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An Escape from Conventions: Romantic Art Forms

A look at how the art, literature, and music of the era of Romanticism provided an outlet for people's imaginations and emotions- a contrast to the rules of logic and reason that ruled in the Enlightenment.
by

Shaakya Vembar

on 31 May 2010

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Transcript of An Escape from Conventions: Romantic Art Forms

An Escape from Conventions: Romantic Art Forms Introduction Romanticism- the word itself is sweeping, denoting a somewhat grandiose sentiment to it. In more ways than one, that’s exactly what it was. Fed up artists, musicians, and poets during the middle of the 18th and 19th centuries decided to break away from the formal views and ideas that were so revolutionary during the Enlightenment. They pioneered a movement called Romanticism. This time is considered to be a revolt against social uniformity of the previous era. (Art History Archive, 1 )

The Enlightenment revealed brand-new ideas focusing on reason, logic, etc, which by the time Romanticism begun, had become irritating to many. It was ‘stressing the normative role of reason in the conduct of social life, and universal standards for excellence in the arts, which was grounded in difference rather than unity.’ (Art Periods,2)
In the realm of literature, authors and poets like Victor Hugo and William Wordsworth broke out of the structured mold of writing that had been set up before, and made way for emotional and romantic works that showcased their imagination and feelings. Poets got the idea that this generation of humans was losing touch with their inner selves, with their psyches; romantic poetry was a way to facilitate that connection again. (Romantic Literary Theory, 5.1.1.4)

Artists started to ignore old principles, and included all kinds of techniques in their work. Caspar David Friedrich, who painted "Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog", is one good example of this. In his work you can see the colors were not meant to be representational, but rather were meant to give off a mysterious air to the piece. Nature was a very big concept in their artwork, and even in music.
So, Romanticism was an age of openness and of great fantastical journeys, which provided an escape from the rigid rules of logic from just before. What was once considered fresh and new now seemed oppressive, and romantic art, literature and music revealed these emotions in a wonderful way; it made these areas human, finally. Here we look at three examples of this freedom in emotional range and vibrancy.


Literature: Nature in Poetry Title: Daffodils (I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud)
Artist: William Wordsworth.
Description: A reminiscence of a walk Wordsworth took with his sister, where he saw a lake, and daffodils lining it, and years later he decided to write about this experience, as he found it simply wonderful.

Location: Unknown
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (more commonly known as The Daffodils) is a poem of the Romantic era, which has become extremely famous. Even now in many schools, such as in my mother’s children memorize it and recite it in class. But little known is the deeper meaning behind this poem, and how it was different from previous eras’ works. This poem, by William Wordsworth, was written in 1804, after the poet took a walk with his sister Dorothy near a lake. Wordsworth was heavily affected by this walk, and especially his sister’s take on it. (I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, Background). The differences between the romanticism in this poem and the ideals of the Enlightenment start to become apparent in the first stanza itself. There is no cryptic wording here or any reference to intellect or anything of that sort. It is simply a man’s observation of the scenery around him, seemingly serving no purpose to ‘progressing humanity’ or science. This was how the literature of the romantics was; an appeal to a person’s introspective qualities rather than logic. Wordsworth came from a fairly well-to-do family, and although his mother and father both died when he was young, he still continued his education and could indulge his other passions too, like writing (William Wordsworth, par 1). Wordsworth clearly lets his mind wander in this one, perhaps to get away from the reality that would haunt him; the death of his brother, and his parents. Also, this poem incorporates personification too, when Wordsworth writes “Ten thousand saw I at a glance, tossing their heads in sprightly dance.” He also uses many metaphors leading back to his emotions, which provided a more introspective reasoning to his work; he us known as one of the four great romantic poets. Introspecrtive Reasoning in Art Piece: Saturn Devouring his Son

Date: cir. 1819

Artist: Francisco Goya (1746-1828)

Description: The god Saturn, fearing being overthrown by one of his sons, decided to eat them all. This painting used to reside on a wall of Goya’s house, on which he painted it. Possibly he was going through a phase of denying his mortality.

Location: Museo del Prado, Madrid.
Francisco Goya, one of the world’s most well-known artists painted this gory picture, befittingly named Saturn Eating Cronus, at around 1819. In it, the god Saturn, from the Greek myths, is eating his son out of fear that he will overthrow him. (Saturn Devouring his Son, par 3). Goya painted this graphic image, and many similar ones in his house. He was 73 at the time, and it is speculated that he created these because he was scared of upcoming death; he could relate his emotions and feelings to this myth. It has nothing to do with reason- in fact the whole scenario would be deemed unreasonable by the famous philosophes. During that time in Spain though, there was ‘civil strife’ going on, which supposedly affected Goya to the point where he found the need to escape from all of that through his paintings. (Francisco Goya, par 3). Francisco Goya had also suffered from two deadly diseases, and as the Peninsular War started, Goya seemed to be creating darker, more morbid paintings that shifted into a world of fantasy and imagination. Music that Flows from the Soul Piece: "Minute" Waltz (in D Flat, Op. 64, No. 1)

Artist: Frédéric Chopin

Date: 1847

Description: A short, quick-tempo waltz that only last for about a minute to 2 minutes. It doesn’t relate to anything happening in Chopin’s life at the time.

Location: Unknown
The Minute Waltz, composed by Polish-born musician Frédéric Chopin, is a very unusual piece. It’s been nicknamed the ‘Minute’ waltz for that reason; it happens to be a short tune, played only for about a minute and a half or so, and has a quick tempo. Chopin, as mentioned before, was born in Poland in 1810, and then later moved to France, as his father was French. Chopin was highly educated, and went on to become a well-paid piano teacher in Paris. He was early on deemed as a child prodigy, and composed many piano solos throughout his short life, which ended at 39. (Frédéric François Chopin - Classical Archives.) Chopin, although having composed some long pieces as well, is more known for his little ones, like this. Mazurkas and Polonaises were just two kinds of traditional Polish music he wrote. Coincidentally, the Minute Waltz was composed in the same year as the end of Chopin’s tumultuous relationship with French author George Sand, and just two years before his death, caused by tuberculosis. Yet, when we listen to this, we do not get the sense of grief, suffering, or any highly intense emotion. Perhaps this was a reference to how he might have wanted to move on quickly, but if that were true, he wouldn’t have first called the tune “The Little Dog’s Waltz.” He was supposedly inclined to write this after seeing a dog run after its tail. ("Minute Waltz.") Considering the context in which he composed this, one would assume he would weave in all those feelings he must have had, but instead he defied this common thought and went with something light-hearted, yet meaningful for him. In the end though, this may have been exactly what he was looking for; an escape from the darkness that seemed to be consuming him. The Enlightenment did put an emphasis on people’s rights, but the Romantic era made individualism a widespread concept. Concluding Statements Romanticism began an age where people could look inside themselves and explore things that were thought of as silly and unreasonable during the Age of Enlightenment. This led to lots of abstract and imaginative art, which was not representational. Maybe people had gone through and finished a phase of telling the world we were all equals, but after this burst of rebellious energy, the need to be one and the same dissolved. People found a new necessity; the need to be themselves. During the Enlightenment, it was encouraged that people use their intellect and reason for everything. While this wasn’t a bad thing, it certainly limited the use of creativity as well, which came round in the Romanticism. The three previous exhibits display some, but not all of the aspects of Romanticism. Goya’s painting had no impact on society; it was made on a whim of his, and reused a mythological story, yet we find it to be effective art. It had no relation to what was going on in society, but rather on those emotions that were felt because of society’s situation. Chopin’s waltz did not reflect people’s notions at the time, which a lot of music from the period of the French Revolution had. People seemed to do what they liked, this time even more than in the Enlightenment. While it is said in many places that Romanticism was a rebellious movement against the Enlightenment, in my mind, Romanticism was just a continuation of Enlightenment; the Romantic artists took Enlightenment to a heightened level, and ended up defining humans in much more specific ways. My citations:

http://grade9museumproj2010.asb-wiki.wikispaces.net/Bibliography-+Vembars Thank you for watching! Hope you enjoyed :D
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