LECTURE: THE ENLIGHTENMENT AND THE ROMANTIC ERA
How did the Enlightenment develop, and what were its common tenets?
Empiricism and a rationalistic doctrine of natural rights formed the core of the Enlightenment. An empiricist believes to derived
their ideas from experience. But they also held a rationalist fashion that man had natural rights determined by examination of the
With a few exceptions, the philosophers believed that all people were essentially equal, in that they all possessed reason. As a
creature of reason and equal to every other person by nature, every individual had the right to life, liberty, and a chance at
happiness. Associated with these natural rights were others like the right to freedom of speech and to religious liberty.
Philosophers during this time viewed the Church as a source of superstition, ignorance, and subservience. They held tolerance
for the Protestants but little respect for Christian doctrines. They called their own form of religion deism, influenced by
Descartes, they held that God had created the world and set it running on its own as a watchmaker makes a watch. Heaven
and hell were not to be found in the hereafter but on this earth.
Although their ideas were to influence revolution, the majority of the philosophers politically were proponents of despotism, or
rule by one enlightened person, a harking back to Plato's notion of the philosopher-king.
Examples: Diderot (1713-1784) and Voltaire (1694-1778)
Both felt that progress was made through education. If human beings are to be enlightened, to be able to use their reason to
unmask lies and superstitions, then they must know. Creators of the Encyclopedia. Both believed that society could and should
Montesquieu (1689-1755) Charles-Louis de Secondat, the baron de Montesquieu.
Had a tremendous impact on American government, while little impact on France. Montesquieu developed a theory of
separation of powers among legislative, judicial, and executive agencies; he insisted that the individual could be free only where
the power of one of these branches of government was checked by the other two. Tremendous impact on the conception of
the United States Constitution.
In The Spirit of the Laws, he dealt with the issue of slavery which did not take effect in America until much later. Seventeenth c.
absolutists and capitalists had accepted slavery in the course of their trade; Montesquieu and other philosophers scrutinized the
institution under the light of reason, found it unnatural and evil. It is clear that slavery would be abhorrent to those who believed
in the natural rights of human beings.
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)
The eighteenth c. witnessed several challenges to the inferior status of women. The rhetoric of the French Revolution supplied
fuel for the feminist fire.
Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, published in 1792, in many way prefigures some of the feminist ideas
that have become common currency in our own time. A middle-class woman who shared the Enlightenment thinkers' disdain
for the decadent aristocracy, Wollstonecraft worked as a governess and a teacher, attempted to found a school. She eventually
married her old friend, the English social thinker William Godwin, and had with him a daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin.
She died at the age of thirty-eight of "childbed fever". Her daughter went on the marry the poet Shelly, becoming Mary Shelly,
the author of Frankenstein.
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION IN THE AGE OF
The philosopher's demands for a more just and equal society were to culminate in an upheaval that would change the face of
Europe forever: the French Revolution.
The American Revolution, far less bloody, had in a sense served as a prelude to the French one. the American experiment
demonstrated to Europeans that Enlightenment ideas could be realized in practice.
France was the most populous and most prosperous in Europe. It was a troubled society in the last half of the eighteenth
century. Louis the XV (1710-1774) was not concerned with government, but rather women and eating. Louis the XVI was
weak and dominated by his wife, Marie Antoinette. of the 24million people, only 2% belonged to the nobility and clergy. The
third estate - the artisans, peasants, and bourgeois (middle class) made up the other 98%. Bankers, merchants and other
members of the middle class accumulated great wealth but were banned from the nobility, and footed most of the tax burden.
Financial crisis was the most immediate cause of the revolution. Because some of the wealthiest elements in the country were
exempt from taxation, the state could not balance is budget.
On July 14, 1789, the common people stormed and captured the Bastille (the king's prison in the city). and the revolution was
on. The king was not officially deposed until August 1792, when France was declared a republic. The king and queen were
executed in 1793 by the guillotine.
Emphasis was on the freedom and equality of every man.
By 1796, one of the revolutionary generals, Napoleon Bonaparte abolished the whole government and declared himself the
First Consul of France.
Napoleon had been deeply influenced by the Enlightenment. He said that he was the revolution. He reformed laws to enable
more equality. There were no tax exemptions. it is fair to say that Napoleon realized in his government most of the goals of the
Enlightenment. Napoleon almost succeeded in conquering all of continental Europe. He penetrated Russia as far as Moscow in
1812, but lost 500,000 men, and surrendered.
The effects of the revolution left a lasting mark on Europe. The law codes destroying legal privilege, were permanent, the old
legal class structure abolished.
The figure of napoleon became a symbol of the creative, mysterious, and at times demonic personality that fascinated the first
generation of the nineteenth c.
PAINTING IN THE ENLIGHTENMENT
An interest in society and science are found in the arts as well as philosophy.
WATTEAU, PILGRIMAGE TO CYTHERA,1717
These couples move through the forest of the enchanted island of Venus
are not arriving, but leaving, to return to the real world. Watteau has given
a sense of melancholy to the beautiful but shallow world of entertainments
and parties that seemed more and more to occupy the life of the nobility.
ARCHITECTURE IN THE ENLIGHTENMENT
We have reached the really modern times which dawned when the French Revolution of 1789 put an end to so many
assumptions made about art.
Artists viewed the "style" differently. In former times, the style of the period was simply the way in which things were done.
Now artists were more self-conscious about style, and became more ecclectic particularly with architecture.
WALPOLE, STRAWBERRY HILL,TWICKENHAM, LONDON,
Horace Walpole, son of the first Prime Minister of England, decided that it
was boring to have his countury house on Strawberry hill built just like any
other "correct" Palladian villa.
1. he had a taste for the quaint and romantic
2. he was notorious for his whimsicality
3. he decided to have Strawberry Hill built like a Gothic Castle from the romantic past
Later in the 18th a new movement called Neo-Classicism replaced the frivolity and melancholy of a lost era, with the rise of
revolution, a stronger, bolder art took foothold. With the discovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii and new interest in classicism
arose. Also, the ideals of the Roman Republic - freedom, opposition to tyranny, valor, all held special appeal for the 18th c.
revolutionary, becoming the characteristic art of the French Revolutionary and America.
1. Artist began to look for new types of subject-matter. The majority of older pictures represent religious subjects, some
mythologies, allegorical subjects, etc.
2. Suddenly in the eigtheenth century artists felt free to choose their own subject, anything that appealed to the imagination
and aroused interest. This disregard for the traditional subject-matter of art is one of the few things that the lonely rebels
(artists) had in common.
3. Artist became interested in history, particularly in France, as the revolution was brewing.
DAVID, "THE DEATH OF MARAT," 1793
DAVID (1748-1825) WAS THE LEADING ARTIST OF THE NEOCLASSICAL
(sometimes considered the "official" artist of the french revolution)
Marat was a leader of the French Revolution. He was killed in his bath by a young
woman named Charlotte Corday of the opposition. David painted him as a martyr
who had died for his cause
Marat had a skin disease (one that is not shown here) and he habitually worked in his
bath. The scene does not lend itself to heroics, yet David manages to create just that.
It seems heroic.
David also kept to the actual details of the police report, you could solve the murder by viewing the painting.
David used classical modeling of the figure to create a figure of noble beauty. He leaves out all details which are not essential.
The aim is simplicity, grandeur.
DAVID, THE OATH OF THE HORATII (1784-85)
The painting coveys revolutionary sentiments. Based on a story from Livy,
The Oath places loyalty to the state above all other concerns, even those of
the family. The painting shows heroic male figures in a stark architectural
setting. The figures are somewhat idealized but retain a degree of intense
realism through an almost photographic rendering of flesh and muscle.
The composition unfolds parallel to the picture plane, and the foreground
figures are solid and as immobile as statues. They are determined to fight for
their cause. They are heroic. This is opposed to the female figures, who are
also classically rendered, but are crumbled from worry. These figures
represent the less idealized values such as love, family.
The lighting is sharp, casting precise shadows.
The Enlightenment in America
French philosophers were ardent supporters of the American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were
considered "enlightened" individuals and lived for long periods in France.
In 1776, the New World declared themselves politically independent. In 1787, the Constitution was written to create a union
between the 13 colonies.
The political leaders thought themselves as the heirs to the republican tradition of ancient Rome. Americans often signed their
letters of protest against English tyranny with Roman names. We drew on Latin phrases like president and senate, and the
Great Seal of the new nation and its coinage were marked with Latin phrases and classical emblems.
JEFFERSON, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA, 1817-26
Classicism was born. Jefferson borrowed from Greek and Roman architecture to create his buildings. This "Greek revival" was
quickly adopted for other public buildings in America.
Jefferson believed that art and architecture reinforce and perpetuate strong, appropriate images for ideals, when building the
University of Virginia.
The heart of the university is a rectangular quadrangle bounded on each of its long sides by a one-story covered colonnade
broken at intervals by the two-story houses of the professors. Students lived in rooms off the colonnades; professors held
classes downstairs in their living quarters. The east end of the quad is closed by the library, a domed porticoed rotunda. Very
similar to the Roman Pantheon.
This university was a monument to free thought.
Jefferson believed that if you educate the individual, oppression leaves the mind and body.
THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT
Romanticism is usually understood as a separate entity of Neo-classicism, sometimes coexisting. Generally, the Romantic
period begins with the turn of the century, c. 1800. The Romantics did inherit the high seriousness of Neo-classicism and its
revulsion against frivolous or merely decorative art (i.e. Rococo).
The main difference between Romanticism and Neo-classicism is that the Romantic artist placed more emphasis on the
individual soul, and went beyond the boundaries of logical discourse. The Romantics “led inward.”
For the romantics, the rules of art had to be put to the test. Caspar David Friedrich declared the artist’s only law to be his
An American painter, Washington Allston wrote “Trust your own genius, listen to the voice within you, and sooner or later she
will make herself understood not only to you, but she will enable you to translate her language to the world, and this it is which
forms the only real merit of any work of art.”
The word “academic” began to be too stiff, too burdensome for the Romantic artist
The artist’s feelings became equated with spontaneous directness, brush strokes became quick, works avoided an
impersonal feelings or qualities
It was during this period that works of art were first seen and displayed in museums as expressions of historical styles on
a par (or equal) with one another, rather than as deviations from a single norm, THE ONE TRUE STYLE. The
deviations such as medieval art became acceptable and appreciated for its own historical significance.
It seems natural that during this period, the autobiography became a popular means of expression.
THERE IS NO LINEAR PROGRESSION IN ROMANTICISM. ROMANTIC STYLES IN THE VISUAL ARTS
DISSEMINATE OUTWARDS IN MANY DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS FROM THE NUCLEUS THAT IS NEO-
The Romantic period of art was a response to the impact of the age of Enlightenment and the Revolutions. Orthodoxies were
gone, old certainties were undermined, philosophy questioned the logical order of the universe; new doubts were raised and left
unsolved. By the close of the eighteenth century, it gradually took its toll on the artists and society in general.
The logic, ordered, rational was gradually replaced with the magnitude of the imagination, the possibilities of intuition, the
importance of the emotions, and the uniqueness of the individual.
Summary - The artistic movement that we call Romantics was divergent and yet shared some common characteristics:
expression of personal feelings rather than search from some kind of abstract “truth”.
attraction to the fantastic, exotic, worlds remote in time (Middle Ages, Orient).
special regard for nature with the understanding that humans had very little to do with it
champions of the fight for freedom
emphasis on emotion rather than the intellect, creating subjective works of art, rather than objective.
WORKS OF ART THAT EXEMPLIFY THESE CONCEPTS
Francisco Goya, The Third of May, 1808, 1814, (oil on canvas)
Théodore Géricault, Raft of the Medusa, 1818 (oil on canvas)
Delacroix, The Death of Sardanapalus, 1826 (oil on canvas)
Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830 (oil on canvas)
FRANCISCO GOYA (1746-1828)
Francisco Goya was a Spanish painter influenced by Velasquez and Rembrandt but not at all by antiquity or the Renaissance.
He is unique even among a time of remarkable individualistic artists.
The Third of May represents a tumultuous time for Spain. In 1808, Napoleon's army had
conquered and occupied Spain. Goya, along with the rest of Spain's citizens, tired of the
corrupt monarchy, had hoped that the Emperor would bring the liberal, badly needed
reforms of the debased Spanish courts.
However, the Spaniards were soon disappointed. The Napoleon army's barbaric
behavior caused a citizen's resistance.
The Third of May, 1808, 1814-1818
Goya concentrated on a new subject - the bestiality and utter futility of war.
The Third of May is a representation of the bitter citizen's resistance, and the tragic results which were a series of executions of
Goya depicts the execution of a group of Madrid citizens. It was commissioned by a liberal group to show the underside of
This is the first time art is used to protest against barbarian invasions and conquests. Later, social protests of art became
The firing squad is faceless, brutally shown at a close distance from the victims
The firing squad is standing in a symbolic blackness of night lit by a single lamp.
The picture, through its wild brush strokes, intense colors, dramatic lighting, and asymmetrical composition, has the
emotional of Baroque religious painting.
The next victim is emphasized by the light cast upon him, isolating him.
The victim's pose is very much like the crucified Christ on the cross.
This comparison between Christ and the victim
heightens the intensity of the piece
underlines the innocence of the victim
underlines the brutality of the executioners
A shift in emphasis from victor to victim has occurred here.
These martyrs are not dying for religion but political tyranny. This image will be recast many times in our modern era.
THEODORE GERICAULT (1791-1824)
Gericault was the most talented French painter of the early Romantic movement. Like Goya, he also responded to a
social/political contemporary event.
His most ambitious painting was entitled:
The Raft of the "Medusa" 1818-1819
This painting is a response to a modern tragedy of epic proportions that caused a
The story recounts the "Medusa's" passage (a government ship) to French West Africa in 1816.
The ship was jammed with colonists and was shipwrecked due to the incompetence of the ship's captain.
The captain quickly filled the ship's six lifeboats with his own officers, leaving behind 150 men and one woman to die on
a makeshift raft.
Only a few people on the raft survived after 14 days set adrift in the sea.
Gericault was attracted to the event because the ship was a government vessel, and he, like many French liberals, opposed the
monarchy that was restored after Napoleon's defeat.
Gericault researched the incident with great care, like an investigative reporter. He studied corpses in the morgue, and even
built a raft to scale in his studio. He interviewed the survivors. Thus the painting is extraordinary in its realistic detail similar to
David's "Death of Marat."
But here, for the first time, the grand style and the heroic scale were taken up for the first time to record the sufferings of
The painting depicts the few remaining survivors on their makeshift raft. An exciting moment is chosen: the weak figures struggle
to alert a rescue ship on the horizon, frantically signaling for help.
The composition is built up on a dynamic diagonal, from the prostrate bodies of the dead and dying in the foreground to
the group that supports the frantically waving man.
The forward surge of the figural composition mimics the surge of the sea, and the direction of the raft.
The dramatic use of diagonals and chiaroscuro add to the heightened intensity of the piece.
The ship in the distance was called the Argus. It did not sight the raft until the following day.
Gericault depicted a great psychological tension of false hope.
The result is a heroic depiction of man against the sea or elements. The men should have been more emaciated, sickly,
instead of the bulging muscularity that we see here. In fact, the men were not heroes at all. They survived by the crucial animal
instinct of survival - resorting to cannibalism. The artist did not want his audience to feel the immediate emotional response to a
specific event - which emaciated, pitiful figures would have induced. Instead, the artist transposes a specific event into a
universal cry against the establishment. This is how an artist can turn a catastrophe into art, transcending time and
holding universal appeal. The viewer thinks of the timeless problems of heroism, hope, despair, suffering, and is
not provided with an answer.
Gericault died in 1824 from a riding accident, and Eugene Delacroix became the leading Romantic artist. Delacroix produced
many works that are exemplary of the Romantic movement.
Romanticism gave Western art a new restless dynamism. The word "Romantic" came increasingly to be attached to what was
rejected. The Romantic revolution which began in the 1790s was like a battle which "men fight and lose". Soon the impatient
and bravado of the Romantics would be replaced by the Realist and, then, the Impressionistic movement.