This Is The Romantic Era, But Don’t Swoon Just Yet!


The 1800’s were a time of great progress and re-activity. I use the term “re-activity” because it perfectly describes the artistic transitions of the time. The major styles of art that took place during this era were created as reactions of previous styles of art. The Romanticism was a reaction to Neoclassicism, Realism was a reaction to Romanticism, and Impressionism was an adaptation of Realism. Impressionism was the “big kahuna”, if you will.  As stated in the ART161 audio learning portion of the “Romantic Era” section, “…Impressionism is where art really begins. Prior to impressionism, art was harnessed to journalism, portraiture, and storytelling. Impressionism disengaged art from those conventional roles.”  (Lisa Kljach, ART 200, 5.4 – Visual Arts in the Romantic Era).

Claude Monet, Impression Sunrise

Claude Monet, Impression Sunrise

Personally, Impressionism is my favorite art style of the era. Impressionists took fleeting moments of time and captured them in art. They wanted to focus on the “here and now”, and strayed as far away as possible from the traditional subjects of religion, history, and morality. They wanted to elicit emotions, and show the viewer’s their take on the scene they were painting. Impressionists favored transitional pieces showcasing the change of light and weather. They rely on the use of color and broad, sweeping strokes to draw attention to the painting, instead of falling back to the use of lines. In French impressionist painter Claude Monet’s, Impression Sunrise (circa 1871), you can see the embodiment of the impressionist style. The thick broad strokes of the sea, the sweeping and blending of the colors of the sky blend together nearly effortlessly. Adding a bold splash of color, orange in this case, was Money’s calling card. All of these elements come together to form the seamless transition in the piece, showcasing the transitional effect that a sunrise has on a beautiful harbor.

Eduoard Manet, Olympia

Eduoard Manet, Olympia

In contrast, the Realism style of painting was much more rigid. Impressionists painted what they saw and tried to capture that moment through their own eyes. Realists worked to capture their scenes exactly as it was. Their subjects were everyday scenes of the average life, and strayed away from religious undertones or political satire. Most notable was the change in the depiction of women. Instead of painting the notion of a woman (as was previously popular) in a mythical or historical theme, French painter Eduoard Manet painted a courtesan as real as he possible could in his artwork Olympia (circa 1865). Unlike an Impressionist painting, you can clearly see the harsh lines of her figure and the shadows playing on her skin. The use of harsh black background to make the courtesan stand out is also an element not common to impressionist paintings. Impressionists use a plethora of colors to convey meaning, rather than flat pallets.

A style that I feel falls in the middle between Impressionist and Realism and one that comes as a close second to my favorite style of the era it is named after, is the Romantic style. Not to be confused with the notion of love, Romantic style of art was a reaction to the stark formality of the Neoclassical style that preceded it. As with Impressionism and the Baroque era, Romantics wanted to elicit a reaction from their viewers. They wanted their patrons to be able to create their own stories from the paintings. Romantic painters favored mists, fantasies, exotics, dreams, and fantastical landscapes. What sets the Romantic era apart from impressionists is the subject matter, as well as that Romantics’ paintings leaned more toward Realist’s technical style of painting. Some of the most famous Romantic style of paintings were of horrific and violent scenes, used to illustrate the horrors of war and corrupt politics.

Francisco Goya The Third of May 1808Unlike the sweeping and bold strokes of Monet’s Impression Sunrise, Spanish painter Francisco Goya’s The Third of May 1808 showcases a fantastically brutal scene. Derived from the historical events that took place in 1808, Goya used light and subject placement to showcase the martyr in the center (practically glowing) with his hands raised as if he were, I don’t know, crucified. If this doesn’t scream religious undertones, I’m not sure what does. Goya also used a dark background, and shadowy gunman to portray the dark backside and shadowy nature of politicians of the day. I’ve noticed that Romantic style of painters were really big on their lighting.

The 1800’s were a time of great change, specifically artistically. The different art styles played off of each other, ultimately giving way for the Impressionist style which is “…where art really begins.”

Here’s Where I Got My Brain Juice!

Francisco De Goya, . N.p.. Web. 21 Mar 2014. <>.

Edouard Manet, . N.p.. Web. 21 Mar 2014. <>.

“Tips by Dr. Lori: What is Impressionism.” Dr. Lori. N.p.. Web. 21 Mar 2014. <>.

Cauderlier, A.. N.p.. Web. 21 Mar 2014. <>.

Claude Monet, . N.p.. Web. 21 Mar 2014. <>.


2 thoughts on “This Is The Romantic Era, But Don’t Swoon Just Yet!

  1. I enjoy that you chose Goya’s “The Third of May 1808” as one of your art pieces. Having been to that particular square in Madrid and speaking with the Spanish citizens there it carries particular emotional significance for me. The square itself is only 60 feet by 30 feet, a very small plaza for the city. It was not used for executions just by Napoleon however, during the the Spanish Civil War both the Republican troops of the monarchy and Nationalist troops of Francisco Franco used it to make their statements. The rock walls still show the pockmarks of the bullets where they hit. It is a somber place, like visiting the Manassas/Bull Run, Gettysburgh, Shiloh, Vicksburgh, or Shenandoah Valley battlefields of our own civil war. Time seems to stop while you are there and this particular painting of Goya’s captures the final moments of Spanish patriots before they are brutally executed by French troops.

    One thing that I have always appreciated about this painting is that it does not cushion what it portrays. The impressionists fail, i think, in their portrayal of the abstraction of reality. The blurring of clear lines serves to confuse the message being sent. Emotions don’t run in straight lines but I would argue that the ideals that stir the emotions must be clear. If impressionism is only about the feeling then life is only one chemical experience after another. The humanist would argue, even as they deny the existence of a higher power, that mankind is better or can be better than the sum of our experiences.

  2. I enjoyed reading about all these paintings, since these are ones I do not know well. I always find it fascinating during the times which paintings gave the public a shock, such as Edouard Manet’s painting. And that the painting had to be guarded in order to protect it from the outrage of the public. Claude Monet’s Impression Sunrise photo has intrigued me since I saw it. It really is a prime example of Impressionism. It exhibits the broad strokes of paint and doesn’t seem to focus on religion, or royalty or anything of much importance. It’s a calming painting to me.

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