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One artist during the Romantic Movement was Eugene Delacroix, a man who chose to go against the norm of the French artistic society and pain portraits that evoked emotion rather than the painter’s point of view. When Delacroix painted a portrait he had no intention of painting for artist vanity sake. His opinion was a writer’s words should only be understood by the reader. Romantic art, on the other hand, was not something to be “understood.” Delacroix found it idiotic that one would view art that way. He wanted to open your eyes and feel the art within.
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Delacroix detested the superficial poets that took subjects, such as the nightingale, and twist such a beautiful creature into nonsense rhymes. Dante Alighien’s writings spoke to him and he felt if Dante were to write about a nightingale, rather than words on a paper, the poem would be built in a way the reader could feel, visualize, and maybe even hear the nightingale. It became a personal experience to the reader rather than a flat rhyming pattern. Delacroix wanted that same feeling to be expressed on canvas. Delacroix’s passion is felt within his work and in his journal. His viewpoint of those in the artistic world is heard in excerpt from his journal, “Let those who work luke warmly be silent: what do they know of work dictated by inspiration?” (June 6) Find the artist within yourself and paint with emotion, passion, and feeling. Those are only a few descriptive words for Romanticism and Delacroix felt each of them in his works.
One of his masterpieces that are mentioned is The Massacre at Chios. This work of art recounted the massacre which had occurred approximately two years prior to the painting. It was criticized as being too brutal as the painting shows the devastation that occurred as the result of the Turkish army destroying and butchering, thousands upon thousands of the Greek inhabitants of this island. One moving scene is the child trying to breast feed on the body of its dead mother. The massacre caused a huge uproar in Europe and Delacroix painted a piece of work that evokes the pain and suffering of the moment moving the observer to possibly feel as if they are a voyeur to this tragic event.
Stendahl (Marie-Henri Beyle) was a writer who had the opinion that Romanticism was not a temporary fad within society, bur rather a modern movement which would endure and overshadow the popular style of that time, Neo-Classical.
Stendahl went to art exhibitions with an open state of mind. He wanted to view the heart of the artist’s work rather than paint strokes on a canvas. The art world was split into two camps. “Journal de Debates” was a magazine that was on the side of the Classical style. Their opinion was a painting should only be a copy of a statue. Stendahl was on the side that felt most people were bored by academic artists.
One exhibit he attended had a painting; “Massacre at Chios” by Delacroix was on display. This particular piece was generating more interest than the typical and tired school of David academic art. Stendahl began to feel the art world was on the cusp on an artistic revolution.
Stendahl’s distaste for the art of Jacque-Lois David and his school of pupils is evident throughout his essays. His thoughts on the subject of David were his work was out touch and sometimes ridiculous. He could not grasp why this style was a classic true form of art when it depicted historical events unrealistically such as soldiers fighting nude. They fell flat to him and like Delacroix, Stendahl wanted the viewer to feel the emotion of the piece as an individual and not follow the masses he expresses this point by saying “â€¦unfortunately it is passions that we require to pass judgment in the arts.” (August 31) The Neo-Classical art form was lacking this passion in his opinion.
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Another of his entries continues to berate the style of David and his pupil’s works of art. One work that he felt was excessive was a piece by Girodet. “Scenes from a Deluge” was painted in life-size form on an immense canvas that was exhibited in the Salon in 1806 and was found to be gaudy and excessive in Stendahl’s opinion. Ironically Girodet has been considered the individual who opened up Romanticism due to his break from his classical training in order to paint more as an individual.
Stendahl’s opinion was that anyone could be taught, in time, in the artistic style of David. However to paint with emotion is a skill that can never be taught. You must feel pain, joy, sadness, and love to pain with meaning. It’s a passion that has to be found within. His thought was for an artist not paint with the mind, but paint with the soul. Create a piece of art that goes beyond the academically painted empty heartless bodies. Although the Classic paintings were considered great works at the moment, he felt that with time that greatness would begin to fade.
Charles Bauldair’s writing, “The Salon of 1846” pulls together the feelings that both Delacroix and Stendahl were trying to express. Bauldair in explaining the Romanticism movement said art should be from the heart of an artist. Art should not be judged by technical skill, but by art itself. This point can be seen in the following quotation, “Romanticism and modern art are one and the same thing, in other words: intimacy, spirituality, colour, yearning for the infinite, expressed by all the means that arts possess.”
Romanticism opened the door to many artists and expanded the art world to great lengths. Through it the art progressed and grew into different forms such as the Modern art movement to what we have today. With the works of Delacroix and other Romantic artists it enlightened us that art holds meaning in a way individual to each person and beyond brush strokes on a canvas. Art is meant to touch your heart and mind.
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