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Who most accurately reflected the romantic sensibility of the day: the poets, the artists or the musicians? Well first off what exactly is Romanticism? Romanticism was a literary and artistic movement of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, resulting in part, from the ideals of the French Revolution and in part a revolt against classicism and the Enlightenment. It embodies none of which classicism and neoclassicism did which were precepts of order, calm, harmony, balance, idealization and rationality, and restraint. Instead, romanticism emphasized the irrational, imaginative, spontaneous and emotional. Romanticism also promoted certain attitudes such as a greater appreciation of the beauties of nature, emotion over reason, senses over intellect, heightened fascination with great hero figures, and spiritual truth. Romantics had a greater interest in folk culture, natural and ethnic cultural origins and also showed particular interests in the exotic, the remote, the mysterious, the weird, the occult, the diseased and even the satanic. Throughout the Romantic Movement, eighteenth century music, arts and literature adopted these new concepts and endured a lot of changes, refinement and some may even say perfection. However, I intend to prove that the poets, novelists and essayists best reflected the romantic sensibility.
Romanticism in music was characterized by an emphasis on emotion and great freedom of form and the composer embraces free expression and originality. Romantic music attained its fullest development in the works of German composers. Although elements of romanticism are present in the music of Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert, it reached its highest point in the works of Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Chopin, Litsz and Wagner. Beethoven and Schubert, although considered to be classical musicians, provided an important model for nineteenth century romantic composers. German novelist Ernst Hoffman wrote, Beethoven s music sets in motion the lever of fear, of awe, of horror, of suffering, and awakens just that infinite longing which is the essence of Romanticism.
Romantic music had only a few major advances. For example there was the creation of new musical forms that are more flexible in structure, therefore allowing more room for experimentation and creativity. These new musical forms were the prelude, intermezzo, nocturne, ballad, and capriccio. Another romantic contribution was the linking of music to literature either programmatically of through concert overtures and incidental music. This is the creation of the symphonic poem.
The visual arts movement was much like the literary movement. Nineteenth century romanticism was characterized by the avoidance of classical forms and rules and emphasis on the emotional and spiritual. It often makes reference to societies outside Europe, concerned with scenes of sickness, suffering and death. Romantic works tend to evoke powerful feelings and emotions. Romantic artists developed precise techniques in order to produce specific associations in the mind of the viewer. To convey verbal concepts they would, for example, associate inanimate objects with human values. The result was often sentimental or ludicrous.
In painting, Romanticism is divided into two groups, figured and landscaped. Artists began to paint subjects that were out of the ordinary. Subjects were now bizarre, pathetic or extravagantly heroic. In both types of paintings, they used more bold lines and bold contrasts of light and shade. Landscape Romanticism often, but not always, called on help from the human presence, as can be seen in the art of the most significant English painter of the first half of the nineteenth century, J.M.W. Turner. His painting Slave Ship (Anderson 103) shows a murky sea beneath a blood-red sky, with the evil ship in the distance, monstrous fish in the waves, and in the foreground a black, constrained leg floating on the surface. Turner used the immensity and power of nature and the powerful elements of nature (fire, wind, earth, and water) to evoke a magnificence in which light and space seem to be swallowing up form in swirling veils of mist.
In architecture, Romanticism took the form of a variety of past styles imaginatively constructed to heighten their emotional effect. These were called follies . Gothic was popular in England, while more classical ideas appeared in France. British examples were the ruins built for the gardens at Hagley, Horace Walpole s famous house Strawberry Hill, and James Wyatt s Fonthill Abbey. More majestic was the globe designed, but never built, by the French architect +tienne Louis Boull e as a cenotaph in honor of Sir Isaac Newton.
Sculptures were not very Romantic but there was some romantic essence in La Marseillaise by Fran ois Rude for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and the animal sculpture of Antoine Louis Barye, in which lions and leopards are often depicted in deadly battle with snakes and crocodiles. Auguste Rodin was the greatest sculptor of the time. Not always admired in his day, Rodin has steadily assumed greater importance because of his effect on modern sculpture, and the sheer physical power of his forms. His Burghers of Calais (1886), a life-sized group of heroic men, gives the observer a strong impression of character and the emotions of brave people under great stress.
John Constable (1776-1837) was one of the greatest landscape artists. He best sums up what artistic Romanticism was all about in his lecture notes and letters:
I hope to show that ours is a regularly taught profession; that it is scientific as well as poetic; that imagination alone never did, and never can, produce works that are to stand by a comparison with realities; and to show, by tracing the connecting links in the history of landscape painting, that no great painter was ever…
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