Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Academism and Realism

As time passed, many artists were repulsed by the ornate grandeur of these styles and sought to revert to the earlier, simpler art of the Renaissance, creating Neoclassicism. Neoclassicism was the artistic component of the intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment, which was similarly idealistic. Ingres, Canova, and Jacques-Louis David are among the best-known neoclassicists.[4]

Just as Mannerism rejected Classicism, so did Romanticism reject the ideas of the Enlightenment and the aesthetic of the Neoclassicists. Romantic art focused on the use of color and motion in order to portray emotion, but like classicism used Greek and Roman mythology and tradition as an important source of symbolism. Another important aspect of Romanticism was its emphasis on nature and portraying the power and beauty of the natural world. Romanticism was also a large literary movement, especially in poetry. Among the greatest Romantic artists were Eugène Delacroix, Francisco Goya, J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, Caspar David Friedrich, Thomas Cole, and William Blake.[4]

Most artists attempted to take a centrist approach which adopted different features of Neoclassicist and Romanticist styles, in order to synthesize them. The different attempts took place within the French Academy, and collectively are called Academic art. Adolphe William Bouguereau is considered a chief example of this stream of art.

In the early 19th century the face of Europe, however, became radically altered by industrialization. Poverty, squalor, and desperation were to be the fate of the new working class created by the "revolution." In response to these changes going on in society, the movement of Realism emerged. Realism sought to accurately portray the conditions and hardships of the poor in the hopes of changing society. In contrast with Romanticism, which was essentially optimistic about mankind, Realism offered a stark vision of poverty and despair. Similarly, while Romanticism glorified nature, Realism portrayed life in the depths of an urban wasteland. Like Romanticism, Realism was a literary as well as an artistic movement. The great Realist painters include Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin, Gustave Courbet, Jean-François Millet, Camille Corot, Honoré Daumier, Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas (both considered as Impressionists), and Thomas Eakins, among others.

The response of architecture to industrialisation, in stark contrast to the other arts, was to veer towards historicism. Although the railway stations built during this period are often considered the truest reflections of its spirit – they are sometimes called "the cathedrals of the age" – the main movements in architecture during the Industrial Age were revivals of styles from the distant past, such as the Gothic Revival. Related movements were the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who attempted to return art to its state of "purity" prior to Raphael, and the Arts and Crafts Movement, which reacted against the impersonality of mass-produced goods and advocated a return to medieval craftsmanship.

Time Period:

  • Neoclassicism — 18th century to 19th century
  • Romanticism — Late 18th century to 19th century
  • Realism — 19th century