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Romanticism is a movement that started in Europe and America from the 19th century, from the period of the French revolution in 1789. Most of the style was centralized in France but it spread throughout Europe.
Romanticism was a reaction against the Age of Enlightenment which was a movement that started among small elites and slowly influenced the society.
Romanticism and the Age of Enlightenment assumed life was designed for human happiness, however, romanticism was more widespread in its influence. While Enlightenment placed reasons at the center of human achievement, Romanticism placed its value on the emotions and the intuitive qualities.
Romanticism was also a movement in literature in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries against the Neoclassicism of the previous centuries. The romantic movement of the early 19th century departed from classicism and underlined sensibility, the free expression of feelings, nature, and the exotic.
Romanticism radically changed the way people perceived themselves and the state of nature around them. Unlike Classicism, which stood for order and established the foundation for architecture, literature, painting and music, Romanticism allowed people to get away from the rational views of life and concentrate on an emotional and sentimental side of humanity. This not only influenced political doctrines and ideology, but was also a sharp contrast from ideas and harmony featured during the Enlightenment. The Romantic era grew alongside the Enlightenment, but concentrated on human diversity and looking at life in a new way. As a result of the American revolution, the literature during the 19th century changed to fiction. The Romanticism was a period in which authors left classicism, age of reason, and started to offer imagination, emotions and a new literature to expose freedom and individualism. The main characteristic of Romanticism movement is the key to revealing the depths of the human spirit, the celebration of the beauty and the mystery of the nature.
However, American romanticism shares many characteristics with the British romanticism.
Some of the most famous British novelists who wrote during this period are; Jane Austen, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, and Sir Walter Scott. In addition, this period saw the flowering of some of the greatest poets in the English language, including William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Wordsworth and John Keats many of whose works are still widely read today while the most famous American poets were: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman
Imagination, emotion, and freedom are certainly the main points of romanticism. Writers of the Romantic time period appreciated the beauty of nature and emotion.
The writers expressed their intuition of nature that came from within. The key to this inner world was the imagination of the writer. This frequently reflected their expressions of their inner essence and their attitude towards various aspects of nature. It was these attitudes that marked each writer of the Romantic period as a unique being.
As you can see, in almost every case, the Romantic greatly expressed their attitude towards the beauty, strangeness, and mystery of nature. This attitude gave each Romantic a distinct characteristic that separated them from other Romantics. Romanticism was an art that wanted to move away and to be spontaneous and from their very souls, which made the art incredibly meaningful in a unique way.
These artists had as inspiration William Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. From the theater to philosophical writings, the Romantic artist had plenty to choose. Many new artists were able to expose the world to their raw and unique talents and styles.
Religion has always played a significant role in the world of art, but this role changed dramatically in the Romantic period. No longer were artists as religious in their representation of the church and religion. During this period, they portrayed religion in much the same way as the Classicists portrayed mythology and legend. It was almost as if they didn't believe in it any more. Even though the general movement took place at the same time all over Europe and the United States, the art was dramatically different in each place. However, one of the most common themes was that man was born “good”. This is in sharp contrast to the religious influence of previous eras that expressed that man was born “bad” and was guided to goodness by the church and society. In Romanticism, man was corrupted by society rather than saved by it. Romantic artists were able to travel far more than their predecessors so they were able to see first-hand the subjects of their work. They were no longer bound to imagine simply based upon what they read in a book. They traveled extensively and often women of these lands were described as more exotic than the women that resided at home.
Nature also paid an important role in Romantic art. From the landscape of north-eastern United States to the landscapes of England and to the symbolic landscape of Germany nature was a powerful and influential force in the artists mind and soul. Sometimes the violent and unpredictable side of nature was portrayed. The early part of the Romantic period in France overlapped with the Napoleonic Wars, and so this event inspired many of the artists during this crucial time.
Romantic artists include John William Waterhouse, who took as his inspiration the figures, particularly heroines, from the literary works of the time and of times past such as the Lady of Shallot and Ophelia. Piotr Michałowski was a highly exceptional portrait artist. Caspar David Friedrich was famous for his paintings of religious mysticism.These paintings were not always obvious, but they generally had some meaning that centered on the fall of pre-Christian religion and the rise of Christianity. So, as a conclusion Romanticism was all about emotional intensity and expression.