Search this website:

This web page location:

home page  >   Art and Architecture  >   Romanticism

Art and Architecture


romantic painting, Theodore Rousseau, neoclassical art, Camille Corot, romantic art

Deeper web pages:

>  18th-Century Background

>  France

>  Germany

>  England

Romanticism, in art, European and American movement extending from about 1800 to 1850. Romanticism cannot be identified with a single style, technique, or attitude, but romantic painting is generally characterized by a highly imaginative and subjective approach, emotional intensity, and a dreamlike or visionary quality. Whereas classical and neoclassical art is calm and restrained in feeling and clear and complete in expression, romantic art characteristically strives to express by suggestion states of feeling too intense, mystical, or elusive to be clearly defined. Thus, the German writer E. T. A. Hoffmann declared “infinite longing” to be the essence of romanticism. In their choice of subject matter, the romantics showed an affinity for nature, especially its wild and mysterious aspects, and for exotic, melancholic, and melodramatic subjects likely to evoke awe or passion.

The United States

The major manifestation of American romantic painting was the Hudson River School, which found its inspiration in the rugged wilderness of the northeastern United States. Washington Allston, the first American landscapist, introduced romanticism to the United States by filling his poetic landscapes with subjective feeling. The leading figure of the Hudson River School was the English-born Thomas Cole, whose depictions of primeval forests and towering peaks convey a sense of moral grandeur. Cole's pupil Frederic Church adapted the Hudson River style to South American, European, and Palestinian landscapes.

Late Romanticism

Toward the middle of the 19th century, romantic painting began to move away from the intensity of the original movement. Among the outstanding achievements of late romanticism are the quiet, atmospheric landscapes of the French Barbizon school, which included Camille Corot and Theodore Rousseau. In England, after 1850, the Pre-Raphaelites revived the medievalizing mission of the German Nazarenes.


The influence of romanticism on subsequent painting has been pervasive. A line can be traced from Constable through the Barbizon school to impressionism, but a more direct descendant of romanticism was symbolism, which in various ways intensified or refined the romantic characteristics of subjectivity, imagination, and strange, dreamlike imagery. In the 20th century expressionism and surrealism have carried these tendencies still further. In a sense, however, virtually all modern art can be said to derive from romanticism, for the modern assumptions about the primacy of artistic freedom, originality, and self-expression in art were originally conceived by the romantics in opposition to the traditional classical principles of art.

Article key phrases:

romantic painting, Theodore Rousseau, neoclassical art, Camille Corot, romantic art, surrealism, Hudson River School, romanticism, Barbizon school, Pre-Raphaelites, impressionism, northeastern United States, Hoffmann, emotional intensity, romantics, Constable, modern art, self-expression, affinity, symbolism, tendencies, originality, awe, South American, line, England, opposition, nature, attitude, United States, intensity, sense, passion, inspiration, century, imagination, Influence, expression, feeling, technique, middle

Search this website: