Western Governor’s University
An Analysis of Romanticism and Realism
The Romantic period of art began in the late 18th century and continued midway through the 19th century. The French Revolution had begun and there was much social unrest across Europe at the time. Big industries, owned by the wealthy upper class, were beginning to appear. People were becoming increasing disappointed in concepts of the Enlightenment, which were somewhat formal and stuffy, extremely artificial, and were mostly centered on reason. The artists of the romantic period turned to ideals which were simpler and much more emotional, imaginative, and passionate. Romantic painters and writers placed much emphasis on nature. Paintings often contained dramatic scenes of various types of storms as well as naturalistic landscapes. These works also often contained depictions of heroes, specifically the Byronic hero, who represented someone who followed his own beliefs and desires, rather than the traditional norms(Pearson, 2012). This style of painting is characterized by loose brushstrokes and vibrant colors. Many romantic painters and writers used politics as a theme for their pieces. Romantic music also expressed more emotion than in previous periods. Symphonies expanded and operas featured more extensive solo performances. The Realism period of art began near the end of the Romantic period, beginning in about 1840 and continuing to the near end of the nineteenth century. The industrial boom was still in full force, and the working class became increasingly unhappy with the working conditions, long hours, and low pay forced upon them by the greedy upper class owners(Realism, n.d.). Realistic artists created works that were just that, very realistic. They contained very detailed subjects and many of the paintings reflected the harsh working conditions, in hopes of sparking some sort of reform....