Revolutions in the Arts Sarah Murray

The Romantic Movement: Romanticism was a literary, artistic, and philosophical movement originating in the 18th century in Europe, characterized chiefly by a reaction against neoclassicism and an emphasis on the imagination and emotions, and marked an exaltation of the primitive and the common man, an appreciation of external nature, an interest in the remote, a predilection for melancholy, and the use in poetry of older verse forms.

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich. All Friedrich’s work is based on one of the characteristics of the romantic movement: the magnificence of nature along with the defenseless of the human being.

The Ideas of Romanticism: Romantic thinkers and artists emphasized emotions, focused on the supernatural, loved the beauties of untamed nature, idealized the past as simpler, glorified heroes, cherished folk traditions, valued the common people and the individual, and promoted radical change and democracy. The brothers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm focused on history and the sense of national pride while other writers and artists focused on the power of nature and strong individuals, like Napoleon.

"The Slave Ship" (1840), by Joseph Mallord William Turner, is a perfect example of a romantic landscape painting. His style is expressed more through dramatic emotion, somtimes taking advantage of the imagination. Instead of carefully observing and portraying nature, William Turner took a landscape of a stormy sea and turned it into a scene with roaring and tumultuous waves that seem to destroy everything in its path. Turner's aims were to take unique aspects of nature and find a way to appeal strongly to people's emotions.

Romanticism in Literature: Germany produced one of the earliest and greatest romantic writers. In 1774, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published The Sorrows of Young Werther. Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, led the French romantics. The British romantic poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge honored nature as the source of truth and beauty. Later English romantic poets, such as Byron, Shelley, and Keats, wrote poems celebrating rebellious heroes, passionate love, and the mystery and beauty of nature.

Les Misérables is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, that is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century.

The Gothic Novel: An English genre of fiction popular in the 18th to early 19th centuries, characterized by an atmosphere of mystery and horror and having a pseudo-medieval setting.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley was one of the earliest and most successful Gothic horror novels.

Romantic Composers Emphasize Emotion: There was a general impatience with the rules and restraints of Classicism, and music "revolted" against the practices of Mozart and Haydn. The goal was to be different and individualistic. The ideal for the Romantic composer was to reflect his own feelings and emotions in his compositions in order to instill in the listener certain preconceived moods. The expression of emotion and the "sparking" of the imagination were a primary goal. One of romanticism's first composers rose to become its greatest: Ludwig van Beethoven. Romanticism made music a popular art form.

In his early years, Beethoven wrote the classical music of the Enlightenment. But in later years, he turned to romantic compositions.

The Shift to Realism: Realism was an artistic movement that began in France in the 1850s, after the 1848 Revolution. Realists rejected Romanticism, which had dominated French literature and art since the late 18th century. Realism revolted against the exotic subject matter and exaggerated emotionalism and drama of the Romantic movement. Realism tried to show life as it is, not as it should be.

The Gleaners by Jean-François Millet (1857). It depicts three peasant women gleaning a field of stray grains of wheat after the harvest. The painting is famous for featuring in a sympathetic way what were then the lowest ranks of rural society; this was received poorly by the French upper classes.

Writers Study Society: Literary realism attempts to represent familiar things as they are. Realist authors chose to depict everyday and banal activities and experiences, instead of using a romanticized or similarly stylized presentation. Realism in literature flourished in France with writers such as Honoré de Balzac and Emile Zola. Both writers detailed the lives of people from all levels of French society. The famous English realist novelist, Charles Dickens, created unforgettable characters. Many were humorous, but others showed the despair of London's working poor.

La Comédie Humaine by Honoré de Balzac reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience.

Photographers Capture the Passing Moment: The first practical photographers were called daguerreotypes, named after their French inventor Louis Daguerre. From the moment of its birth, photography had a dual character—as a medium of artistic expression and as a powerful scientific tool—and Daguerre promoted his invention on both fronts.

"Boulevard du Temple", taken by Daguerre in 1838 in Paris, includes the earliest known candid photograph of a person.

Impressionists React Against Realism: Impressionist art is a style in which the artist captures the image of an object as someone would see it if they just caught a glimpse of it. They paint the pictures with a lot of color and most of their pictures are outdoor scenes. Their pictures are very bright and vibrant. The artists like to capture their images without detail but with bold colors. Some of the greatest impressionist artists were Edouard Manet, Camille Pissaro, Edgar Degas, Alfred Sisley, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot and Pierre Auguste Renoir.

Monet's "Woman with a Parasol" was painted outdoors, probably in a single session of several hours' duration. Monet intended the work to convey the feeling of a casual family outing rather than a formal portrait, and used pose and placement to suggest that his wife and son interrupted their stroll while he captured their likenesses. Bright sunlight shines from behind Camille to whiten the top of her parasol and the flowing cloth at her back, while colored reflections from the wildflowers below touch her front with yellow.

Terms and Names:

  1. Romanticism: a movement in the arts and literature that originated in the late 18th century, emphasizing inspiration, subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual.
  2. Realism: the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, implausible, exotic and supernatural elements.
  3. Impressionism: a style or movement in painting originating in France in the 1860s, characterized by a concern with depicting the visual impression of the moment, especially in terms of the shifting effect of light and color.


  • British poet William Blake believed he could "see a World in a Grain of Sand/And a Heaven in a Wild Flower." William Blake said this to put emphasis on how the beauty of nature and the universe is often in the small everyday details.
  • "I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, shows signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion." -Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a major example of the Gothic horror story and it also embodies a number of major romantic themes.
  • "Nothing for the spent toiler to do, but to compare the monotony of his seventh day with the monotony of his six days, think what a weary life he led, and make the best of it." -Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit As a realist writer, Charles Dickens showed the despair of London's working poor and the overall gloom of working-class life.


  • 1848- Political focus shifted to men who practiced realpolitik. Intellectuals expressed a "realistic" view of the world.
  • 1774- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published The Sorrows of Youth which was one of the first German romanticist works.
  • 1819- Beethoven becomes deaf but continues composing and performing.
  • 1850s- Realist painting reflected the increasing political importance of the working class.
  • 1860s- Impressionism begins in Paris.


  • Lord Byron was a leading figure in the Romantic movement. In his dynamism, sexuality, self-revelation, and demands for freedom for oppressed people everywhere, Byron captivated the Western mind and heart as few writers have, stamping upon nineteenth-century letters, arts, politics, even clothing styles, his image and name as the embodiment of Romanticism.
  • Charles Dickens was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. Dickens was particularly interested in portraying the terrible way Victorian society treated the poor, the orphaned, and the downtrodden.


Created with images by Cea. - "[ F ] Caspar David Friedrich - Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818)"

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