19th Century Art During Term Paper

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19th Century Art

During the 19th century, a great number of revolutionary changes altered forever the face of art and those that produced it. Compared to earlier artistic periods, the art produced in the 19th century was a mixture of restlessness, obsession with progress and novelty, and a ceaseless questioning, testing and challenging of all authority. Old certainties about art gave way to new ones and all traditional values, systems and institutions were subjected to relentless critical analysis. At the same time, discovery and invention proceeded at an astonishing rate and made the once-impossible both possible and actual. But most importantly, old ideas rapidly became obsolete which created an entirely new artistic world highlighted by such extraordinary talents as Vincent Van Gogh, Jacques Louis David, Eugene Delacroix, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec and Claude Monet.

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Painting in the 19th century, still highly influenced by the spirit of Romanticism, proved to be a far more sensitive medium for the kind of personal expression one should expect from the romantic subjectivity of the time. At the very beginning of the "modern period" stands the imposing figure of Francisco Goya (1746-1828), the great independent painter from Spain. With much indebtedness to Velazquez, Rembrandt and the wonders of the natural world, Goya occupies the status of an artistic giant. His artistic range goes from the late Venetian Baroque through the brilliant impressionistic realism of his own to a late expressionism in which dark and powerful distortions anticipate much of the violence, pain and suffering in the art of the 20th century.

Term Paper on 19th Century Art During the 19th Century, Assignment

If Goya appears to be almost impossible to classify, one of his closest contemporaries in France was Jacques Louis David (1748-1825), the leader of the French school in the age of the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte. Although he is traditionally regarded as a Classicist, being "aesthetic attitudes and principles based on culture, art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome and characterized by... form, simplicity, proportion and restrained emotion" (Pioch, "Classicism," Internet), David remains the father of academic art produced under official patronage in 19th century France. As an artist, David "re-worked in his own individual and often non-classical style all classical and academic traditions while rebelling against the Rococo as an artificial artform;" David also "exalted classical art as the imitation of nature in her most beautiful and perfect form" (Peillex 156). He also praised Greek art enthusiastically despite lacking any first-hand knowledge on the subject.

David was also active in the French Revolution as a Jacobin friend of the radical Robespierre, a member of the Revolutionary Convention that voted for the death of King Louis XVI. One of David's best-known and most-recognized paintings is his Death of Marat (1793, oil on canvas) which contains cold, neutral space above the dead body of Jean Marat, slumped in a bathtub with one of his propaganda leaflets still clasped in his left hand, the victim of Charlotte Corday. Marat, a personal friend of David and a revolutionary radical, is vividly placed and is intended to sharpen the sense of pain and outrage in the viewer; thus, it is convincingly real via its use of light and shadow, almost as if David had taken a photograph of the death scene.

The highest qualities of the sublime and the terrible and the emotions of awe and admiring wonder are best illustrated in the works of Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863), and according to the French poet Charles Baudelaire, Delacroix "inherited from the great Republican and imperial school of David a love for poets and poetry and a strange and impulsive spirit of authenticity;" he also was the "soul-stirring translator of Shakespeare, Dante, and Byron" (Holt 216). Although the imagination was the most cherished ideal of the Romantic mind, Delacroix the artist realized that skill and restraint must go along with it. In his eyes, "imagination was the most precious gift, the most important faculty, but he believed that the imagination remained impotent and sterile if it was not served by competent and exacting skill" (Holt 217). Delacroix's picture dramas were thus products of his view that the power of the imagination, fed and kindled by great literature, art and music, will synthesize works that capture and ignite the imagination of the observer. The best example of this can be found in Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People (1830, oil on canvas) which gives the viewer an allegory of revolution itself via the partially-nude, majestic figure of Liberty whose beautiful features were an expression of utter noble dignity as she waves her fellow French rebels forward to the barricades while holding the banner of the Republic.

The history of 19th century painting in its first sixty years has often been interpreted as a contest between Eugene Delacroix and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1781-1867) who broke away from David on matters of artistic style, for he believed that David's art was too realistic and based far too much on Greek influences. For Ingres, painting encompassed flat and linear figures, a manner that was severely criticized as being "primitive" and Gothic. However, Ingres soon became the leader of the academic forces in their battle against Delacroix and his contemporaries. Ingres' best-known work, Grande Odalisque (1814, oil on canvas) illustrates his rather strange mixture of artistic allegiances. His subject, a reclining nude figure, is traditional, but by converting her into an odalisque, a woman of a Turkish harem, Ingres made a strong concession to the contemporary Romantic taste for the exotic.

During the time of Delacroix and Ingres, another artistic development was occurring in England, especially in relation to landscape painting by such men as J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) and John Constable (1776-1837). These two artists were highly influenced by the Romantic movement, best symbolized by the poetry of Byron, Shelley and Keats. As Elizabeth G. Holt points out, "Turner and Constable emotionalized in both its grand and minute manifestations, lives in the canvases of the English school and created the breadth and scope of nature intermixed with the pathos of time, change, distance and the past" (221). Constable, an influence on Delacroix, once remarked that painting "is a science and should be pursued as an inquiry into the laws of nature" (Peillex 187). He also made it clear that he hoped to see the day when painting becomes "a regularly taught profession... scientific as well as poetic" and that the imagination "cannot stand by a comparison with reality" (Peillex 189), which indicates that Constable was thinking of realism some fifty years before it became an entirely new phenomenon in the art world.

Although the term "Impressionism" was first used in 1874 by a journalist ridiculing a landscape by Monet, the bitter controversy that raged for more than twenty years over the merits and qualities of Impressionism began eleven years earlier in 1863, when Edouard Manet (1832-1883) shocked the French public with his Dejeuner sur L'Herbe (Luncheon on the Grass, oil on canvas) which portrays a nude woman and two clothed men seated in the woods while enjoying lunch and the obvious flirtations of their naked hostess. In this painting, Manet attempted to combine a modern setting with a much earlier design, for it highly resembles a theme derived from 16th century art, similar to something painted by Raphael. But because Manet refused to idealize the figures or make the picnic seem less contemporary, many of his fellow artists and critics were quite offended, especially when one considers that the nude woman is obviously a French prostitute, judging from her bold stare directly at the viewer as if tempting him/her to join them in their afternoon frolic in the woods.

Generally speaking, the Impressionists sought to create the illusion of forms bathed in light and atmosphere which required an extensive study of natural light as the source of all color. This important truth then led to the revelation that the actual color of an object is always modified by the quality of the light in which it is seen, by reflections from other objects and by the effects produced by colors lying against each other. Although it is not true that the Impressionists used only primary colors, juxtaposing them to create secondary hues and shades, they did in fact achieve remarkably brilliant effects with their characteristically short, choppy brushstrokes which accurately caught the true qualities of natural light.

A number of painters, mostly those located in France, greatly affected the style of the Impressionists. First, Edgar Degas (1834-1917), more than any of his contemporaries, studied the infinite varieties of movement that make up continuous motion. His Ballet Rehearsal (1876, oil on canvas) uses several devices to bring the viewer into the action, such as the large, off-center, empty space in the foreground which creates the illusion of a continuous floor that connects the observer with the moving figures.

By 1886, the Impressionists were accepted by the art world as serious artists by most of the critics and by a large percentage of the public. Yet within a short period of time, another style emerged, being… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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