (1801-1848), the founder of the Hudson River School, which flourished from 1825 until the Centennial celebration in 1876, American painters elevated the forests and mountains to symbols of the United States.



Thomas Cole.

Like many early American landscapists, Cole came from England, where he was trained as an engraver, but learned the rudiments of painting from an itinerant artist in the Midwest. Following a summer sketching tour up the Hudson River, he invented the means of expressing the elemental power of the country's primitive landscape by transforming the formulas of the English picturesque into Romantic hymns based on the direct observation of nature. Because he also wrote poetry, Cole was able to create a visual counterpart to the literary rhetoric of the day. His painting Schroon Mountain, Adirondacks (fig. 913) shows the peak rising majestically, like a pyramid, from the forest below. It is treated as a symbol of permanence surrounded by death and decay, signified by the autumnal foliage, passing storm, and lightning-blasted trees. Stirred by sublime emotion, the artist has heightened the dramatic lighting, so that the broad landscape becomes a revelation of God's eternal laws.
 


913. Thomas Cole. Schroon Mountain, Adirondacks. 1838.
Oil on canvas, 100 x 160 cm.
The Cleveland Museum of Art





George Caleb Bingham.

Fur Traders Descending the Missouri
(fig. 914) by George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879) shows this close identification with the land in a different way. The picture, both a landscape and a genre scene, is full of the vastness and silence of the wide-open spaces. The two trappers in their dugout canoe, gliding downstream in the misty sunlight, are entirely at home in this idyllic setting. The assertion of a human presence portrays the United States as a benevolent Eden in which settlers assume their rightful place. Rather than being dwarfed by a vast and often hostile continent, these hardy pioneers live in an ideal state of harmony with nature, symbolized by the waning daylight. The picture carries us back to the innocent era of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. At the same time, it reminds us of how much Romantic adventurousness went into the westward expansion of the United States. The scene owes much of its haunting charm to the silhouette of the black cub chained to the prow and its reflection in the water. This masterstroke adds a note of primitive mystery that we shall not meet again until the work of Henri Rousseau.


914. George Caleb Bingham. Fur Traders Descending the Missouri
. 1845. Oil on canvas, 73.7 x 92.5 cm.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 
 

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