At the end of the 18th century, during a phase in which the influence of science and technology was becoming increasingly strong, the artists of the Romantic epoch once again concentrated on people and nature. Painting predominantly showed very idyllic and imposing scenes. The landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich and the seascapes of William Turner are considered typical of this epoche.

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Art of Romanticism: Back to Humans and Nature

The pictures from the Romantic epoch fascinate with their idyllic landscapes, spectacular seascapes, and imposing city views in perfect craftsmanship. Many works of this epoch, for example, the pictures of Caspar David Friedrich or William Turner, are well-known and popular. However, the paintings of the Romantic epoch do not appear as an independent epoch according to art history. In terms of the content, it belonged to a movement that became popular from about the end of the 18th to the middle of the 19th century within the societies of Germany, France, and England. On the one hand, the central characteristics of Romanticism were resistance to the growing influence of science and technology. On the other hand, it was a return to people, nature, and traditional values. Painters embraced this philosophy by focusing on the emotional side of human beings and depicting nature in an idealized way. However, Romantic art was unable to develop an independent style or imagery.

Motifs of Romanticism: Focus on the Sensitive Human Being

Romantic painting found its unique selling point primarily in its choice of motifs. Since the entire epoch saw itself as a countermovement to rationalism, the painters also devoted themselves primarily to the feelings and the soul of humans. Love, passion, longings, and fears were among the major themes they took up in their paintings. Dreams and fantasies, as well as mysticism, the transcendental, and a return to the divine, were other motifs of Romanticism. Nature and its close connection to humans were also given great importance and celebrated in opulent landscape depictions. These themes were pictorially realized in various ways. Sometimes the paintings were full of symbolism. At other times, they also had a narrative character. Romantic pictures were full of drama and pathos, yet they could also radiate a calm and harmonious mood.

Even if Romantic art had not produced its style from an academic point of view, it was occasionally quite progressive with the composition of pictures. One of Caspar David Friedrich's pictures even caused a real scandal: In his Romantic painting "Tetschen Altar" (Cross in the Mountains) from 1808, he painted a crucifix in the middle of a forest landscape. The painting caused a storm of indignation in conservative social circles for several reasons. Among other things, perspective and lighting were incorrectly executed in the picture. The greatest criticism, however, was directed at the motif itself. Friedrich had inadmissibly combined landscape painting, which had previously been subordinate, with the highly respected sacred art, thus breaking a taboo in painting.

Painting Between Naturalism, Staging and Idealization

Romanticism coincided with the epoch of Classicism. Since this art style was also characterized by rationality and sobriety, the Romantics clearly distinguished themselves from Classicism. In terms of imagery, however, they were still close to the naturalistic mode of the depiction of the classicists. Thus, a typical characteristic of Romanticism was that people and nature were depicted extremely natural, but the standard was never to depict reality. Rather, painting served the Romantic artists as an escape from reality. Nature and landscapes were depicted in an idealized way, staged exaggeratedly, and the composition of the picture and the perspective were adapted to a dreamy vision. Finally, the subjective feeling of the artist should always flow into the paintings. "The artist should paint not only what he has in front of him, but what he sees inside himself," was a programmatic sentence by Caspar David Friedrich. At ars mundi, you can buy pictures from the Romantic epoch by artists such as Caspar David Friedrich or William Turner.