Lesson 20: Romantic Art 

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What You Will Learn:

  • Explore All Art Movements and Periods

    You will learn about all the leading art movements and periods, such as primitive art, ancient Greek art, the Renaissance, Romanticism, Impressionism, Modernism, and contemporary art. There is also a lot of attention to non-Western art, such as Islamic Art, Hindu Art, Chinese Art, Oceanic Art and African Art, and the globalization of the art world.

  • All Famous Artists and Their Masterpieces

    The course covers important artists like Sultan Muhammad, Fan Kuan, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Utagawa Hiroshige, Vincent van Gogh, Ilya Repin, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Banksy and many more, and discusses their most influential works.

  • Cultural and Historical Context

    Our courses also focus on the study of the cultural, social, political, and economic contexts in which artworks are created.

  • Various Media and Techniques

    You will explore different art forms and techniques, such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and digital art.

Introduction to this course:


The neoclassical art was not the only stylistic period that dominated the arts at the end of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century. Between 1795 and 1848, there was a movement that strongly reacted to the ‘rational’ way of thinking after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. The direction in art that resisted this was called the romantic period or the artistic movement of romantic art. This romanticism had little to do with its current definition, which we refer to as amorous feelings. The word derived from the term “roman” meaning “novel.” Artists painted “as in a novel.”
The cold and rational way of addressing problems post the French Revolution no longer dominated the thoughts of artists. Romantics made room for emotion, fantasy, the subconscious, and the place of humans in the world as part of nature, not as rulers over other life forms in their artworks. There was a nostalgic feeling in the art world towards the past. Not in the form chosen by the neoclassicists, with their love for ancient Greek and Roman arts, but towards one’s own family and people’s past. These ideas also manifested themselves in philosophy and politics. In this sense, the romantic period can be seen as an emerging undercurrent of the increasingly popular nationalism.
This longing for the past expressed itself in painting, where artists painted dramatic landscapes with cascading waterfalls, romantic seascapes, tragic shipwrecks on rocky coasts, and impressive mountain landscapes. By portraying the powerful nature, which in their eyes remained the only certainty with the disappearance of old values, they could express their inner experiences on canvas. Painters displayed their emotion and imagination in their romantic paintings. This led to a wide variety of paintings, ranging from pastoral landscapes to emotional scenes from everyday reality, such as ‘The Raft of the Medusa,’ depicting a horrifying shipwreck that had occurred. Notably, there were significant differences in how painters elaborated on the themes of romanticism. Collectively, they were called followers of Rubens, as many romantic painters saw Peter Paul Rubens as their great example.

De Tegernsee, een romantisch schilderij van Johann Georg von Dillis uit 1825.
Image: “The Tegernsee,” a romantic painting by Johann Georg von Dillis, from 1825, created in Bavarian Germany. As early as around 1800, he painted oil paintings and watercolors with nature as the subject. Johann Georg von Dillis (1759-1841) began his artistic career as a baroque painter who primarily painted Italian landscapes, but he increasingly evolved into a realistic painter. Since then, art historians have classified him among romantic artists. He was not only a successful painter but also an art connoisseur. This is why he also purchased artworks for the major galleries and museums in Germany.
Location: This painting by the German artist Johann Georg von Dillis is on display in the Neue Pinakothek (museum) in the southern German city of Munich, the capital of Bavaria. This museum is part of the three Pinakotheks, all three located on Barer Strasse in Munich.

French Painters of Romantic Art

The most famous romantic painters in France were Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) and Théodore Géricault (1791-1824).

Eugène Delacroix, the Painter of Light

Delacroix emphasized the effects of light and colors in his paintings, while showing less interest in the correct perspective in his works. This added a new dimension that somewhat resembles modern painters. The influence of Rubens is also evident in the baroque manner in which Delacroix depicted his figures. He significantly influenced the (post-)impressionists who followed, including Vincent van Gogh. Notable paintings by Eugène Delacroix include “Dante’s Barque” (1922), “The Massacre at Chios” (1824), “The Death of Sardanapalus” (1828), and “July 28th: Liberty Leading the People” from 1830.

Een bekend schilderij van Delacroix is `De vrijheid leidt het volk' uit 1830
Image: A famous painting by Eugène Delacroix titled “July 28th: Liberty Leading the People” from 1830. This artwork commemorates the revolution of 1830. The woman, Marianne, symbolizes freedom, standing atop the barricades, with the French tricolor and a bayonet in her hands. In the name of liberty, every act becomes permissible; in the painting, she literally steps over the bodies of the fallen… Among her prominent co-fighters in the painting are a gentleman in a top hat, a street boy, and a laborer. They represent the widespread support that this July Revolution had. In reality, it was a middle-class revolution against King Charles X, who had overstepped his powers.
Location: This famous painting by Eugène Delacroix is housed in the Louvre Museum, located on the northern bank of the Seine River in the French capital, Paris.

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