Romantic Art--3


[ Constable andTurner ] [ Gericault and Delacroix ] [ Goya and Friedrich and Blake and Brown ]

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes 1746-1848
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Though almost an exact contemporary of David, Goya could not have been more different! He scorned the neoclassical norms of the late 18th century and considered "...Rembrandt, Vélasquez, and 'nature' as his only teachers..." (Tansey and Kleiner 935). Portraying heart-wrenching images of bitterness and suffering, Goya "insisted, often with ruthless honesty, on the cruel facts of life" though many of his earlier works were characterized by a "prevailing mood of gaity" (938). "The subservice and subjective element in his art, as well as his bold handling of paint, provided a model for the work of later generations of artists, notably Manet and Picasso" (Wikipedia 1)
As court painter for Carlos IV/Charles IV, Goya produced an almost grotesque portrait of the royal family. Art critics have called it a "superb revelation of stupidity, pomposity, and vulgarity..." (Tansey and Kleiner 938). His largest portrait, it "deliberately echoes "'The Maids of Honor'" of Velasquez (Janson 479). Janson goes on, terming "The Family of Charles IV" a painting of "unvarnished truth...[p]sychologically...shocklingly modern" (479). He wonders if the royal family had a clue what Goya was doing to them! "Technically, Goya draws on traditional conventions but transforms them into an awful assemblage of shadow and texture" (Witt, et al. 304).


"The Third of May, 1808" is the most famous and compelling of Goya's works, completed during the Peninsular War against Napoleon, 1814-1815. It shows a French firing squad executing civilians; it also illustrates Goya's portrayal of the horrors of war . He was less interested in accuracy and verisimilitude than in the "expression of empathetic horror for the psychological agonies of men facing execution" (939) His intent was shock and terror. "The French firing squad has become an anonymous, murderous wall, while the victims are portrayed as...individuals, each facing the moment of death in his own way" (939). Janson comments on Goya's "blazing color, broad, fluid brushwork, and dramatic nocturnal light..." (479). He went on, "...Goya created an image that has become a terrifying symbol of our era" (480). "The huddled citizens, unarmed and frightened,...and the surging soldiery sptlighted by a flaring lamp resemble a nightmare. The open mouths and astonished faces, the blood and gore, are without precedent" (Witt, et al. 305). Later in the century, Manet spent hours studying this painting in preparation for his own depiction of the execution of Maximilian, as did Picasso in preparation of "Guernica."

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One of Goya's famous works, "The Naked Maja" ("La Maja desnuda,") created a sensation, indeed outrage. Goya refused to clothe his naked Maja but later painted her clothed (see below,) hardly less erotic and sensual. Manet studied these two assiduously, creating a sensation with his "Olympia" at the Salon of the Refused in 1863.

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"The Clothed Maja"

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For a charming article and slide show on some of Goya's paintings of children, visit
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Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)
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Moving over to "Germany," where Romaticism really began, Caspar David Friedrich "...transposed...traditional religious imagery to nature" (Tansey and Kleiner 949). His landscapes, as Tansey and Kleiner, attest, were temples of nature, altarpieces (949) "The sharp-focused rendering of details demonstrates the artist's keen perception of...the physical environment.... [Friedrich himself said,] 'The artist should paint not only what he sees before him, but also what he sees within him...'" (950) The painting, "Wanderer above a Sea of Fog" (1818,) can often be found in AP Euro textbooks (though not in Kagan) to illustrate the Romantic fascination with nature, different however, as Friedrich's vision is from that of either Constable or Turner. In Friedrich, the lonely individual observes the awesomeness of nature.

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"The Cross in the Mountains" (1807?,) on of Friedrich's most famous works, represents a "bold break from traditional religious painting..." (sunsite 2). Friedrich described some of its symbolism, saying that the almost invisible mountains "are allegories of faith...; the fir trees stand for hope..." (2). Painting at the time of the awakening of German nationalism, Friedrich's works reflect the influence of such German intellectuals groping for a German national character as Goethe and the Brothers Grimm. "...[T]he painter brought to light an awesome interweaving of Nationalism and Protestantism...revealed by and within a Teutonic Nature" (artchive 1)

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"The Polar Sea" 1823-1824 (also known as "The Wreck of Hope")

"Friedrich's cold, acid colors, clear lighting, and sharp contours heighten the feeling of melancholy, isolation, and human powerlessness against the ominous forces of nature" (sunsite 2). The painting commemorates an "ill-fated expedition to the Bering Strait...crushed in the icy wastes of the Arctic..." (Janson 471). Janson goes on, Friedrich "has visualized the piled-up slabs of ice as a kind of megalithic monument to man's defeat by nature..." (471). Although Friedrich is less well-known, and his reputation has somewhat deminished, he has been recently rediscovered, according to art historians. Look carefully at the right hand side of the painting to see the ship "trapped and crushed by the force of a vast polar ice field" (Kagan, et al. 649).

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William Blake
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Painter, poet, engraver, eccentric visionary, William Blake filled his works with visions far removed from everyday life. His genius unrecognized in his own day (classically and quintessentially Romantic,) Blake is now "acclaimed" as "one of England's great figures of art and literature and one of the most inspired and original painters of his time" (Pioch 1). See "Ancient of Days" to your right. He is recognized today "for his expressiveness and creativity, and the philosophical vision that underlies his work" (wikipedia 1). Blake studied at the Royal Academy but rebelled against its strictures and requirements (as laid down by traditionalists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds.) Mary Wollstonecraft befriended Blake and he "illustrated her Original Stories from Real Life" (wilipedia 4) He defended an expansion of rights for women, criticizing "the cruel absurdity of...marriage without love" (4) He abhorred slavery and all forms of imposed authority (5). Not shown are Blake's famous "Songs of Innocence," "Songs of Experience" and "Newton" (Maybe have a look--try google images)


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Illustration was a forte of his, as can be seen in "Dante's Inferno" or "Whirlwind of Lovers" to your left. With regard to "Dante's Inferno," Wikipedia quotes art historian David Bindman, "'[T]he Dante watercolors are among Blake's richest achievements..." showing a "mastery of watercolour...used to extraordinary effect..." (6). Blake "relished the opportunity to represent the atmosphere and imagery of Dante's work pictorially" (6) "A radical romantic painter and poet, Blake...rejected the artistic conventions of the past... he spent his life trying to convey tormented inward visions..." (Perry, et al. 534).

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The Romantic "Natural" Garden
We can't leave the Romantics without a look at their influence--
not on landscape painting--but on landscape itself.

Lancelot "Capability" Brown 1715 - 1783

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Lancelot "Capability" Brown introduced what has come to be known as "serpentine" gardens, familiar to all tourists who visit the famous country houses of Britain--at the same time both natural and artificial (artifice evoking nature?) He left his mark on the English landscape by designing more than 170 parks and gardens. He did not invent the genre but became its most outstanding advocate and practitioner.
Brown began his career as a gardener in the service of Sir William Loraine and later Lord Cobham. He perfected the style of "undulating grass,...clumps, belts and scattering of trees and...serpentine lakes..." (wikipedia 1). His gardens replaced, to a large extent, formal gardens, which had predominated up until the advent of the Romantics and their love of natural nature.

Brown encouraged his wealthy clients "to tear out their splendid formal gardens and replace them with his facile compositions..." (1). Wikipedia contributors comment on how controversial these innovations were, some lambasting Brown for trying to improve on "heaven's creation," others praising him for his "judicious manipulation" of its components (2) A Brown contemporary wrote, "' closely did he copy nature that his works will be mistaken'" (2) Horace Walpole wrote upon his death, "'Lady Nature's second husband is death!'" (2)

BIBLIOGRAPHY (incomplete)

"Capability Brown." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Online Available.

"Caspar David Friedrich." CGFA: Sunsite. Online Available.
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"Enlightenment Spain." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Online Available.
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Janson, H. W. History of Art. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1963.

Perry, Marvin, et al. Western Civilization, 6th edition. Boston and New York:
Houghton Mifflin Co., 2000.

Pioch, Nicholas. "Blake, William." WebMuseum, Paris. Online Available.

Rosenberg, Karen. "That Little Lost Boy in Red, Back with His Family." The New York Times, April 25, 2014.

Tansey Richard and Fred Kleiner. Gardner's Art through the Ages, vol. ii, 10th edition. Fort Worth,
et al. Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1996.

"William Blake." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Online Available.

Witt, Mary Ann, et al. The Humanities, 5th ed., vol. ii. Boston and New York:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997.



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