Art of the 18th Century--1

In the 18th century, pre-Enlightened Despots, Enlightened Despots, and wannabe Enlightened Despots
built replicas of Versailles to reflect their own glory, to create a setting where they could be admired and venerated.
The first, the model, of course, was Versailles
, with its gardens; cruise around site below
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Empress Maria Theresa expanded the estate at Schonbrunn to be her version of Versailles
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Catherine II, the Great, built the Hermitage in St. Petersburg
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Frederick II built Sans Souci during War of Austrian Succession and Seven Years War
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The 18th century was a rich time in music: the classical period, roughly between
1750 and 1830, lies between the 17th century Baroque and the 19th century Romantic
periods in European music. Mr. Ahmed talked to us about the baroque, its synthesis of
control and extravagance, and the influence of the Scientific Awakening/ Age of Reason as
the 17th century gave way to the 18th. Mr. Ahmed illustrated his points
with Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #5
Bach's dates (1685-1750) mark him as a transition figures.

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The superstars in 18th century European music, to name just two,
include Haydn and Mozart. Joseph Haydn is sometimes called the "father" both
of the symphony and of the string quartet. Of course, he also taught Wolfgang Amadeus
and Nannerl Mozart. Follow link for Haydn's "The Surprise Symphony"
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The 18th century Enlightenment continued the emphasis on reason and order,
but added a new dimension (thank you, Rousseau, et al.) of accessibility, which
Mr. Ahmed described as the "pursuit of happiness," which incorporated "pleasing
variety and natural simplicity." It is not an historical accident that Mozart, the
Enlightenment, the court of Emperor Joseph II, converged.
Mozart's "Piano Concerto #21--Andante"
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And Mozart's "Sonata in A Minor"
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And the ever-familiar Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
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I wanted to include "An 18th Century Drawingroom"--which I played
in my 6th grade piano recital, obviously a simplified/scaled down version--
This one sounds authentic, maybe played on a harpsichord
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[ Poussin Lorrain ] [Lebrun Watteau Fragonard ] [ Chardin Boucher ]

[ Gainsborough Canelleto ] [Wright David ]

The 18th century Enlightenment owed considerable debts to 17th century antecedents. 17th century artists such as Nicholas Poussin and Claude Lorrain anticipated trends that came to dominate the next century. Indeed, it was in the 17th century that scientists and mathematicians of the Scientific Awakening made enormous strides in questioning old shibboleths, criticizing existing traditions and institutions, marking out new directions in a variety of areas of human achievement. Galileo, Descartes, Pascal, Newton come to mind immediately. As Spain and the Holy Roman Empire moved into decline, becoming "flabby giants" as it were, England/Britain and France stepped to the forefront of the balance of power and in the arts as well. What strikes me most strongly is how rich, varied, and diverse was the art of the 18th century--see below and the following pages!

Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665)

Although his dates place him in the era of the Baroque, Poussin helped to "establish Classical painting as peculiarly expressive of French taste and genius..." (Tansey and Kleiner 867). The rational order of the classics appealed to him, as it had to his Renaissance predecessors. He set himself to the task of selecting and painting grand subjects, "'such as battles, heroic actions...'" and to avoid "low subject." (868). It was largely due to the influence of Poussin that "classicism reigned supreme in Franc." (Janson 439). Many of his paintings "exemplif[y] Poussin's interest in classical antiquity" as well as the many years he spent in Rome (Harding) .


The Rape of the Sabine Women

Poussin loved topics from antiquity, such as The Rape of the Sabine Women. The figures are almost like statues, frozen in time, set against a backdrop of archaeologically correct Roman columns. The subject, based on the works of Livy and Plutarch, tells the story of how Romulus, the founder of Rome, found his city lacking women. According to legend, he invited the Sabines to a celebration, attacked the Sabine men, and captured the Sabine women. Stoic and heroic Romulus stands in the upper left of the painting, focusing attention on how this barbaric act was, nevertheless, good for Rome (Harding). Compare this painting with that of David on the same subject later in this website.

One of Poussin's most famous paintings, The Burial of Phocion (1648,) represents his admiration for the ancient Greeks for their restraint and moderation, ideas which came to define French classicism in the Age of Louis XI. (Tansey and Kleiner 868-869). As in the painting above, The Burial of Phocion reflects "a distinct Italianate style..." (Harding).
The theme of the painting comes from Plutarch 's Life of Phocion, a "distinguished Athenian general who was unjustly put to death by his countrymen" for telling the truth (Tansey and Kleiner 869). Two massive bearers sadly take away the body of the general, eloquently expressing the tragedy of the hero abandoned in death (869). Poussin's effect is one of rational clarity, with an ordering of the space that is mathematically precise (Janson 441). Poussin's admiration for Stoic virtue permeates the painting.

A Dance to the Music of Time (date unknown)

In A Dance to the Music of Time, Poussin presents the four seasons hand in hand, dancing to the music of the old man strumming his lyre.Various images in the painting suggest the ephemeral nature of life: one of the cherubs holds an hourglass while the other blows bubbles. French artists such as Poussin delved into scenes from the classics, and/or mythology, infusing their creations with "...almost geometric precision" (Palmer, et al. 171). "The classicism of French artists and comfortably with the Sun King's appreciation for order, harmony, and hierarchy in every sphere of social, political, and cultural life" (Palmer, et al. 171).

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Claude Lorrain (1600-1682)

"The disciplined, rational art of Poussin, with its sophisticated revelation of geometry of landscape, is modulated in the softer style of Claude Lorrain" (Tansey and Kleiner 869). While Poussin's works were often heroic in content with a moral message, Lorrain concentrated on "radiant landscape" (869). Claude Lorrain's specialty "was the poetic rendering of light, ...influential, not only during his lifetime..." (Pioch). Claude Lorrain (also known as Claude Gellée or simply Claude, took his name from the province of his birth, Lorrain); he is considered one of the truly great landscape painters, presenting a view of nature that made it seem more "beautiful and harmonious than nature itself" (Pioch). His influence on later artists, who worked to depict and analyze light, like Turner, was enormous.


Landscape with Mill or The Wedding of Isaac and Rebecca or
Landscape with Dancing Figures (1648)

Like Poussin, Claude's landscapes often contained classical ruins and/or figures in antique or pastoral garb. Art critics comment on Claude Lorrain's "strong, drmatic lighting effects...,which are softly drenched with limpid light..." (Gerten-Jackson). He tried "by every means to penetrate nature, lying in the fields before the break of day and until night in order to learn to represent very exactly the red morning-sky, susnrise, sunset and the evening hour" (Naughton).

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for a gigantic and very large rendering <>

The Expulsion of Hagar (1668)

The Expulsion of Hagar returns to a repeated theme of Claude, a cold morning, with the figures themselves appearing almost insignificant against the grand background of the landscape. In the Old Testament story, Hagar the handmaiden of Abraham's wife, Sarah, and the mother of Ishmael, is banished. Abraham ordered the mother and child into the desert of Beersheba with only a bottle of water and some bread. Biblical traditon says that the Archangel Michael revealed a well to them and saved their lives!
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Seaport (1638)

Claude also returned frequently to themes of the sea; this is one of many paintings featuring ships, ports, harbors, and the like.



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BIBLIOGRAPHY (for all 18th c. art pages)

"Claude of Lorraine, or Claude Gellée." The Art Renewal Center. Online Available.
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Gerten-Jackson, Carol. "Claude Lorrain." CGFA. Online Available.
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Haberman, Arthur. The Modern Age.Toronto: Educational Publishing Co., 1987.

Harding, Erin. "Poussin in Rome: Foundations of French Classicism." Online Available.
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Janson, H. W. History of Art. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1963.

Kren, Emil and Daniel Marx. Web Gallery of Art. Online Available.
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Naughton, Russell. "Claude Gellée." Adventures in Cybersound. Online Available.
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Olga and Yury. "Poussin." Olga's Gallery. Online Available.
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Palmer, Robert, et al. A History of the Modern World, vol. 1, 10th edition.
Boston, et al.: McGraw Hill, 2007.

Pioch, Nicolas. "Lorrain, Claude." Web Museum, Paris. Online Available.
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Roberts, Keith. Art of the Western World: French Painting. ed. by Marco Valsecchi. London: Paul
Hamlyn, 1964.

Tansey, Richard and Fred Kleiner. Gardner's Art through the Ages, vol.ii. Fort Worth, et al.:
Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1996.

Woodward, Richard. "The Melancholy Easel." The New York Times Book Review.
10 November 2008.