The 18th and 19th Centuries


 



(Neoclassicism, Romanticism and Art Styles in 19th century - Art Map)

 



Neoclassicism and Romanticism



 

 



Joseph Anton Koch

Franz Xavier Messerschmidt





see collections:


Jean-Antoine Gros


John Singleton Copley


Theodore Gericault



 

 
 
 

Before Romanticism


Jean-Antoine Gros (1771-1835) was one of the keenest disciples of French artist Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825). As official war painter of the Napoleonic era and portraitist of illustrious figures of the empire, Gros was commissioned to paint the emperor on a visit to the camp at the Battle of Eylau (1808). He portrayed the dead in stark reality - lying in the snow, their twisted bodies and frozen expressions showing graphically the horrors of this battle between the French and Russian armies in which about 25,000 men perished. The tragedy of the work was tempered by the figure of the emperor, mounted heroically on a white horse. The canvas is said to have so pleased Napoleon that he made Gros a baron of the empire. Gros' approach was more candid than was traditional for "official" artists and it anticipated the darker style of the Romantics, in which mankind could be shown in its struggle against nature, the victim of forces beyond its control. The American painter John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) reconstructed a real-life event in a commissioned work: Watson and the Shark. The shark is a very real physical creature, yet at the same time it symbolizes the mighty force of nature with which man can be in conflict or which can even take his life. The men in the boat struggle to save the figure of Watson in the water while also fending off the animal. Theodore Gericault also chose to paint a real event. In his Raft of the Medusa, he portrays the makeshift raft on which the surviving passengers and crew were abandoned. The terrible scene Gericault forces us to contemplate shows death and suffering without any nobility or dignity. The victims have a long and drawn out fate ahead of them. There is no strong colour, only a sickly light and the murky, violent sea. Exhibited grudgingly by the artistic establishment at the Paris Salon in 1819. this radical work provoked great controversy, its grim subject matter challenging traditional artistic rules. The Raft of the Medusa became extremely important as a symbol of Romanticism in art, and Gericault's work would prove to be inspirational for artists such as Delacroix.
 

 
 
   
 

Jean-Antoine Gros

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born March 16, 1771, Paris, France
died June 26, 1835, Paris


French Romantic painter principally remembered for his historical pictures depicting significant events in the military career of Napoleon.

Gros received his first art training from his father, who was a painter of miniatures. In 1785 he entered the studio of his father's friend Jacques-Louis David, whom he revered but whose cerebral Neoclassical style was uncongenial to Gros's romantically passionate nature. As a student he was more influenced by the energetic brushwork and colour of Peter Paul Rubens and the Venetians than the hard linearism of his contemporary Neoclassicists.

In 1793, with David's help, Gros went to Italy, where, in Genoa, he met Joséphine de Beauharnais and, through her, his hero, Napoleon. In 1796 he followed the French army to Arcole and was present when Napoleon planted the French flag on the bridge. This incident he immortalized in his first major work, Napoleon on the Bridge at Arcole (1796). Napoleon bestowed on him the rank of inspecteur aux revues. He accompanied Napoleon on his campaigns and also helped select works of art from Italy for the Louvre.

Of all the artists who contributed to the Napoleonic myth, Gros had the most profound effect on the rising generation of Romantic painters. The elegance, richness, and dramatic power of such historical paintings as Napoleon Visiting the Pesthouse at Jaffa (1804) and Napoleon at Eylau (1808) influenced Théodore Géricault and Eugène Delacroix.

After the fall of Napoleon and the restoration of the Bourbons (who gave Gros the title of baron), David was forced into exile and Gros became the head of his studio. As the heir of Neoclassicism, Gros tried to work in a style closer to that of David. He continued to paint large compositions—e.g., the ceiling of the Egyptian room of the Louvre (c. 1824)—but these academically Neoclassical pictures lacked the Romantic vitality of his earlier historical paintings. His best works after 1815 were portraits, some of which approached the quality of his Napoleonic pictures—e.g., Young Girl in a Necklace (exhibited 1913). He was, however, continually plagued by David's criticism of his work and became increasingly dissatisfied with his own accomplishments. A sense of failure exacerbated his already melancholic nature, and he committed suicide.
 



 


Jean-Antoine Gros
Bonaparte on the Bridge at Arcole
1796

 


Jean-Antoine Gros
Napoleon Bonaparte on the Battlefield of Eylau, 1807

1808
Oil on canvas, 521 x 784 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

 

   
 

John Singleton Copley

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born July 3, 1738, Boston, Massachusetts [U.S.]
died September 9, 1815, London, England


American painter of portraits and historical subjects, generally acclaimed as the finest artist of colonial America.

Little is known of Copley's boyhood. He gained familiarity with graphic art from his stepfather, the limner and engraver Peter Pelham, and developed an early sense of vocation: before he was 20 he was already an accomplished draughtsman. Copley soon discovered that his skills were most pronounced in the genre of portraiture. In his portraits, he revealed an intimate knowledge of his New England subjects and milieu and conveyed a powerful sense of physical entity and directness. Influenced by a Rococo portrait style derived from Joseph Blackburn, Copley made eloquent use of the portrait d'apparat—a Rococo device of portraying the subject with the objects associated with him in his daily life—that gave his work a liveliness and acuity not usually associated with 18th-century American painting. This device allowed Copley to insert English references in to his portraits, thereby reinforcing the Anglophilia desired by many of his patrons.

Although he was steadily employed with commissions from the Boston bourgeoisie, Copley wanted to test himself against the standards of Europe. In 1766, therefore, he exhibited Boy with a Squirrel at the Society of Artists in London. It was highly praised both by Sir Joshua Reynolds and by Copley's countryman Benjamin West. Copley married in 1769. Although he was urged by fellow artists who were familiar with his work to study in Europe, he did not venture out of Boston except for a seven-month stay in New York City (June 1771–January 1772). When political and economic conditions in Boston began to deteriorate (Copley's father-in-law was the merchant to whom the tea that provoked the Boston Tea Party was consigned), Copley left the country in June 1774, never to return. In 1775 his wife, children, and several other family members arrived in London, and Copley established a home there in 1776.

His ambitions in Europe went beyond portraiture; he was eager to make a success in the more highly regarded sphere of historical painting. In his first important work in this genre, Watson and the Shark (1778), Copley used what was to become one of the great themes of 19th-century Romantic art: the struggle of man against nature. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1779. His English paintings grew more academically sophisticated and self-conscious, but in general they lacked the extraordinary vitality and penetrating realism of his Boston portraits. Although his physical and mental health were in decline in his later years, he continued to paint with considerable success until the last few months of his life.
 

 


John Singleton Copley

Brook Watson and the Shark
1778
Oil on canvas, 182 x 230 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington
 

 

THEODORE GERICAULT

Theodore Gericault (1791-1824) divided his admiration equally between the painter Rubens and the director of the Olympic Circus Franconi. Horses were his true passion: from his youth, he painted them in the royal stables near Versailles and during his time in Rome (1817). Following the controversy aroused by The Raft of the Medusa, shown in 1819, he went to London, On his return to Paris, he made several preparatory sketches for large paintings that were to express his ideals of liberty and democracy. These were never realized, as he died aged 33 after falling from a horse.

 

 


Theodore Gericault
The Raft of the Medusa
1819
Musée du Louvre, Paris

 

 

   

Theodore Gericault

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)
 

born September 26, 1791, Rouen, France
died January 26, 1824, Paris


in full Jean-Louis-André-Théodore Géricault painter who exerted a seminal influence on the development of Romantic art in France. Géricault was a dandy and an avid horseman whose dramatic paintings reflect his flamboyant and passionate personality.

As a student Géricault learned the traditions of English sporting art from the French painter Carle Vernet, and he developed a remarkable facility for capturing animal movement. He also mastered classicist figure construction and composition under the academician Pierre Guérin. Another student of Guérin, Eugène Delacroix, was profoundly influenced by Géricault, finding in his example a major point of departure for his own art.

As demonstrated by his earliest major work, The Charging Chasseur (1812), which depicts an officer astride a rearing horse on a smoky battlefield, Géricault was drawn to the colourist style of the Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens and to the use of contemporary subject matter in the manner of an older colleague, the painter Antoine-Jean Gros. At the Salon of 1814, Géricault's Wounded Cuirassier shocked critics with its mournful subject and sombre colours. While in Florence and Rome (1816–17), he became fascinated with Michelangelo and Baroque art. His chief project at this time was Race of the Riderless Horse, a heroic frieze composition (never completed) depicting a dangerous race that was an annual event.


After returning to France, Géricault drew a group of lithographs on military subjects that are considered among the earliest masterworks in that medium. Géricault's masterpiece is the large painting entitled The Raft of the Medusa (c. 1819). This work depicts the aftermath of a contemporary French shipwreck, whose survivors embarked on a raft and were decimated by starvation before being rescued at sea. The shipwreck had scandalous political implications at home—the incompetent captain, who had gained the position because of connections to the Bourbon Restoration government, fought to save himself and senior officers while leaving the lower ranks to die—and so Géricault's picture of the raft and its inhabitants was greeted with hostility by the government. The work's macabre realism, its treatment of the raft incident as epic-heroic tragedy, and the virtuosity of its drawing and tonalities combine to give the painting great dignity and carry it far beyond mere contemporary reportage. The portrayal of the dead and dying, developed within a dramatic, carefully constructed composition, addressed a contemporary subject with remarkable and unprecedented passion.


Disappointed by the reception of The Raft of the Medusa, Géricault took the painting to England in 1820, where it was received as a sensational success. He remained there for two years, enjoying the equine culture and producing a body of lithographs, watercolours, and oils of jockeys and horses. Upon his return to France, his friendship with Étienne Georget, a pioneer in psychiatric studies, inspired his series of portraits of victims of insanity, each of whom was seen as a “type” of affliction, including Kleptomaniaand Delusion of Military Command. Repeated riding accidents and chronic tubercular infections ruined his health, and he died after a long period of suffering.
 

 


 

 
THE SOLDIER: HERO OR ANTI-HERO?

Among the most memorable portraits of the soldier during the early 19th century were those of Napoleon, notably by Jacques-Louis David. His idealized Napoleon did not represent the individual so much as the archetype of heroism. A significantly less heroic portrayal of the soldier was Gericault's Wounded Cuirassier, painted at the time Napoleon suffered a defeat in the "Battle of the Nations" at Leipzig (16-19 October, 1813) and exhibited at the Salon in 181 4. the year of the emperor's abdication. The image of a terrified horse being restrained by a soldier, who looks back to where the battle rages, is tinged with sadness and disillusionment, suggesting that an epoch has drawn to a close. The painting, with its flat slabs of colour, renders its subject unappealing and marks an end to the portrayal of the soldier as a superman and hero.

 

 


Theodore Gericault
Wounded Cuirassier
1814
 

 

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German Masters

In Germany, the writer and scholar Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) made a distinction between so-called "noble" nature - that which is viewed from a higher and pure level or perception -and "common" nature, as perceived by the observer. He argued that classical art did not repudiate nature but was in itself a higher and more faithful form of naturalism - "naturalistic idealism". In 1777 he designed the Altar of Good Fortune, a sphere symbolizing restless desire, standing on the cube of virtue, placed in the idealized landscape of his garden at Weimar. Heroic Landscape with Rainbow by Joseph Anton Koch (1768-1839), who lived in Rome from 1795, is a mythical vision described by the artist as "a great Greek landscape". In this work, behind the crystalline atmosphere and the sculpted precision with which the shepherds and sheep are drawn, the order set out by the artists of the Renaissance is lost. The viewer's eve does not focus on any one single point but wanders all over the painting, absorbing its wide range of emotions.
 

 
Joseph Anton Koch

(b Obergibeln, Tyrol, 27 July 1768; d Rome, 12 Jan 1839). Painter and writer. He was one of the most important landscape painters of the early 19th century. With his friend Johann Christian Reinhart he pioneered the ‘heroic’ landscape style by heightening the grandeur and structural clarity of classical Italianate landscapes in the tradition of Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorrain and Gaspard Dughet. His work reflects a transitional period in European art. Largely under the influence of Asmus Carstens, Koch subscribed to many Neo-classical principles, but his work also has Romantic aspects. His interest in the natural sciences and Romantic philosophy betrayed an increasingly modern world-view, but he also embraced the medievalism of the Nazarenes. His landscape style influenced that of his friends Ferdinand Olivier and Friedrich Olivier, as well as that of Carl Philipp Fohr.

 

 


Joseph Anton Koch
Heroic Landscape with Rainbow

1805
 

 


Joseph Anton Koch
Heroic Landscape with Rainbow

1815
Oil on canvas, 188 x 171 cm
Neue Pinakothek, Munich

 

 


Joseph Anton Koch
Mountain Scene

1796
Oil on canvas, 110 x 161 cm
Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne

 

 


Joseph Anton Koch
The Upland near Bern

1816
Oil on canvas, 73 x 99 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

 

 


Joseph Anton Koch
The Schmadribach Falls

1821-22
Oil on canvas, 132 x 110 cm
Neue Pinakothek, Munich

 

 


Joseph Anton Koch
The Monastery of St. Francis in Sabine Hills, Rome
oil on panel
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

 

 


Joseph Anton Koch
The Lauterbrunnen Valley
1821
oil on canvas
Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen

 

 


Joseph Anton Koch
The Wetterhorn with the Reichenbachtal
1824
oil on canvas
Oskar Reinhart Foundation, Winterthur

 
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ART AND MADNESS

For the Romantic painters, madness was no longer an abnormal or bizarre subject but a constituent part of humanity. Insanity and disease were portrayed by Franz Xavier Messerschmidt (1736-83), in his "character head" sculptures (1770-83), mostly modelled in lead. Francisco Goya painted himself with Dr Arrieta, as a tribute to the man who had nursed him through a long illness. He portrayed himself as a sort of Ecce Homo, with the suggestion of a crown of thorns. During the same period, the artist began his grim, visionary "Black Paintings", which show human cruelty, while expressing an understanding of the fear that could cause it. In France, Gericault produced a series of portraits of inmates at the Salpetriere asylum. With their fixed expressions, they are symbols of a disease that is an integral part of the human condition.

   
 
Franz Xaver Messerschmidt
 

(b Wiesensteig, nr Ulm, 6 Feb 1736; d Pressburg [now Bratislava, Slovak Republic], ?19 Aug 1783).

Austrian sculptor. He was descended, on his mother’s side, from a family of joiners and sculptors called Straub. He was first trained by two of his mother’s brothers: from 1746 by Johann Baptist Straub, who was a court sculptor in Munich, then from c. 1752 until 1754 by Philipp Jakob Straub in Graz. Messerschmidt then went to Vienna, where he attended the Akademie from the end of 1755. His teachers there were probably Jakob Schletterer (1699–1774) and Balthasar Ferdinand Moll. Messerschmidt was the protégé of Martin van Meytens (1695–1770), the director of the Akademie and a court painter. Van Meytens subsequently helped Messerschmidt to procure his first appointment at the Imperial Arsenal, where he was assigned to decorating canons. Between 1760 and 1763, however, Messerschmidt produced his first known independent works, for the Arsenal state rooms: the gilt-bronze busts of the Empress Maria Theresa and her husband Franz I von Lothringen, and the bronze reliefs of their son, subsequently Emperor, Joseph II, and his first wife, Maria Isabella von Parma (all now Vienna, Belvedere, Österreich. Gal.).

 


Franz Xavier Messerschmidt
Character Head: The Gentle, Quiet Sleep

1770-1783
Tin cast, height: 44 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest


Franz Xavier Messerschmidt
Character Head: The Arch-Evil

1770-83
Tin-lead alloy, height: 38,5 cm
Österreichische Galerie, Vienna

 

 


Franz Xavier Messerschmidt
Character Head: The Hanged

1770-83
Alabaster, height: 38 cm
Österreichische Galerie, Vienna


Franz Xavier Messerschmidt
Character Head: The Lecher

1770-83
Marbl, height: 45 cm
Österreichische Galerie, Vienna

 

 


Franz Xavier Messerschmidt
Character Head: The Beaked

1770
Alabaster, height 43 cm
Österreichische Galerie, Vienna


Franz Xavier Messerschmidt
Character Head: The Beaked

1770
Alabaster, height: 43 cm
Österreichische Galerie, Vienna


see collections:



Jean-Antoine Gros

John Singleton Copley

Theodore Gericault


 

 

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