19th Century Art Term Paper

Pages: 5 (2011 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Art  (general)


In Europe, the nineteenth century was an age of radical change during which the modern world took shape. In a world that was experiencing a population explosion of unparalleled magnitude, revolution followed revolution, a pattern punctuated by counter-revolution and conservative reaction. In thought as well as in science, the nineteenth century was an era of grand new theories through which visionary thinkers attempted to unify whole bodies of knowledge into precise, well-ordered systems.

Artist in the nineteenth century were also confronted with new innovations and their individual artistic styles and works changed with the times. These artists found themselves using the elements of line, shape and color to represent their private world, the realm of imagination and feeling. The functions of the artist and of the artist's medium were decisively transformed by the modern world.

The nineteenth century marked the Neoclassical art movement, a severe, unemotional form of art that traced back to the style of ancient Greece and Rome. It was a combination of aesthetic attitudes and principles based on the culture, art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, and characterized by emphasis on form, simplicity, proportion, and restrained emotion. Its rigidity was a reaction to the overbred Rococo style and the emotional Baroque style.

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Around 1800, Romanticism emerged as a reaction to Neoclassicism. It really did not replace the Neoclassical style so much as act as a counterbalancing influence, and many artists were influenced by both styles to some degree. Romanticism might best be described as a reaction against Neoclassicism, with a deeply felt style that is individualistic, beautiful, exotic, and emotionally wrought. Although Romanticism and Neoclassicism were philosophically opposed, they were the dominant European styles for generations, and many artists were affected to a greater or lessor degree by both.

TOPIC: Term Paper on 19th Century Art Assignment

Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Dominique Ingres have both been regarded as masters of Neoclassical painting in the mid-eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries. David specialized in history painting, while Ingres, who studied under him, specialized in portraits/orientalism. Although at one time they worked together, they eventually disagreed on matters of style and parted ways. Ingres adopted a manner based on what he believed to be a truer and purer Greek style than employed by David. This can be seen in the comparison of Ingres' "Portrait of Napoleon on his Imperial Throne," to David's "Napoleon in his Study." Ingres adopted flatter and linear forms, placing the figure in the foreground. In David's "Napoleon in his Study," the figure is not placed in the foreground, but is brought up front.

The value Ingres placed on the flow of the contour is a characteristic of his style throughout his career. Ingres' "Portrait of Napoleon in his Study" exemplifies Ingres' style of polished surfaces and simple, rounded volume controlled by rhythmically flowing contours. The smoothness of the planes of the body is complemented by the broken, busy shapes of the drapery. Even the floor below the figure follows a simple, rounded volume with a few broken lines that represent the bird's wings. Unlike David's "Napoleon in his Study," even the chair in which the figure of Napoleon is sitting in has a curved or rounded back. In David's work, there are no rounded contours or seemingly polished surfaces. Ingres' appears to be more smooth and polished, while David's is more severe and carries a rather rough, unpolished tone.

David's "Napoleon Crossing the Alps at the Saint Bernard Pass" appears to be unpolished, and portrays a victorious stance of the figure. David's "Coronation of Napoleon in the Cathedral of Notre Dame also portrays a stoic position of the figure. David was appointed First Painter to the Emperor, and was commissioned to a large painting commemorating the coronation. The "Coronation of Napoleon in the Cathedral of Notre Dame" is the piece that differs slightly from the other two. The linear contours do not seem as harsh, and the clothing comes closest to the broken, busy shapes of the drapery in Ingres' "Portrait of Napoleon on his Imperial Throne." The horizontal and vertical lines of the background wall appear to be very close to the viewer, giving it a very flat appearance, similar to the linear and flatness of Ingres' "Portrait of Napoleon on his Imperial Throne."

All three of David's pieces seem to accord with the keeping of the new severity of taste. They also present Napoleon in a more regal or majestic manner than Ingres' portrait of Napoleon. This most likely due to his unique position in society at that time. David's powerful background as a friend of a member of the National Convention that voted for the death of King Louis XVI and a quasi-member of the Committee on Public Education made him dominant in the transformation of style, and his own manner of painting was the official model for many years. David became an ardent supporter of Napoleon and retained under him the dominant social and artistic position that he had previously held. All three of David's heroic portraits of Napoleon feature cold colors and severe compositions.

Furthermore, David agreed with the Enlightenment belief that subject matter should have a morale and be presented so that the marks of heroism and civic virtue offered the eyes of its people will electrify its soul. All three portraits of Napoleon definitely have this "devotion to duty" and appeal of patriotism theme. Furthermore, in David's "Napoleon Crossing the Alps at the Saint Bernard Pass," Napoleon did not sit for the portrait, as he believed its purpose was to portray "genius" rather than exact likeness. David aroused his audience to patriotic zeal, and his works became increasingly political.

David's portrait of Napoleon in his study and Napoleon Crossing the Alps at the Saint Bernard Pass have several similarities to one another. Both portray a devotion to duty, honesty and austerity. Since David was an ardent supporter of Napoleon, the paintings of the Coronation, Crossing the Alps and Portrait, portray the achievements of Napoleon, which are glorified. Finally, with the fall of Napoleon, David went into exile and his work weakened as the possibility of exerting a moral and social influence receded.

Ingres, like David, was never successful with multifigured compositions. His best works were single figures and portraits. His early portraits are notable for their calligraphic line and expressive contour, which had a sensuous beauty of its own beyond its function to contain and delineate form. Ingres' "Portrait of Napoleon on his Imperial Throne" is such an example of expressive contour and smoothness. Ingres' portrait is sensuous, whereas none of the three pieces by David can be described as such. The central contradiction of Ingres' career is that although he was held to be the guardian of Classical rules, it is his personal obsessions and mannerisms that make him such a great artist. His technique as a painter can be seen in his "Portrait of Napoleon on his Imperial Throne," where the paint seems so be superbly smooth and soft, very much unlike that of David in any of his three pieces.

Ingres' portrait appears to be somewhat unproportional - the head appears to be very small and the left extended arm to be too long. Ingres was often attacked for the expressive distortions of his draftsmanship. Unfortunately, the influence of Ingres was mostly seen in those shortcomings and weaknesses that have come to be regarded as the hallmark of inferior academic work. He had scores of students, but none were known to have achieved distinction.

Nevertheless, despite their noticeable differences in their work, both Ingres and David have helped pave the way for new artists, and will remain masters of the Neoclassic era for centuries to come.


Eiseman, Stephen. Nineteenth Century Art: A Critical History. New York: Thames and Hudson


Hyde, Minor. Art History's History. New York: Harry N. Abrams (1994).

Irwin, David. Neoclassicism I & a. New York: Phaidon Press (1997).

Lee, Simon. David I & a. New York: Phaidon Press (1999).

Rosenblum, Robert. 19th Century Art. USA: Penguin Group (2004).

Ten Doesschate Chu, Petra. Nineteenth Century Art Trade. New York: Prentice Hall (2003).

Vaughn, Will. Jacques-Louis David's Marat. New York: Cambridge University Press (1997).

19th Century Art

De La Croix, Horst. Art Through the Ages, 864. This was the era in which the modern nation-state and accompanying ideas of nationalism were born. European governments extended their rule to every part of the globe, spreading the influence of European culture into colonies in Africa, the Americas, India, Asia, and Australia, and clearing the way for influences from those areas to flow back to Europe. The formation of empires abroad was supported by the enthusiasm of popular nationalism at home, and patriotism and imperialism went hand in hand.

De La Croix, 864. This era produced a wide variety of philosophies rationalizing change and the reactions to change. For the arts, this meant continuing debate over the relative values of the "traditional" and the "modern" - debate restimulated as each new style… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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