Analysis: Three Great Works of Art from the Romanticism Era

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  • Topic: Romanticism, Caspar David Friedrich, German Romanticism
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  • Published : November 24, 2007
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Romanticism Era

In the European and American movement, Romanticism art, extended from about 1800 to 1850. The Romantic Movement first took root in Germany and then England in the 1780s. With the decline of Neoclassicism and the Enlightenment, and the American and French Revolutions, the movement shook the rest of Europe and lighted across the seas in the second wave to America. The ideals and tenets were the exact opposite of Neoclassicism, which emphasized order, logic, emotional restraint, balance, science, and reason. However, as the industrial revolution gained its footing in England, and cities began to grow, the ideals were reevaluated and emotions, individuality, and nature overshadowed Neoclassicism. Romanticism art can be described as highly imaginative, emotional, and visionary. Romantic artists constantly desired to show the mysterious and wild aspects of nature, and were motivated by passion, drama, and melancholy. One cannot identify Romanticism with a single style, technique, or attitude, but romantic paintings are characterized as being highly imaginative, with subjective approach, emotional intensity, and a dreamlike or visionary quality. Where classical and neoclassical art is calm and restrained in feeling, and clear and complete in expression, romantic art characteristically strives to express by suggestion states of feeling - too intense, mystical, or elusive to be clearly defined. This essay will portray a critical analysis of three great works of arts from the Romanticism Era.

"The Raft of Medusa" by Theodore Ge'ricault

Theodore Ge'ricault, a French painter, first exhibited his dramatic masterpiece, "The Raft of Medusa" to Paris society in 1819. The painting is enormous, measuring at sixteen feet high, twenty three feet, six inches wide, it depicts a group of desperate men floating on a few planks of wood, trying to get the attention of a tiny little ship on the horizon by waving their shirts around. Géricault took for his subject the ordeal of the survivors of the French ship Medusa, which had floundered off the west coast of Africa in 1816. Fifteen survivors and several corpses are piled onto one another in every attitude of suffering, despair, and death. Géricault used a large canvas, with just oil paint to express his frustrations. The painting was done with dark gloomy colors. Heavy clouds set the background and the desperation of each subject feels real. This incident was the result of tragic mismanagement and provoked scandal in France, which infuriated Géricault. Onlookers were fascinated and horrified by the image, but there was a sordid, true tale behind this raft, and everyone at the French museum in 1819, knew what it was. It had taken place three years prior involving desperate men, howling stupidity, and cannibalism.

Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya

"Goya is always a great artist, often a frightening one...light and shade play upon atrocious horrors." (Charles Baudelaire, Essay on Goya, CURIOSITES ESTRANGERS, 1842). The painting is known as "Saturn Devouring One of His Sons" by Francisco Goya. Goya used oil on plaster to paint one of his darkest work of art. With just dark and somber colors, the artist was able make the hair on one's neck stand when viewing the painting. The image is ineffaceable: the painting depicts Saturn, grotesquely biting the arm off the headless torso of one of his sons. A Greek mythology, Saturn, who had seized power from his own father, Uranus, was obsessed by the prophecy that he would in turn be overthrown by his own offspring. He sought to avoid this fate by consuming each of his children at birth. From 1775 to 1792 Goya painted cartoons for the royal tapestry factory in Madrid. The experience helped him become a keen observer of human behavior. Serious illness in 1792 left Goya permanently deaf. Isolated from others by his deafness, he became increasingly occupied with the fantasies and inventions of his...
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