Romanticism Period

A nineteenth century poet, Charles Baudelaire, said that, "Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor in exact truth, but in a way of feeling." Which was ultimately the biggest problem with the Romantic period (Esaak, 2017). Romanticism wasn't necessarily a political movement, it was more of an intellectual movement in art and literature. However, the time period was basically born off of the French Revolution rejection of aristocratic social and political norms. It started in the late eighteenth century and lasted well into the nineteenth century. Romanticism started as a revolt against the enlightenment period focusing a lot on evolution, and emphasizing on the strength of nature and the world around them. As to religion, the Romanticism period challenged the previous period with the rise of Christianity. The ideas of the French revolution inspired artists and gave them the freedom from the former classical styles of art.

Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)

Caspar David Friedrich was a German landscape painter and considered one of the most important artists of the Romantic Period.

Caspar David Friedrich Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog

In this painting, Friedrich paints himself in it, looking out into a field of fog. This was a great example of the Romantic approach to art. He used his landscape painting to express himself. Friedrich definitely knew how to capture nature and the landscapes around him down to every detail. The Romantics believed that artists who explored their own emotions had to completely step aside from the money making, the political influences, and the community chatter in order to maintain their positions (Restoration Europe-Romanticism). Friedrich was known to have religious meanings in all of his paintings, even if the signs weren't so visible.

Other paintings by Caspar David Friedrich
Théodore Géricault (1791-1824)

Théodore Géricault was a popular French painter. Although he died young, he is considred a pioneer of the Romantic movement.

The Raft of the Medusa, 1818-1819

Gericault was only 27 years old when he painted the Raft of the Medusa. Instantly it was considered a classic of the Romance period. The brutality and realism captured the raw emotion of the devastating event that shocked the entire french community. The Medusa was a french ship off the coast of Africa in 1816. The ship got stuck on a sandbar, and after three unsuccessful days of trying to free itself, the crew resorted to loading up in life boats. Unfortunately there was a crew of 400 and only 250 could fill in the life boats. So a very poorly constructed raft carried 149 men and one woman. Over the course of 15 brutal days at sea, some men got thrown off, some threw themselves off, and others resorted to cannibalism. Once they were finally rescued only 15 men survived (Artble).

Gericault's painting depicted the captain deserting his crew and leaving them to die. This painting showed the negligence of the government and brought fame to him quickly.

Other paintings by Théodore Géricault
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)

Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer. He made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. A lot of his work required a lot of musicians for a forceful sound. He conducted several concerts with well over a thousand musicians. Berlioiz was also credited for composing around 50 songs. His music was very influential and considered critical for the development of Romanticism. Other composers like Richard Wagner, Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov, and Franz Liszt studied off of him and was inspired by him. His most famous work was composed from 1830 to 1839.

In 1831, Berlioz moved to Rome. While there he received a letter from his fiances mother, telling him the engagement was off. She was now going to marry another man. Furious at the break up, Berlioz was going to disguise himself as a woman and murder his fiance, fiances maother, and her knew lover. He then planned to take his life as well. On the trip back home he decided that his plan was foolish and didn't carry it out. He returned to Italy.

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Robert Schumann was a very influential German composer and music critic. He is well known as one of the greatest composers of the Romanticism period. Schumann, who originally going to school to study law, quit school to pursue a career as a pianist. He had been told by many of his peers that he would become the finest piano player in Europe. Unfortunately, a hand injury ended his dream. He didn't give up on music however, he then decided to start writing and composing music.

Schumann's published works were only written for the piano until the year 1840. Eventually, he composed works for the piano and for an orchestra. He had many popular works that made him well known throughout Europe. Works such as Carnaval, Kinderszenen, Kreisleriana, and the Fantasie in C are among his most famous.

Schumann married Clara Wieck in 1840. She was the daughter of Friedrich Wieck who did not approve of the marriage. Friedrich was one of the pianist teachers Schumann had as a young adult. He is often accused of being the reason why Schumann injured his hand, but the probable cause is unknown. Clara was also a composer who gained a lot of popularity by her piano concerts.

Photo of Clara and Robert Schumann and Schumann's music room.

Robert Schumann, unfortunately, suffered from a mental disorder, known today as manic depression or bipolar. In 1854 he checked himself into a mental hospital after a failed suicide attempt. He died two years later, never recovering from his illness.

Title page to Washington Irving's The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.

The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon Gent, is a collection of 34 short stories written by Washington Irving. Irving was a well known author in the United States. Two of his most famous stories, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, were two pieces of literature that brought the Romantic Gothic to America. The sketch book was published from 1819-1820 and was one of the first books to be widely read across Europe.

Washington Irving (1783-1859)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was about a town teacher and choir leader named Ichabod. He finds favor in a young lady and tries to court her. However, there is another man named Brom who also is in love with the same girl. He threatens to kill Ichabod. One night at a party, Ichabod tries one more time to win the heart of this young lady. She rejects him and heads home. The next morning there is no trace of Ichabod. Only his hat, a smashed pumpkin, and horse tracks. Everyone assumes the legendary Headless Horse Man got him, but Brom acts suspiciously peculiar about Ichabod. Long story short, no one knows if Ichabod ran away or died (Shmoop Editorial Team, 2008).

Rip Van Winkle was written while Washington Irving was in England. A man named Rip Van Winkle, right before the Revolutionary war, went for a hike. He found a group of men who shared their “special” drink with him. Van Winkle falls asleep, and wakes up 20 years later under a tree. He finds that his wife has passed away and his kids are all grown up. The world around him has completely changed. This was a short story to show how much the world has changed since the war (Super Summary).

Romanticism challenged the Enlightenment of human nature, religion, and rationality. It brought a revival in Christianity that challenged the Enlightenment period that had problems with the Christian faith. People looked at the laws of nature as being natural and set by God. This created Deism which is a belief during the Romantic period that looked at God as a spirit who was divine, natural, and rational. He set nature like a clock and let it run. The enlightenment period argued against Christianity and tried to prove the God and divine intervention wasn't real. That miracles didn't happen, but coincidences happen. The Romantics looked at inner emotion as a source to discover faith. Artists used paintings, music, and literature with a sense of freedom and open minded with their creativeness to express themselves.

Romanticism was a time of literature, art, and philosophy that stressed or emphasized human nature and try to explore or open the deepest emotions of mankind. The Modern Era responds to the Romance Era by focusing on how much science and technology play a part in society. The industrial revolution played a big part into the modern way of thinking. Romantics focused on nature and the natural world, as modernism focuses on machinery and technology. Modernists don't put to much thought into religion, and believe that mankind has more will power to control the world and nature around them.

The things I found to be most compelling that I took away from the Romanticism period was the willingness to rebel and break away from the rules, guides, and former ways of portraying art. Being able to show the power of God and the beauty of His own art, the world he created. I really liked the paintings showing the beautiful landscapes and outside scenery's that showed how big the world is and how small mankind is compared to it. I really found a lot of pride in my Christian heritage learning how they stressed and believed how divine God was. I also enjoyed the compositions and music pieces that were put together in this era. A lot of the music had a very familiar sound to it, and I know it's something I've heard before. Either from a movie, television show, or one of my brother's orchestra concerts. It made me realize that, even though the romantic period was a short period lived compared to the time of man, the period had so much influence on the world still today. The third thing I found compelling was how influential literature had back then and still today. The story about The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a story that still gets told to this day. Kid's cartoons and block buster movies have used this story to entertain this generation. It is one of my favorite stories and I never would have guessed that it was a piece of literature that helped survive the Romantic era.


Artble (n.d.) The Raft of the Medusa. Retrieved from.

Esaak, S. (February 2017). Romanticism - Art History 101 Basics Retrieved from.

Restoration Europe- Romanticism (n.d.) Caspar David Friedrich. Retrieved from.

Shmoop Editorial Team (November, 2008) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Summary. Retrieved from.

Super Summary (n.d.) Rip Van Winkle Summary. Retrieved from.

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