Romanticism 1770-1850

The Romantic Period begins roughly 1770-1850, it is characterized by emphasis on the individual, emotions, as well as glorification of the past and nature.

The Romantic Period saw many important cultural, political and religious events during its time, some of these include:

1776: The Declaration of Independence is signed: near the beginning of the American Revolution from Britain this document was drafted by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Thomas Jefferson and Robert R. Livingston. The document was a literal declaration of freedom from the control of Britain and ended up being signed by 56 members of the Continental Congress.

1783: Treaty of Paris: Effectively ends the American Revolution: After a series of riots, fighting, and negotiations Britain finally realized the colonies in America as separate from Britain seven years after the signing of The Declaration of Independence.

1789: The Beginning of the French Revolution: Do to the French's support in the American Revolution as well as the extravagant spending by then King Louis XVI France was left in an almost bankrupt state. The King's adviser decided to make a law that would bring taxes to the wealthy, however, the vote of the wealthy could overthrow this due to the political power they held. This caused great unease among French citizens because roughly 98% of them were not in the upper class. Riots began to push toward a more fare representation and the National Assembly of France was established. Although this was a major success for the citizens of France, there was growing fear of a military coup, so on July 12th angry rioters stormed a Bastille armory fortress to secure weapons and gunpowder. This is now celebrated as the official start to the French Revolution where peasants finally fought back after years of oppression, unfair taxation, and exploitation.

1793: Louis XVI is Executed: A group of extremist Jacobins attacked the royal residence in Paris and arrested the king on August 10, 1792. The following month the Legislative Assembly was replaced by the National Convention, which proclaimed the "abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of the French republic". On January 21, 1793, it condemned King Louis XVI to death for high treason and crimes against the state. He was executed at the guillotine and his wife Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793) met the same fate nine months later.

1793: Marat is murdered in his bathtub: Marat founded the journal L’Ami du Peuple in 1789, and its harsh criticism of those in power become a large source of fuel to the bloody turn of the Revolution in 1792. With the arrest of the king earlier that year, Marat was elected as a deputy of Paris to the Convention. In France’s revolutionary legislature, Marat opposed the Girondists–a faction made up of moderate republicans who advocated a constitutional government and continental war. By 1793, Charlotte Corday, the daughter of an impoverished aristocrat and an ally of the Girondists in Normandy, decided that Marat was an unholy enemy of France and began to plot his assassination. On July 13, she gained Marat's trust and time by promising to betray the Caen Girondists. Marat had a persistent skin disease and was working as usual in his bath when Corday pulled a knife from her bodice and stabbed him in his chest. He died shortly after as Corday waited patiently for the police to come and arrest her. Four days later she was put to death by guillotine.

1796: Napolean commands Italian Campaign and defeats the Austrians in a series of battles that lead to the Peace of Leoben

1799: The French Revolution ends: Napoleon Bonaparte staged a coup d’état, abolishing the Directory and appointing himself to be France's “first consul.” The event marked the end of the French Revolution and the beginning of the Napoleonic era, in which France would come to dominate much of Europe.

1804: Napoleon Crowns himself emperor of France: Napoleon successfully waged war against various coalitions of European nations and expanded his empire.

1812: America declares war on Britian, Napoleon enters Moscow:

1814: Napoleon defeated in Toulouse and exiled to Elba after abdicating the thrown. In 1815 Napoleon briefly returned to power in his Hundred Days campaign. After a crushing defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, he abdicated once again and was exiled to the remote island of Saint Helena, where he died poor and alone at the age of 51.

Top Left: Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze in 1851. Leutze was a German born painter who came to America as a child. In 1841 he returned to German to study art at the renowned Düsseldorf Academy. The Washington Crossing the Delaware was originally intended to energize Germans who had been defeated in the 1848 Revolution by showing Washington leading a successful American Revolution. Leutze returned to the United States in 1859 and in 1860 was commissioned by the U.S. Congress to decorate a stairway in the Capitol at Washington, D.C., which he painted a large wall composition, Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way showing American expansion into the west. Bottom Center: Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault in 1918. Géricault's painting is often referred to the hallmark of French Romanticism due to the powerful message and emotion depicted in the work of art. The painting portrayed in terrifying explicitness scenes of a shipwreck which was an actual event in which the captain had deserted his crew and passengers, and left them to die and be subject to cannibalism. The painting gave allusion to the negligence and corruption of the French government. It ignited immense controversy and brought Géricault widespread fame prior to his young death. Top Right: The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David in 1793. This painting is actually not an example of Romanticism, but Neoclassicism. It is included in this page to show the significance of the actual death of the political activist Marat and the impact on not only political history, but on art history that he had.

In the Romantic period, music expanded to encompass literary, artistic, and philosophical themes therefore becoming rich in emotion and expressiveness. Well known early Romantic composers include Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Bellini, and Berlioz to name a few. The Romantic period created a dramatic expansion in the size of the orchestra and in the dynamic range/diversity of instruments used in this type of ensemble. It also saw to public concerts becoming a key part of urban middle class society, in stark contrast to earlier musical periods, when concerts were mainly paid for by and performed for strictly the upper class. Famous composers from the second half of the Romantic period included Johann Strauss II, Brahms, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, and Wagner

Beethoven (1770-1827)

Composer Ludwig van Beethoven was born in 1770, in Bonn, Germany. He was a composer between the end of the Classical Era and into the Early Romantic period. Beethoven was known as an innovator, widening the scope of sonata, symphony, concerto and quartet, while also combining vocals and instruments in a new and never before heard way. His personal life was marked by struggle from a young age as it is said that he was often flogged daily by his alcoholic father in order to shape him into a musical genius "just like Mozart". Beethoven was eventually put on a court payroll and sent to Vienna to "speculatively" study under Mozart who was also rumored to have said "Keep your eyes on him; some day he will give the world something to talk about.” Whether or not that was the case of Mozart saying that, Beethoven surely beat the odds, even against deafness, and some of his most important works were composed during the last 10 years of his life, when he was quite unable to hear at all. He died in 1827 at the age of 56. His music is still played today and his influence can still be seen and heard in modern times.

Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Romantic composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born on May 7, 1840, in Vyatka, Russia. As a young boy he showed interest in music, but, his parents wished him to be in civil service. Against their wishes he took some lessons, but after his mothers death at the age of 14, he honored her by becoming taking up a bureau clerk post with the Ministry of Justice, a post he would hold for four years, during which time he became increasingly fascinated with music. At age 21 he finally followed his dreams and began studying music at the newly formed Russian Musical Society only to enroll at the Conservatory a few months later. In addition, he offered private lessons to other students. His first performance was not until 1865, but it was very well received so he continued to pursue composing. Acclaim came readily for Tchaikovsky in 1875, with his composition Symphony No. 3 in D Major. At the end of that year, the composer embarked on a tour of Europe. In 1876, he completed the ballet Swan Lake as well as the fantasy Francesca da Rimini. In 1878 Tchaikovsky resigned from the Moscow Conservatory in order to focus entirely on composing. As a result, he spent the remainder of his career composing more prolifically than ever. His collective body of work constitutes 169 pieces. Among his most famous late works are the ballets The Sleeping Beauty (1890) and The Nutcracker (1892). Tchaikovsky had a rough personal life, he privately struggled with homosexuality and as a result he married a young music student named Antonina Milyukova. The marriage was a disaster and Tchaikovsky ended up leaving his wife within weeks of the wedding. During a nervous breakdown due to the societal influences to suppress his sexuality and his failed marriage, he unsuccessfully attempted to commit suicide. A year later he enterred into a rather odd arrangement that allowed him the means to retire from the Conservatory and focus on his music. This is thanks to a wealthy widow named Nadezhda von Meck. She provided him with a monthly allowance until 1890; their arrangement stipulated that they would never meet. Tchaikovsky died in 1893. The official cause of his death was declared as cholera, although some of his biographers do believe that he committed suicide after the humiliation of a sex scandal. However, only oral evidence exists to support this theory without any written documentation. None the less, Tchaikovsky left an immense body of work that still stands strong to this day and is still played and performed regularly.

Literature of the Romantic Era

Romantic Literature took a far different turn that the literature before it in many senses. It focused on not only religious issues, but, on issues of society as well as mythical and emotional fiction which emerged during this time. The literature was intended not simply for the wealthy anymore, but more so for the general public to evoke raw emotion while also tackling the political and societal problems off the time.

Thomas Paine wrote the articles known as "Commonn Sense" in 1776. According to his own words they consisted of "nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense on the idea of American Independence from England." Paine was an active patriot who also wrote the "Crises Papers" which spoke out against loyalists and inspired colonists to continue fighting for their freedom.

Marat wrote the newspaper L'Ami du Peuple or "The Friend of the People" in 1789 first under the name Le Publiciste parisien. As an elector for the District of the Carmes Déchaussés in 1789, Marat tried to persuade the electoral assembly of France to publish a journal to keep the people informed of current political events. When they denied his proposal, Marat resigned from his post as an elector so he could focus on writing a journal himself, as he saw it as a social and political injustice to the electorate to keep important affairs from their knowledge. After several issues, the name was changed to L’Ami du peuple and has become known as "the most celebrated radical paper of the French Revolution." ( Jeremy Popkin, historian).

Three important forms of expression

The three most important and lasting forms of artistic expression out of the Romantic Era were forms of expression that have already been touched on in this project so far. The first form that impacted and left a long-standing impression was the forms of literature that emerged out of the Romantic Period, specifically the forms of political articles and newspapers that were used as propaganda to ignite reaction from the audiences. As already discussed above, some of the most influential writers of these type of papers were Marat and Thomas Paine, they both were patriots of their countries and wanted to see the best for the people who lived there. Another lasting form of artistic expression that came out of the Romantic Period was the music of the time. The music much like the literature of the time shifted gears in its audience and strove to include the general public compared to aristocrats. The artists themselves saw much struggle in society and their music is a lasting example of their emotional turmoil as well as their eventual success in changing the face and audience of music entirely to all people. Some of the great and revolutionary musicians of the time to do this were Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Bellini, Johann Strauss II, Brahms, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, and Wagner. Much of their music is still practice, praised, and enjoyed to this day. The final form of expression to be reflected on out of this period was the form of paintings. Artists from this period who used their skills to make radical political, societal, and emotional statements include JMW Turner (1775-1851), Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875), Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), Antoine-Jean Gros, Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904), Theodore Gericault (1791-1835), and Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) to name a few. These artists changed art from just an aesthetic to a statement with their bold and often controversial works that fueled revolutions. All in all the Romantic Era was a time of change, change in government, change in environment, and change in society as a whole. It saw some of the most influential and some of the most controversial art of all time that still holds impact in our modern era.

Credits to this work and it's information:

Emanuel Leutze | German-American painter | (n.d.). Retrieved from

History Channel. (n.d.). French Revolution - Facts & Summary - Retrieved from

History Channel. (n.d.). Napoleon Bonaparte - Facts & Summary - Retrieved from

L'Ami du peuple - Wikipedia. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2016, from'Ami_du_peuple

Ludwig Van Beethoven. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Romantic Artists (1775-1850). (n.d.). Retrieved from

Romanticism, An Anthology, 4th Edition - Duncan Wu. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Théodore Géricault | The Raft of the Medusa (1818-1819) | Artsy. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Created By
Shaharra Sanders


Created with images by Boston Public Library - "Beethoven"

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