Neoclassicism and Romanticism

 


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

 

 


Richard Wilson

John Crome

John Sell Cotman





see collections:


Thomas Girtin
 

Richard Parkes Bonington


John Constable

 

 




Romantic Era


 

 


Great Britain

 

The nineteenth-century English Romantics, as I noted above, were able to recur to an incomparably rich heritage of romantic tendencies in the art of the foregoing period. The landscaped garden was a repository of picturesqueness and sentiment, and its exotic accoutrements conveyed a longing for the charm of the faraway and byegone. The neo-Gothic structures or ruins with which the gardens were fitted out were often associated with the settings of those tales of terror whose Gothic Romance tradition continued without interruption into the industrial century.

 In the Ossian epic, in Milton's Paradise Lost, and in Young's Night Thoughts, Britain had produced literary works whose mythicizing and demonizing of Christian themes and exploration of the depths of the human psyche were to make them unfailing sources for all of Continental Romanticism. The highly regarded Shakespeare belonged inalienably to the cultural heritage of a nation which, in Burke, could also boast the foremost propagator of the sublime. With the doctrine of sensualism, English philosophy at the start of the eighteenth century had paved the way for the psychological penetration of human art and culture.

 Like no other nation, England forced the transition from manual craftsmanship to mass production based on a division of labor. Despite Adam Smith's (1723-1790) complaint, in 1763, that this caused what we today would call a dumbing down of workers, the Industrial Revolution was inexorably underway. It led to an enormous growth of cities, complete with slum housing for the equally rapidly growing proletariat. The more brutal working life and the conditions of existence became, the more writers and artists reacted to the prosaic and impoverished industrial world by celebrating the power of the imagination and individual creativity. When the Frenchman Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg, a painter of dramatic natural sceneries who settled in London in 1771, began to lend the new industrial plants a grandiosely sinister effect, he both demonized and romanticized them, a reaction to the new situation shared by many artists in England.

 In a picture like The Experiment with the Airpump of 1768, Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797) summed up the intentions behind the art of the era in an exemplary way. The well-nigh demoniacally emphasized experimentor in the center has just created a vacuum in a glass receptacle. To him falls the godlike decision whether or not to revive the laboratory animal, a pigeon that has already collapsed. In the faces of the spectators of this nocturnal spectacle are reflected, depending on age and degree of sensibility, a range of feelings extending from curiosity and fascination to sadness and concern, from an acceptance of the new possibilities of science to their rejection.

 A broad current of imaginative, fantastic - in a word, pre-Romantic — paintings flows through English art of the eighteenth century. A few examples will have to suffice for many: the landscapes of Richard Wilson (1714-1782), the pictures of John Runciman (1744-1768), and those of an American artist working in England, Benjamin West (1738-1820).

 

 


Richard Wilson

(b Penegoes, Montgoms, 1713 or 1714; d Colomendy, Denbs, 11 May 1782).
Welsh painter, active in Italy and England. He began his career as a portraitist who also painted landscapes but committed himself to the latter genre in the early 1750s while in Italy. He painted and drew Italian scenery and idealized classical landscapes not only in Italy but after his return to England, only later developing this manner to include British scenery too. He was also influenced by Dutch landscape painting, particularly the work of Aelbert Cuyp. Wilson was a founder-member of the Royal Academy and enjoyed considerable success until the early 1770s, but his last years were penurious and his reputation in decline. Through William Hodges, a former pupil who published a short essay on Richard Wilson in 1790, and through other ex-pupils (notably Joseph Farington and Thomas Jones), the status of Wilson’s work improved; gradually it began to influence the artists of J. M. W. Turner’s generation.
 

   
 


Richard Wilson
The Vale of Narni
1760

 

 


Richard Wilson

A Capriccio Landscape with the Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli and the Broken Bridge at Narni

 


Richard Wilson
Portrait of a Lady

 


Richard Wilson
Lake Albano

 

 


Richard Wilson
Lake Albano and Castel Gandolfo

 

 


Richard Wilson
Solitude

 

 


Richard Wilson
Ariccia, umgesturtzter Baum

 

 


Richard Wilson
Croome Court, Worcestershire

 

 


Richard Wilson
Die Themse in Twickenham

 

 


Richard Wilson
Landscape Capriccio with Tomb of the Horatii and Curiatii, and the Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli

   

 Johann Heinrich Fiussli (1741 — 1825), a Swiss who as Henry Fuseli lived in England from 1778 until his death in 1825, illustrated Dante, Milton, and Shakespeare, and, after 1800, the Nordic saga of the Edda, the Nibelungenlied, and Friedrich de la Motte Fouque's fairy-tale Undine. But he was best known for his various versions of the Nightmare, in which the unreal and eerie were given compelling form. Figments and outgrowths of the imagination determined Fuseli's œuvre and led, in his paintings, to distortions of the classical canon and an abandonment of familiar spatial logic.

 The transition to a demoniacal Romanticism took place in his work almost to the extent that it did in that of William Blake (1757—1827). Blake was both poet and painter, providing superb and idiosyncratic illustrations to his own writings, to editions of the Bible, and to the works of Dante, Milton, and Young. He has justifiably been called the great myth-creator and visionary of English Romanticism. The creative and destructive passions of the human soul, capable of throwing open the doors to Heaven and Hell, were the forces underlying Blake's compositions, which burst through formal conventions even more strongly than Fuseli's.

 In the field of landscape painting the transition from the eighteenth century to Romanticism took place more gradually, and initially in a concentration on much more peaceful moods. With landscape views in oil or watercolor, artists projected another type of counterwork! to the Industrial Revolution, a world in which the schism between man and nature seemed to have been overcome.

 The point of departure for this development was the eighteenth-century fashion of rounding off the education of young aristocrats by a journey to Italy. Often they were accompanied on this Grand Tour by watercolorists, whose series of pictures served a purpose not unlike the tourist snapshots of today. Travels to picturesque attractions, as well as a new interest in the moods of local sites and sceneries, led to an unprecedented upswing in English landscape painting from about 1800 to 1840.

 Among the artists involved, such as Thomas Girtin (1775-1802), followed by John Crome (1768-1821), Richard Parkes Bonington (1802-1828), and John Sell Cotman (1782 —1842), the outstanding figure was John Constable (1776-1837 ), whose atmospheric depictions of the natural scene, rendered in loose, unconventional brushwork, excited Delacroix and Theodore Gericault (1791 —1824), and later influenced the masters of Barbizon and even the Impressionists.
      

   







see collections:



Thomas Girtin
 

Richard Parkes Bonington


John Constable


John Constable

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)


born June 11, 1776, East Bergholt, Suffolk, Eng.
died March 31, 1837, London


painter who, with J.M.W. Turner, dominated English landscape painting in the 19th century. He is famous for his precise and loving paintings of the English countryside (e.g., “The Hay-Wain,” 1821), which he sketched constantly from nature. After about 1828, he experimented with a freer and more colourful manner of painting (e.g., in “Hadleigh Castle,” 1829). He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1829.


Early days

Constable's birthplace was, and remains, a small village, standing on a ridge a short distance from the River Stour, which separates Suffolk from Essex. The Stour valley in this region is rich in wheat, pastureland, and fine trees and was known in the late 18th century for its efficient agriculture and its natural beauty. The men of Suffolk felt a jealous patriotism for their own county, and Constable remained at heart a Suffolk man, although he constantly crossed the bridge over the River Stour at Flatford into Essex.

The artist's father, Golding Constable, was a wealthy man who owned mills at Flatford and Dedham, on the Suffolk and Essex banks of the Stour, respectively. His business consisted of grinding wheat raised in the local fields and shipping it around the coast of East Anglia to the London market. The Stour had been made into a canal, navigable beyond these mills, and the grain was transported on its waters in broad, flat-bottomed barges. The fact that Constable was born into the midst of the practical realities of country life has a direct bearing on his career and is reflected throughout his painting. He showed intellectual promise as a child and was brought up for the church; when this idea was abandoned, he was trained to enter his father's business. By this time he had already conceived an enthusiasm for painting. This interest was fostered by his friendship with an amateur painter, John Dunthorne, a local plumber and glazier, and was further encouraged by the landscape painter Sir George Beaumont, a patron of the arts.Constable's determination to make painting his profession was sealed by his acceptance as a probationer in the Royal Academy Schools in 1799, when he was 23.


Artistic development

At this time his performance did not reveal any marked promise; his execution was laboured and his drawing from life weakly academic. But he already had a clear mental image of the type of pictures he wanted to paint and worked doggedly to overcome his technical defects. Seven or eight years after he had started his formal training, he discovered how to embody his idea of the English countryside in a manner both more realistic and more spirited than his predecessors. There were some modest successes to record in this period of self-training. He exhibited at the Royal Academy shows annually from 1802, with one single exception in 1804. He went on two of the sketching expeditions that it was then the practice for landscape painters to undertake, going to the Peak District, Derbyshire, in 1801 and the Lake District in 1806. He painted portraits of the Suffolk and Essex farmers and their wives and in 1805 attempted an altarpiece of “Christ Blessing the Children,” in the manner of the American expatriate painter Benjamin West. When he took stock of his progress after his return from the Lake District, however, he realized that he had beenattempting too wide a range of subject and style, thus dissipating his energies. He then determined to concentrate on the scenes that had delighted him as a boy: the village lanes, the fields and meadows running down to the Stour, thes low progress of barges drawn by tow horses, the bustle of vessels passing the locks at Flatford or Dedham.

In the years 1809 to 1816 he established his mastery and evolved his individual manner; but these were years of personal stress. He was obliged to live much of each year in London, where his professional associates were to be found and where he could participate in exhibitions. Constable was uneasy at these enforced absences from the countryside, in which he felt most at home, and tried to pay yearly visits to Suffolk. The assiduity with which he studied the landscape on these visits is shown by two pocket sketchbooks, one of 1813 and one of 1814, which are still intact. These contain between them more than 200 small sketches made in a limited area around his home village and reflect most aspects of the summer life of the fields and the river.

Deeper than the strain of exile from these scenes was the unhappy progress of his courtship of Maria Bicknell, with whom he had fallen in love in 1809 but whose grandfather, the elderly and tyrannical rector of East Bergholt, opposed her marriage to an impecunious artist. Nevertheless, Constable stuck to his purpose with a tenacity equal to that which he displayed in his art, and, in her unaggressive way, Maria was just as determined. A further anxiety for Constable came from the failing health of his parents; his mother died in 1815 and his father the following year. He was genuinely devoted to them and spent prolonged periods at home during their illnesses. His father's death in 1816 provided a sufficient measure of economic independence for him to marry Maria Bicknell and to settle into the domestic life that was a prerequisite for his calm development and the full maturing of his art.

Once he had married, on Oct. 2, 1816, and had established himself and his wife in a London home, Constable set to work to show what he could achieve in his art. He was 40 years old and had painted a handful of accomplished pictures, which were original but on a small scale. These included “Dedham Vale: Morning” (1811; Sir Richard Proby Collection, Elton Hall, Huntingdonshire); “Boatbuilding near Flatford Mill” (1815; Victoria and Albert Museum, London); “The Stour Valley and Dedham Village” (1815; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). These paintings were still products of the years of preparation, however. Most significant was the large number of small oil sketches and drawings that were to form the basis of his future and more ambitious painting. These sketches, of which he made a considerable number after 1808, were painted in the open air in front of the subject. They are most frequently in oils on paper about 12 inches wide, and they record the form of the landscape, the colours that predominate, and also the more evanescent qualities of atmosphere and the reflection of light on particular details. The sketches are now recognized to be among Constable's most individual achievements and to have been unique at the time they were painted. To the artist, however, they were means to an end. His main ambition was to embody his concept of the Suffolk countryside in a series of larger canvases monumental enough to make an impression in the annual summer exhibitions of the Royal Academy. The first attempt was the “Flatford Mill on the River Stour” which he exhibited in 1817. It shows a reach of the river running up to the mill, in which Golding Constable had lived until within two years of Constable's birth, bordered by a meadow that has just been scythed.


Mature works

This work was succeeded by a series of six paintings that arenow among his best known and most highly regarded works. In order of exhibition they are “The White Horse”; “Stratford Mill”; “The Hay-Wain”; “View on the Stour near Dedham”; “The Lock”; “The Leaping Horse.” These six canvases portray scenes on the River Stour that were easily within the compass of Constable's childhood walks; between the most easterly, “The Hay-Wain,” and the most westerly, “Stratford Mill,” there is hardly more than two miles distance in a direct line. To this unity of place is joined a unity of subject matter. With the exception of “The Hay-Wain,” all show barges being manoeuvred along the canals. The appearance in these works of the fruits of Constable's deep, unprecedented study of the formation of clouds, the colour of meadows and trees, and the effect of light glistening on leaves and water enables them to communicate the concrete actuality of these everyday-life country scenes, as well as the feeling they evoked in him.

This series of Stour scenes was interrupted in 1823, when Constable's chief exhibit was a view of “Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds,” which was intended to be a record of an architectural monument, transmuted into the artist's own idiom by framing the spire between overarching trees, by emphasizing the play of light and shade on the Gothic stonework, and by setting the whole under a sky in which rain is impending. This romantic treatment did not please the Bishop but was admired by the Bishop's nephew and Constable's old friend, Archdeacon John Fisher, who had already shown his faith in the artist by buying “The White Horse” at the exhibition of 1819.

A revealing correspondence between Constable and Bishop Fisher—who commissioned the painting of the Salisbury Cathedral—has been preserved. In it the painter gives his most intimate thoughts on his art without concealment or false modesty. There was much he could be satisfied with at this time. He was aware that he had achieved in his art a great deal of what he had set out to do. In addition, his work had deeply impressed the painters of the French Romantic school. Théodore Géricault had admired“ The Hay-Wain” on its first exhibition in 1821; and when this work (along with the “View on the Stour near Dedham”) was shown at the Paris Salon in 1824, it not only created a sensation but inspired Eugène Delacroix to repaint parts of his “Massacre at Chios.” In England recognition was slower in coming. Although Constable had been made an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1819, full membership was delayed for 10 years.

Meanwhile the presence, from 1819, of Hampstead scenes and, from 1824, of Brighton scenes among his repertoire of subjects indicates a deepening shadow over his domestic happiness. Mrs. Constable had long been delicate, and Constable took houses in these places in search of purer air. Her death from consumption in 1828, at the age of 41, was a loss from which he never fully recovered, though he bestirred himself into activity for the sake of his seven children, in whom he delighted. His financial situation had been eased by a large legacy from his father-in-law, but from this time an increased restlessness is to be found in his paintings. “Hadleigh Castle” and “Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows” show his growing recourse to broken accents of colour, sombre tones, and stormy skies. It was in 1829 also that he began his preparations for the publication of English Landscape Scenery, a selection of mezzotints executed by David Lucas from Constable's paintings and sketches in which the same dramatic qualities of light and shade are translated into a black-and-white medium. The admiration of his friend, the American-born artist C.R. Leslie, prompted the writing of the Memoirs of the Life of John Constable, R.A. This biography was first published in 1843 and still remains an indispensable source of information on Constable.

In the 1820s the use of colour by Constable's great contemporary and rival in landscape painting, J.M.W. Turner, was becoming bolder and even more uninhibited. This may have contributed to the greater readiness for change that we see in Constable's late works. His “Waterloo Bridge from Whitehall Stairs” is a monumental record of the opening ceremonial, painted in a high key of colour. His use of watercolour became more frequent, and in 1834, after he hadbeen seriously ill, he sent no oils at all to the Royal Academy, depending for his principal exhibit on a large and remarkable watercolour, “Old Sarum” (Victoria and Albert Museum, London). A visit to Arundel in the same summer imbued him with enthusiasm for a new type of countryside dominated by steep wooded slopes.

In 1836 Constable sent “The Cenotaph at Coleorton” to the Royal Academy exhibition. It was the last painting he showed in his lifetime. When he died, the painting on which he had been working the day before, “Arundel Mill and Castle” (Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio), was sufficiently completed to be shown posthumously at the next Academy exhibition. At his death his reputation was limited, but those who admired his work did so intensely. This admiration grew slowly throughout the 19th century, becoming more widespread as his sketches became available and their freshness and spontaneity were recognized. In 1843 his first biographer, C.R. Leslie, wrote that he was “the most genuine painter of English landscape,” and that is a judgment now almost universally reaffirmed.

Graham Reynolds
 

   


John Constable
Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishops' Grounds
 

 

 

 


John Crome

(b Norwich, 22 Dec 1768; d Norwich, 22 April 1821). English painter, printmaker, collector and teacher. The son of a journeyman weaver, he was apprenticed to a coach and sign painter, Francis Whisler, from 1783 to 1790. He presumably continued in this trade and during the 1790s consolidated his artistic training. Early local influences upon Crome included William Beechey and John Opie, but the friendship of Thomas Harvey, a patron, collector and amateur artist, was the most significant. Harvey’s collection included works by Dutch 17th-century masters such as Aelbert Cuyp, Jacob van Ruisdael and Meindert Hobbema, and also works by Gainsborough and Richard Wilson. The earliest record of Wilson’s influence is provided by two oils entitled Composition in the Style of Wilson (untraced), dated 1796 and 1798 in Crome’s Memorial Exhibition of 1821. The Dutch influence was also strong throughout Crome’s career. Crome’s early acquaintance with Harvey and his collection almost certainly encouraged him to become a collector, and the Yarmouth banker Dawson Turner recorded buying pictures from Crome, including Old Masters as well as the artist’s own work.
 

   
 


John Crome

Die Poringland-Eiche

 

 


John Crome

Schieferbruche

 

 


John Crome

Moonlight on the Yare

 


 

 


John Sell Cotman

(b Norwich, 16 May 1782; d London, 24 July 1842). English painter and etcher.
Cotman was born in the parish of St Mary Coslany, Norwich, the son of Edmund Cotman, a hairdresser, later a haberdasher, and Ann Sell. In 1793 he entered Norwich Grammar School as a ‘freeplacer’. In 1798 he moved to London, where he worked as an assistant to the publisher Rudolph Ackermann. Following in the footsteps of Turner and Thomas Girtin he joined Dr Monro’s ‘Academy’ in 1799 and became a member of the sketching society that had developed around the personality and talent of Girtin. He exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time in 1800, when he was awarded the large silver palette by the Society of Arts.

 

   
 

John Sell Cotman
Gillingham Church, Norfolk

 

 


John Sell Cotman

Das Aquadukt von Chirk

 

 


John Sell Cotman

Fluhlandschaft mit Viehherde

 

 

John Sell Cotman
Doorway to the refectory, Kirkham Priory, Yorkshire
1804

 

 


John Sell Cotman
Houses on quayside, with small fishing vessels

 

Yet greater than them all was William Turner, whose motifs dissolved in sheer color and light were passionately defended against their detractors by John Ruskin (1819—1900), the leading theoretician of Romanticism in England, in his 1843 book Modern Painters. Turner, member and professor of the Royal Academy, initially oriented himself to the classical landscape style of Claude Lorrain, as well as to Burke's reflections on the beautiful and the sublime. In 1802 he took his first journey to the Continent, to Switzerland. Two years thereafter Turner opened his own gallery, and began to make ever more daring experiments in watercolor and drawing that culminated in the virtuoso sophistication of his late work. In the course of his career, based on Goethe's color theory, Turner developed a revolutionary handling of light and color, producing textures and structures that had an impressionistic, sometimes practically abstract effect, as seen particularly in the Venice paintings of the 1840s. Turner looked upon unbounded nature as an insoluble mystery, which he envisioned in a series of mythical landscape scenes in terms of cosmic destiny. Seeing the universe as extending between the poles of light and darkness, he found visual correspondences to the processes of creation and destruction, birth and decay, of a visionary power that far surpassed the poetic landscapes of other Romantic artists.

 As in Germany and other countries, later Romantic painting in England tended to drift into the uncommittal, or attempted to make up for a dearth of profundity by the atriality or melodrama. A case in point are the compositions of John Martin (1789—1854), which often seem forced and occasionally recall the pomp of Hollywood technicolor movie epics.





The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
 

 

Yet with the Pre-Raphaelites, England experienced a belated but impressive culmination of the Romantic approach. In the 1820s, under the leadership of Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846), a few admirers of Blake founded a secluded artists' society. Like the German Nazarenes, of whom they were aware, these artists rejected modern materialism and, recurring to Italian Early Renaissance painting before Raphael, they emulated the religious fervor of the Middle Ages.
 These were the premises on which the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in London in 1848. An anti-academic protest united artists such as John Everett Millais (1829-1896), William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), and the brothers William and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) into a group that lasted until 1853, and whose aims were shared, though they were not official members, by William Dyce (1806—1864), Edward Burne-Jones (1833—1898) and Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893).
 All of these artists adopted themes of deep symbolic and socially relevant meaning, which they found preformulated in medieval legends and literature, in the Bible, and in Shakespeare. Their ideals, however, were not exhausted in a retrospective view, for they grew out of an earnest moral involvement with the conditions of the contemporary age. In an antiquarian and allegorical guise the Pre-Raphaelites addressed, for instance, morbid psychological and sexual themes that to Victorian moralism were taboo. This lent their pictures a unique tenor, a blend of evocative symbolism with intense color combinations recalling Gothic stained glass, and an incredible fidelity to detail in the drawing. Such an unconventional combination of social message with realistically observed objects and lighting effects was also propagaged by John Ruskin, the most influential English critic of the nineteenth century, who defended the Pre-Raphaelites in these terms against their many critical detractors.
 The works of the Pre-Raphaelites are located between romantically escapist musing, idealistic ethics, and a realistic interpretation tending almost to the surreal. Their fidelity of detail combined with intense palette and ornamental composition found application in the latter half of the nineteenth century in the decorative arts of England. Brown, Burne-Jones, Rossetti and others supplied product designs to the firm established in 1861 by the social reformer William Morris (1834-1896). The founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement envisioned a revival of solid, handmade home furnishings to supplant the shoddy, mechanically mass-produced merchandise of the day, and with his associate artists developed an ornamental approach that would become a forerunner of Art Nouveau.
 


Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The Day Dream

 

see collections:


Thomas Girtin
 
Richard Parkes Bonington

John Constable
 

 

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