Early 20th Century Expressionism

Henri Matisse, Notre-Dame in the Late Afternoon, 1902 and View of Notre Dame, 1914 (photos wikipedia.org)

In the early 20th century, artists began to take the explorations of the Symbolists about the expressive nature of color further, looking at how the colors and shapes used in a painting could affect the mood of the work. This was not a new idea in art, the emotional qualities of color had long been known. What was new was the idea of using bright, vivid colors, ones not necessarily found in nature, along with exaggerated shapes, to create abstracted works that were entirely about mood. Perhaps the artist who best embodied the study of color in painting best was Henri Matisse, who remained a dedicated colorist throughout his long career.

Looking at the 2 images of Notre Dame de Paris by Matisse above, the influence of the Impressionists is clear in the one on the left, with the softened, hazy palette, and Matisse has created a somber mood that invokes the shadowed light of the late afternoon, invoking Monet’s studies of Rouen Cathedral. On the right, Matisse is invoking a similar mood through color, but here the influence of Picasso and the Cubists is more evident, with the shapes of the scene broken down into strict geometrics. These two works also help to track the evolution of Matisse’s style before and after Fauvism. Artists associated with this movement explored the expressive qualities of color, often combining the bright, vivid colors of Fauvism with the dots of color of Divisionism or the Symbolist explorations of mood. Often, as in the 2 works by Matisse below, there are erotic overtones to the image, which, along with the bright, sometimes jarring colors, caused the famous outburst by the critic Louis Vauxcelles‘s that the bronze by Donatello at the center of the first Fauve exhibition was “like Donatello amongst wild beasts.”

Henri Matisse, The Joy of Life, 1905–6 and Luxe, Calme et Volupté, 1904-05 (photos wikipedia.org)

After Fauvism, Matisse’s style continued to be characterized by explorations of the possibilities of color, but his style shifted to a more linear one, with more flat, unmodulated areas of color in the works,  as can be seen in Harmony in Red and The Red Studio below. Both of these play with both the viewer’s perception of depth and with the contrasts of colors placed next to each other. Matisse also includes images of his own (and other artists’) work in the image of his studio, allowing for a progression of form. In works like The Dance I, Matisse is exploring the contrasts of warm and cool colors as a means to give motion to the forms of the dancers in the piece.

Henri Matisse, Harmony in Red, 1908–9 and The Red Studio, 1911 (photos by The Hermitage Museum (www.herimtagemuseum.org) and khanacademy.org)


Henri Matisse, The Dance I, 1909 (photo by totallyhistory.com)

Matisse also painted images of his family in their Paris apartment, such as 1916’s Piano Lesson, an image of his son at the piano, which include representations of his own paintings. This work can be read as a metaphor for Matisse’s relationship with the art of art making, through the inclusion of his sculpture in the lower left corner and his painting of a seated woman above his son’s head. This piece also continues Matisse’s meditations on color and shape as expressive elements of art.the-piano-lesson-1916

Henri Matisse, The Piano Lesson, 1916 (photo by wikiart.org)

Matisse was also heavily influenced by non-Western art, primarily that from French colonies in Africa and Oceania that were housed in the Musée Trocadéro (now the Musée de Quai Branly). It is his sculpture from the early 20th century that shows this influence, as Matisse used the influence of non-Western forms, divorced from their cultural context, to explore the possibilities of breaking shapes down into their most essential forms. Works like the Jeannette series from 1916 demonstrate this interest.Here, beginning with the first, Matisse slowly shifts the naturalism of Jeannette I until the face of the figure is fully abstracted into geometric shapes in Jeannette V.


Henri Matisse, Jeannette I-V, 1916 (photo by collections.lacma.org, 2015 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Matisse used the nude form as a means of exploring the possibilities of color and form throughout his life as well, as this comparison of 2 works, both titled Blue Nude, from early and late in his career show. In the earlier work, from 1908, the blue used as shadows on the form of the model seem to make her recede into the background, especially with the more brightly colored paints painted behind her. The later work, from 1952, comes from his Découpage, or “cutout” works, and so is an image created by pasting pieces of colored paper onto a flat surface. Here, the form is an outline in a solid, flat color against a solid background. The shapes become the more important elements in the later work, but the theme remains a constant.

Henri Matisse, The Blue Nude, 1908 and 1952 (photos henrimatisse.org and wikipedia.org)


Constantin Brancusi was not necessarily allied with any movement, but attempted to create the essential form in his works. He was interested in finding the essential form and structure of each element of his sculpture, and strove express this essential element through the materials. Works like Mademoiselle Pogany, Version I and Bird in Space strive to find that which is essential in the portrait of a young woman or the depiction of a bird flying in the air through both form and materials. He also created a series of public works in a space dedicated to peace and meant to memorialize the dead in his native Târgu Jiu, Romania. The Gate of the Kiss reuses his earlier sculpture in even more abstracted form to highlight the need to come together after the war. The Endless Column is meant to have no end, to reach the sky, which was, for Brancusi, an abstract message of peace in a Europe which was on the brink of another war.

Constantin Brancusi,  Mademoiselle Pogany, Version 1, 1913 and Bird in Space, 1928 (photos http://www.moma.org/collection_images/resized/670/w500h420/CRI_221670.jpg and http://www.moma.org/explore/inside_out/inside_out/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/1-Bird-in-Space.jpg)

Constantin Brancusi, The Kiss, 1912 and The Gate of the Kiss, 1938 (photos wikiart.org)


Constantin Brancusi, The Endless Column, 1937 (photo wikipedia.org)

German Expressionists of the early 20th century were also interested in expressive color, but they differed from Fauvism because they were less concerned with formal and structured composition, and more concerned with emotional and spiritual properties of color and form. There were 2 main groups of German Expressionists, as well as others who fit the style but did not ally with any group. The first group, The Bridge (Die Brücke), was formed in Dresden by architecture students, and was active from 1905–1913. The group’s intent was to create a link between modernity and the past, an idea derived from Nietzsche, and they were heavily influenced by German Renaissance printmaking, especially woodcuts by artists like Albrecht Dürer. The woodcut from the title page of the Brücke portfolio of 1909 by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Head of Schmidt-Rottluff, shows this influence, but with the modern twist of showing the grain of the block of wood to harness its expressive capabilities.die_brucke_mappe_forside

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Head of Schmidt-Rottluff, Title page for Brücke portfolio, 1909 (photo https://sparebankstiftelsen.no/sites/sbs/files/die_brucke_mappe_forside.jpg)

Kirchner also did a series of street scenes that show the increasing tensions in Germany in the years leading to World War I. These scenes also capture Kircher’s ambivalence at the impersonal, sometimes threatening nature of modernization. Both The Street, Dresden from 1907 and Potsdamer Platz from 1914 also prominently feature prostitutes, and the second, painted after both the break-up of Die Brücke and his move to Berlin, is characterized by shape lines and forms, which can also be read as a statement about the threatening nature of the buildup and entry into the war, which was also the first fully mechanized war in history.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, The Street, Dresden, 1907 and Potsdamer Platz, 1914 (photos By Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – repro from art book, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7127907 and By Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – Neue Nationalgalerie, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5614251)

Another artist that was briefly associated with Die Brücke was Emile Nolde, whose early works depicted religious themes infused with a visionary mood. These works often combined thick application of paint with abstracted forms or obvious wood grain in the woodblocks with highly emotional depictions of the subject matter.

Emil Nolde, St. Mary of Egypt Among the Sinners, 1912 and Emil Nolde, Prophet, 1912 (photos by https://smorrison78704.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/st-mary-of-egypt-sinners-1910.jpg and https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/archive/2/23/20081128034227!’The_Prophet’,_woodcut_by_Emil_Nolde,_1912.jpg)

The other major German Expressionist group was The Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter), established 1911 in Munich. They were more drawn to nonfigurative abstraction than The Bridge. The name of the group was drawn from one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, showing the effects of the increasing tensions in Europe. Wassily Kandinsky‘s lithographic cover for the book the group put out in 1914 is one of his last figurative works, as he moved to complete abstraction soon after, using color and abstraction to explore spirituality. His book, On the Spiritual in Art, was published in December 1911, and in it, Kandinsky discussed the artist as a prophet, and showed his obsession with Christian mysticism, the Apocalypse and Eastern spirituality. He also completely eliminated recognizable objects from his works, such as Composition VII from 1909-1910.

Wassily Kandinsky, Der Blaue Reiter, original cover for the book, 1912 and Composition VII, 1909-10 (photos wikimedia.org and wikiart.org)

Franz Marc, the other founder of Der Blaue Reiter, used animal figures in combining geometry with rich color. He was also interested in mysticism, and painted animals because he saw them as more aware of the spiritual force of nature. His works are also characterized by the influence of Cubism on his forms, and his use of primary colors to express emotions: blue was used to portray masculinity and spirituality, yellow represented the feminine and joy, and red violence. This can be seen in works like Large Blue Horses and Small Yellow Horses, while works like Fighting Forms and Fate of the Animals can be read as heralds of war. Marc was killed in the trenches of World War I in 1916.

Franz Marc, Large Blue Horses, 1911 and Franz Marc, Small Yellow Horses, 1912 (photos By Franz Marc – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=154604 and By Franz Marc – repro from art book, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7139644)

Franz Marc, Fighting Forms, 1914 and Fate of the Animals, 1913 (photos By Franz Marc – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=154611 and By Franz Marc – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=478021)

Käthe Kollwitz was the wife of a country doctor, and so was constantly in contact with Germany’s poor. She was not a formal member of any group, and her imagery brings viewer in contact with the emotional and material struggles of the working classes. The emotional confrontation in her work is characteristic of Expressionism, and many of her prints were used as protest pieces during and after World War I. She is famous for her series that references the German Peasants’ War of Southern Germany, which began in 1525. Although this series references events from the past, Kollwitz is using them to point out the continuing social injustices against members of the lower classes, especially women. Kollwitz also lost a son in World War I and a grandson in World War II, making her works about personal suffering more immediate and personal.

Käthe Kollwitz, Losbrüch (Outbreak), 1903 and Whetting the Scythe, 1904 (photos http://www.bauernkriege.de/kolwitzbauer22.JPG and wikiart.org)

The Expressionists of the early 20th century were heavily influenced by world events in the same period. Their work expressed the sense of hopelessness and loss that grew up in Europe in the years of World War I.



Post-Impressionism is a blanket term for a number of movements and artists in the 1880s and 1890s that, although they were influenced by the Impressionists, explored modernity, color, light, and the idea of what art was in very different ways. These artists did not form one cohesive movement, instead working from a number of theoretical, artistic, and social viewpoints. Many of the Post-Impressionist artists were drawn to bright color and distinctive brushstrokes, but their forms did not dissolve, and their edges were relatively clear.

There are some big names in the conglomerate of Post-Impressionist artists that did not necessarily ally with any particular movement. One of these was Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, whose characteristic imagery was based on Parisian nightlife, and can be identified through his dynamic motion created with loose, sketchy brushwork. Lautrec was influenced by both the Impressionists and Japanese woodblock prints, using these influences, and his own technique of peinture à l’essence (oil paints thinned with turpentine), to create images of the Parisian café-concerts (night clubs where dancers and singers performed), prostitutes, and brothels. He also was a sought after poster artist, who turned the lithographic advertising posters of the period into high art, using as his subjects the more famous of the café-concert performers, such as Jane Avril, La Goulue, and Yvette Guilbert. Comparing two of Lautrec’s images of the interior of the Moulin Rouge, At the Moulin Rouge (1890) and At the Moulin Rouge (1892-1895), some of these characters, friends of the artist, reappear in his sketchy, dynamic style. La Goulue is in both, with her characteristic red, upswept hairstyle, dancing the cancan or speaking with others at the club. Jane Avril is in the front of the later work, her heavily made-up face lit green by the gas lamps. In the second, Lautrec appears as well, walking at the back with his cousin, his self-deprecating caricature of himself. Both show the garish interior of the club as a space to dance, drink with friends, and enjoy a not at all high-society nightlife.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge, 1890 and At the Moulin Rouge, 1892-1895 (photos By Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=159594 and By Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=159597)

Lautrec’s lithographs and posters used flat, unmodeled areas of color, with words integrated with the composition, and were very much based on the woodblock prints of the Ukiyo-e style. These typically showed the dancers and singers in a way that left them very identifiable, such as La Goulue at the Moulin Rouge and Le Divan Japonais. Even without her name in the title, La Goulue would be identifiable by her hairstyle and frenetic dance moves, and Jane Avril can be identified in Le Divan Japonais by her hat. The body and gloves of the singer identify Yvette Guilbert, even with her head cut from the composition. The words on both posters are seamlessly integrated into the composition of each, something that would influence artists through Pop Art in the mid-20th century.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, La Goulue at the Moulin Rouge, 1891 and  Le Divan Japonais, 1892 (photos By Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/toulouse-lautrec/i/goulue-litho.jpg (more at http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/toulouse-lautrec/), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17449 and By Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=159609)

Paul Cézanne was a Post-Impressionist who would have the most powerful impact on Western painting, transforming paint into visible structure, and credited with beginning Cubism because of his statement that all art can be distilled into the cube, the sphere, and the cylinder. His early work was often dark, showing his interest in the Romantic and the Classical, but also his conflicted views on his family, women, and himself. This can be seen in both the portrait of his father reading the paper from 1866, where his father is ill-defined, and the paint is applied thickly to the canvas with a palette knife, and in The Temptation of St. Anthony, where threatening and slightly grotesque feminine forms fill the foreground of the otherwise dark work. His self-portrait of about 1872 shows him as a shadowy figure against a dark background with a beard that seems to cover his mouth.

Paul Cézanne, The Artist’s Father, 1866 and Temptation of St. Anthony, c. 1870 (photos By Paul Cézanne – 1. The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.2. nga.gov, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=149100 and By Paul Cézanne – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=149187)


Paul Cézanne, Self-Portrait, c. 1872 (photo By Paul Cézanne – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=149119)

His palette lightened under the influence of Camille Pissarro, and his subjects begin to shift after he returns to Aix from Paris. Here, he becomes interested in still-lifes, using wax food because he took so long to paint. Cézanne painted from a number of angles as well, moving around the table to get different views of his still life, and putting them all together on one canvas, working with a similar idea to Manet: showing the two-dimensionality of the surface rather than creating a three-dimensional illusion.Paul_Cézanne_185

Paul Cézanne, Still Life with Apples and Fruit, 1890-1894 (photo By Paul Cézanne – Art Institute of Chicago, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=149155)

Cézanne focused on two other themes in Aix: one was bathers, a theme that obsessed him his entire career, and the other was Mont Sainte-Victoire, a mountain with which he personally identified. It is in these series from the 1890s and early 1900s, that you can see his turn to the cube, sphere, and cylinder most strongly. His forms begin to shift into basic shapes, which will be very influential on Cubists like Georges Braque, who painted in L’Estaque in Provence in imitation of the master in 1908.

Paul Cézanne, Great Bathers, 1898-1905 and Mont Sainte-Victoire, c. 1900 (photos By Paul Cézanne – http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/2006/cezanne/motif11.shtm3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=149011 and By Paul Cézanne – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=149179)

Georges Seurat has been called a Neo-Impressionist and Pointillist; he himself called his technique “divisionism,” building up color through dots, or points, of pure color. Seurat was very interested in the optical theories which first came to the fore with the Impressionists, and took a scientific approach to painting. He exhibited with the Impressionists at first as well, much like Cézanne, but went beyond their interests in optical theory, leisure time, and modernity. Seurat was also known for his multiple studies for each work. In these studies, such as L’echo, a study for Bathers at Asnières, you can see Seurat working the concept of putting the dots together on the canvas. It is in more mature works like Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, shown at the last Impressionist exhibition of 1886, that Seurat’s experiments really come together. Here, the small dots of color mix only through the viewer’s eyes, and Seurat has completed a tour-de-force work that is also a meditation on the leisure time of Parisian society, a society where the class divisions are less obvious with ready-to-wear clothing. There may also be a commentary on Social Darwinism, if the theory that the woman in the foreground is a courtesan is correct. Then, the fact that the shape of her pet monkey mimics the shape of her bustle relates to the Social Darwinist conception of evolution of society, with those that are non-white and those that are sex workers considered to be the least evolved.

Georges Seurat, Bathers at Asnières, 1883-1884 and L’echo, study for Bathers, 1883-1884 (photos by By Georges Seurat – National Gallery (NG3908), London, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10469511 and By Georges Seurat – ecatalogue.art.yale.edu : Home : Info : Pic, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4207511)

Georges_Seurat_-_Un_dimanche_après-midi_à_l'Île_de_la_Grande_JatteGeorges Seurat, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884-1886 (photo By Georges Seurat – The Art Institute of Chicago, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52940)

Perhaps the most interesting, and the most talked about, of the Post Impressionist artists was Vincent van Gogh, the Dutch, largely self-taught artist, who was perhaps the most prolific of the artists of the period as well. Van Gogh was influenced by Dutch Baroque art as well as Japanese woodblock prints, and the works of German Renaissance artists. Some of his early paintings, done while he was still in the Netherlands, show the influences of previous Northern artists, with their use of dark colors, genre scenes as subjects, and distinctly Northern European points of view. But, these were done with van Gogh’s characteristic impasto technique of painting and evident brushstrokes, as can be seen in The Potato Eaters, an image of a Dutch peasant family eating their simple meal of potatoes and coffee. Van Gogh’s range of color expanded after viewing the newly popular Impressionist works, and meeting other artists like Paul Gauguin and Émile Bernard. Here, he also indulges in his love of Japanese prints, finding in them a sort of utopia, where there was only beautiful landscapes and beautiful women. He used these prints as sources for some of his paintings of the brief period when he lived in Paris, and also as catalysts for his move to Arles in Southern France, where he wanted to form an artists’ colony (he only convinced Gauguin to join him).Vincent_Van_Gogh_-_The_Potato_Eaters

Vincent van Gogh, The Potato Eaters, 1885 (photo By Vincent van Gogh – [??? – see original upload data]. However, thisone seems to be ‘borrowed’ from some file or print of the original., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=959986)

Vincent van Gogh, Pére Tanguy, 1888 and Vincent van Gogh, Japonaiserie: Bridge in the Rain (after Hiroshige), 1887 (PhotosBy Vincent van Gogh – Musée Rodin, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=119599 and By Vincent van Gogh – repro from art book, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9436649)

His artists’ colony failed, due to a fight with Gauguin, caused in no small part by their vastly different personalities and van Gogh’s increasing mental health issues. There are differing accounts of what happened, and the truth is murky, but Gauguin and van Gogh had a fight, which led to van Gogh’s ear being cut off, either by himself or Gauguin, and van Gogh giving the ear to a prostitute. A word here, though, about van Gogh’s mental health issues: it is thought that he had untreated frontal lobe epilepsy, compounded by alcoholism, syphilis, and lead poisoning (he had a habit of putting his paint brushes in his mouth when thinking, and paints of the period contained large amounts of lead). These led to moments of extreme rage, and psychotic breaks with reality, as well as daily struggles with his inner self, something he captured in a number of self-portraits, such as Self-Portrait in Front of Easel and Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, one that is especially poignant because of the woodblock print in the background. It is also around this time that van Gogh’s paint seems to vibrate on his canvas, perhaps because of the untreated epilepsy, and much of his subject matter seems to veer toward death. BUT, there is a new, and very plausible theory that van Gogh did not kill himself, but was instead murdered. Given the fact that he was the son of a Calvinist preacher; had written against suicide in his letters; and was shot in the abdomen from the left (he was right handed), this is believable. At any rate, works like Wheat Field with Reaper, where the person working in the field is using a scythe like that of Death, and Starry Night, with the cypress trees that are associated with death and cemeteries, show the shift in van Gogh’s thinking and palette after the failure of his utopia. It is possible that he thought he was dying, as he certainly was, slowly, from syphilis.

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait in Front of Easel, 1888 and Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889 (photos By Vincent van Gogh – VG Gallery, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7211306 and By Vincent van Gogh – Web Museum (file), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9856)

Vincent van Gogh, Wheat Field with Reaper, 1889 and The Starry Night, 1889 (photos By Vincent van Gogh – repro from artbook, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9495417 and By Vincent van Gogh – Transferred from the English Wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4603625)

The Symbolist Movement began as a literary movement focusing on psychological phenomena, and Symbolist artists rejected the social consciousness of Realism and the Impressionist interest in nature; they were attracted to the imagination and to the irrational. One of the most famous of these artists is Paul Gauguin, who used bright colors as flat shapes, outlined in black, on surfaces that are soft and smooth. Gauguin, who, like van Gogh, was largely self-taught, but he was more interested in finding what he considered to be a “primitive” culture that would be closer to nature. He started first in Brittany, working with other artists, like Émile Bernard, in Pont Aven. Here, he painted a number of images of the local Breton community in traditional clothing. He always painted them as if devoutly religious, connecting them and their spirituality to the land. Gauguin also used colors to express emotions and psychological responses, as opposed to using them as a means to record the people and places as they actually were.

Paul Gauguin, The Yellow Christ, 1889 and Vision After the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel), 1888 (photos By Paul Gauguin – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=151276 and By Paul Gauguin – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=151420)

Gauguin eventually left France for Tahiti, then a French colony, looking for this pure, “primitive” experience, but found a colonized culture. He painted a series of works there in which he tried to express the pre-colonial realities of Tahiti, much as he had tried to express a pre-industrial reality in Brittany. Some of his works, like Manao tupapau (Spirit of the Dead Watching) and Nevermore, take on the Western images of Venus that date back to the Renaissance. Here the Venus figures are obviously non-Western, and do not seem as coy or sexually available as previous figures. Gauguin paints in the fabrics favored by the Tahitian people, and, at least in Manao tupapau, includes some of the Native beliefs, such as in spirits of the dead coming to the living.

Paul Gauguin, Manao tupapau (Spirit of the Dead Watching), 1892 and Nevermore, 1897 (photos By Paul Gauguin – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=151275 and By Paul Gauguin – Courtauld Institute, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=151369)

Other Symbolists focused on mythical or Biblical scenes that were often macabre or threatening in some fashion. Gustave Moreau, who taught many of the younger artists, used a number of jewel-like tones in his works and intricate details to create erotic scenes. Odilon Redon instead focused on strange shapes and abstract imagery to create dreamlike images that are often hard to understand.

Gustave Moreau, The Apparition, 1874 and Gustave Moreau, Galatea, 1880-81 (photos By Gustave Moreau – The Bridgeman Art Library, Object 125056, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26107285 and By Gustave Moreau – Rama, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41408679)


Odilon Redon, The Cyclops, 1898 (photo By Odilon Redon – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25122834)

Edvard Munch combined Symbolism with Expressionism, creating images that detailed human suffering. Munch was raised by a devout Christian father who was also a doctor, and watched his mother and sister die of tuberculosis, a disease he also suffered from as a child. This, and a disastrous love affair, informed his art for the rest of his life.  Many of his images combined both death and life in the same image, especially when young women were the subject. He also created a number of works that were part of his Frieze of Life, which combined works that had Love, Angst, and Death as subjects. His most famous work, The Scream, represented Angst, and related to a psychological incident in which Munch, while crossing a bridge in Oslo, heard what he called a psychic scream of the universe. The Voice relates to love, and depicts a woman near Munch’s home on a fjord, but the woman appears to have no mouth, relating his conflicted feelings about love. He also painted his own Death of Marat, which took David’s painting of that theme as its inspiration. Here, though, Munch is Marat, dead on the bed, and his lover is Charlotte Corday, highlighting his complex feelings about the relationship.Edvard_Munch_-_Death_and_Life_-_Google_Art_Project

Edvard Munch, Death and the Maiden, 1893 (photo By Edvard Munch – Google Art Project: pic, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37627889)

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893 and Edvard Munch, The Voice (Summer Night), 1896 (photos By Edvard Munch – WebMuseum at ibiblioPage: http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/munch/Image URL: http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/munch/munch.scream.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37610298 and By Edvard Munch – Google Art Project: pic, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37665651)


Edvard Munch, Death of Marat, 1905-1908 (photo by By Edvard Munch – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.; original source was http://www.edvard-munch.com/gallery/death/deathOfMaratI.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37781020)

Pablo Picasso also began as a Symbolist with his Blue Period and Rose Period. The Blue Period lasted from 1901 to 1904, and his subjects were the poor and unfortunate. He depicted melancholy and pessimism with a predominance of blue as a mood-creating element. Many of these works were heavily influenced by his depression, and the suicide of his friend, Carlos Casagemas, who was the subject of La Vie pictured below. Picasso’s Rose period led to further exploration of color and themes of circus performers and common people. The change in color reflects Picasso’s happier mood. This period ran from approximately 1904-1906. Some of the works, like Family of Saltimbanques, also dealt with the death of Picasso’s sister when they were young, as she is shown to the left, holding a basket of flowers and the hand of a young clown, Picasso himself.

Pablo Picasso, The Old Guitarist, 1903 and La Vie, 1903 (photos by the Art Institute and wikiart)


Pablo Picasso, Family of Saltimbanques, 1905 (photo by wikipedia)

There were other strains in the fin-de-siècle culture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of these was Aestheticism in which the sole justification of art is its intrinsic beauty. This was based in the idea of “Art for Art’s Sake” of Whistler. One of the major proponents of this was Aubrey Beardsley, who illustrated Oscar Wilde’s play, Salomé, a work was denounced for its decadence. These works show the late-19th century decadence of the British dandies like Beardsley and Wilde, and are overtly erotic in their feeling and meaning.

Aubrey Beardsley, The Peacock Skirt, 1893 and Salomé with the Head of John the Baptist, 1893 (photos By Aubrey Beardsley – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13703 and By Aubrey Beardsley – http://www.muian.com/muian03/03Beardsley.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6582819)

Another of these fin-de-siècle movements was Art Nouveau, which characterized by sinuous, asymmetrical, linear patterns that primarily influenced architecture and the decorative arts. It went by different names in different parts of Europe and the US, but the sensuous curving lines and floral or plant-like forms were constants, with an emphasis on these being made by new, industrially produced materials. Spaces like Victor Horta’s staircase for the Maison Tassel in Brussels and Hector Guimard’s Métro stations in Paris exemplify this. In Spain, Art Nouveau was Modernismo, characterized by Antonio Gaudí, who used the cliffs of his native Catalan as the inspiration for buildings like Casa Milà in Barcelona. Perhaps his most famous work, was Sagrada Familia, the cathedral in Barcelona that is unfinished, although should be finished in the 2020s. The building combines Gothic tendencies with natural forms that represent Catalonia and divine creation.

Victor Horta, staircase of the Maison Tassel, Brussels, 1892 and Hector Guimard, entrance to a Métro station, Paris, 1900 (photos  By Henry Townsend – Own work (own photo), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3846745 and By vxla from Chicago, US – Metra in ParisUploaded by Mackensen, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30926246)

Antonio Gaudí, Casa Milà, Barcelona, 1906-1910 (photos CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13269 and By Olavfin – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6415857)

Antonio Gaudí, Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, 1883-1926 (photos By Arnaud Gaillard (arnaud () amarys.com) – Own work, CC BY-SA 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48136 and By Bernard Gagnon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9029506 and By Poniol60 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12795729)

In Vienna, art had long been under control of the Academy and Salon. In 1897, a group of artists broke away and formed the Vienna Secession, which did not champion any one art style, but was meant to provide a forum for diverse styles which shared the rejection of Academic naturalism. One of the leaders of this break-away style was Gustav Klimt, who designed the poster for the first major exhibition of these artists. After this, Klimt became known for his highly decorative, heavily worked surfaces that often included gold leaf with the paint, such as in The Kiss and the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. In these later works, the forms dissolve into patterns and colors, trending toward abstraction. Death and Life deals with the escalating tensions of Europe in the years leading up to and at the beginning of World War I. Klimt_-_Erstes_Ausstellungsplakat_der_Wiener_Secession_(zensierte_Version)

Gustav Klimt, Secession, poster for the first exhibition, c. 1898 (photo By Gustav Klimt – repro from artbook, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10553991)

Gustav Klimt, The Kiss, 1908 and Gustav Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I,  1907 (photos By Gustav Klimt – http://www.belvedere.at/en/sammlungen/belvedere/jugendstil-und-wiener-secession/gustav-klimt, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=153435 and By Gustav Klimt – 1. The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.2. Neue Galerie New York, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=153485)

Gustav Klimt, Death and Life, 1910-15 (photo By Gustav Klimt – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=153480)

Henri Rousseau was often called Le Douanier, as he was a Customs Official. He was called a naïve painter due to a lack of formal training, and painted in his spare time. Rousseau was initially mocked by critics, but later was much admired for his dream-like works that seem now like precursors to Surrealism. Works like The Snake Charmer and The Dream reflect his interest in the non-Western, as well as Freud. The Dream, painted in 1910, merges visionary world of dream with a detailed depiction of reality. This work draws on Freud’s writings on the Mechanisms of Dreaming:

  • Representability—idea/feeling can be changed into a picture
  • Condensation—merges elements into a new form
  • Displacement—moves an element from its usual setting to another place
  • Symbolization—process of making symbols

Henri Rousseau, The Snake Charmer, 1907 and The Dream, 1910 (photos By Henri Rousseau – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=158478 and By Henri Rousseau – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=158472)

The period encompassed by the general Art Historical term “Post Impressionism” is characterized by an increasing number of differences within the art world. Many artists felt free to pursue their own artistic interests.



Place Charles de Gaulle in Paris (formerly: place de l’Étoile) and Gustave Caillebotte, A Paris Street, Rain, 1877 (photos By Gérard Janot – Photographed from the air on 26 September 2004, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1019750 and By Gustave Caillebotte – The first two versions of Ibiblio. The sources of the third and fourth release have not been specified by the uploaders., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52968)

During the Second Empire, Napoleon III began a process of urban renewal under Baron Georges-Eugène von Haussmann, known as Haussmannization, which was meant to both increase civic pride and suppress revolutionary activity. This process also expelled lower classes from the city center. This process expanded the sewer system; put gas lighting in throughout the city center; widened streets, and made them more symmetrical and centered around traffic circles; gave a uniform façade to buildings; and organized the city into districts (arrondissements). The effects, which can be seen by looking at the aerial photograph of the Place Charles de Gaulle, made the city seem more uniform and organized, and did away with the narrow, twisting streets of Medieval Paris. Although this was partially done to deal with the rapid growth of the city because of industrialization, it was also meant to discourage revolutionary activities, where the narrow streets could be easily blocked with broken furniture and pried-up cobblestones. A look at Caillebotte’s painting of the effects of Haussmannization also shows the new, middle class Paris, filled with fashionable people and flâneurs, with lower income people in the background, coming into the city to work. In the 1860s, the government decided to hired photographers to capture the look of the medieval city before it was torn down in the wake of modernization. This modernization would have a tremendous effect on the Impressionists of the 1870s, who were, as demonstrated above by Caillebotte, very interested in painting the flâneur, as well as all things modern in this new Paris. There were a number of Impressionist views of the streets of this new, Haussmannized Paris, including by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Camille Pissarro.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Pont-Neuf, 1872 and Camille Pissarro, Avenue de l’Opéra, Sun, Winter Afternoon, 1898 (photos by Pierre-Auguste Renoir [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons and By Camille Pissarro – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=156433)


Charles Marville, Rue Glatigny, Paris, 1865 (photo by Charles Marville [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

The style used for the rebuilding of this new Paris was the Beaux-Arts style, which looked back to the ornate structures of the Italian Baroque. The best example of this is the Paris Opéra, built by Jean-Louis-Charles Garnier from 1862-1875. This was meant to be the show piece of Second Empire Paris, although it was completed after the fall of Napoleon III. The structure resembles the rectinlinear façade of the east wing of the Louvre, built under Louis XIV, but is capped with a copper dome and gilt statues. Once inside, the structure reflects the opulence of Paris in this period. This was THE place in Paris at the end of the 19th century to see and be seen, and the foyer and staircase of the structure reflect the notion that the audience was as much on display as the performers. This was one of the most influential buildings on the Impressionists as well, as Edgar Degas painted his ballerinas in both the front and back of the house, and both Mary Cassatt and Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted the wealthy bourgeoisie in the opera boxes. Degas’s interest in photography led to interesting cropping of his images of the ballerinas, and he was generally more interested in painting them rehearsing, catching more of a moment in time. Cassatt and Renoir, while both painting the audience, created very different images, although both are very much about the gaze, specifically the male gaze. Renoir’s subject of La Loge is front and center, very much on display in her ornate dress, while Cassatt’s subject of Woman in Black at the Opera, possibly a self-portrait, is doing the gazing, while ignoring the man in the background looking at her. These both tell us something about the status of women in late-19th century French society, but also about women’s efforts to reject this status.facade_opera_garnier

Jean-Louis-Charles Garnier, Opéra, Paris, 1862-1875 (photo By Jastrow (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Charles Garnier, Opéra, Paris, Grand Staircase and Grand Foyer (photos By scarletgreen from Japan – operagarnier11f, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3917771 and By Photograph: Eric Pouhier, Modifier: Rainer Zenz, Niabot (last modification) – Image:Paris, Palais Garnier’s grand salon 3.jpg (Niabot), Image:Paris, Palais Garnier’s grand salon 1.jpg (Rainer Zenz), GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3543987)

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, The Rehearsal Onstage, c. 1874  and Dancing Lesson, 1883-1885 (photo By Edgar Degas – Metropolitan Museum of Art, online collection, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=150045)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, La Loge, 1874 and Mary Cassatt, Woman in Black at the Opera, 1880 (Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net). [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons and By Mary Cassatt – [3], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2151923)

Impressionism had a couple of other influences besides modernity. One was the interest in new scientific studies of the eye and the way we see color pioneered by Ogden Rood and Michel-Eugène Chevreul. These 2 scientists developed the theories of optical mixing, contrast, and the way the eye sees complimentary colors, neutral colors, and high contrast colors. This led to the Impressionists foregoing the mixing of paint on a palette, and opting to place small bits of color next to each other on a canvas, allowing the human eye to mix the colors together. The Impressionists also preferred genre subjects, and were more influenced by Japanese prints and developments in photography than political events. The Japanese aesthetic, called japonisme, became popular following Paris Expo, where woodblock prints were shown, igniting the craze for all things Japanese. The Japanese had developed a technique for making color woodblock prints in the 18th century. A unique woodblock needed for each color in multi-color prints. The Ukiyo-e school identified with the Golden Age of Japanese woodblock prints, with theater, dance, and various female “services” were popular subjects. From these wood block prints, the Impressionists also developed their interest in doing series, something Claude Monet would take to the extreme. The influence of the flattening of forms and colors in Japanese woodblock prints can be seen in many of the works of Mary Cassatt, who was very interested in the new possibilities of Japanese art. In The Child’s Bath, Cassatt flattens the space, and tilts the room up at a strange angle, while allowing the patterning of the rug, dress, and dresser to flatten the space further. Her colored etching and aquatint La Lettre uses a great deal of flat blue and patterns to remove the depth from the scene.

Katsushika Hokusai, Great Wave of Kanagawa, from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, 1831 and Utagawa Hiroshige, Night View of the Saruwaka-machi, from the series 100 View of Edo, 1856 (photos by Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons and Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川広重) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Mary Cassatt, The Child’s Bath, 1893 and The Letter, 1891 (photos By Mary Cassatt – Art Institute of Chicago, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14695056 and Mary Cassatt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Claude Monet embodied the technical principles of Impressionism. He was a landscape painter who studied light and color, and was very interested in the way time of day and weather impacted the way the eye saw that color. This tendency is already apparent in his earlier work, which has less of the sketchy, Rubenesque brushwork of his Impressionist pieces. Both Garden at Sainte-Adresse and Women in the Garden use his family as models in various gardens, but both of these works really have the effects of different types of light as their subject matter. For Sainte-Adresse, it is about the way the sunlight reflects off both the plants in the garden and the water of the North Sea. Women in the Garden, where his wife is seen 4 times, in four different dresses, is very much about how light filtering through trees can affect the way we see neutral colors. It is said that Monet dug a trench in his garden to paint that scene, raising and lowering his canvas to be sure he was not shifting it in order to capture the light correctly.

Claude Monet, Garden at Sainte-Adresse, c. 1866-67 and Claude Monet, Women in the Garden, 1861 (photos By Claude Monet – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=155852 and By Claude Monet – repro from art book, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7175711)

In 1874, a small group of artists, the Societè anonyme des artistes, peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, mounted an exhibition of 165 works at Nadar’s studio on the boulevard des Capucines. This exhibition was really an extension of what Courbet had done with his Pavilion of Realism in 1855, and the Salon des Refusées in 1863, which, although state-sponsored, showed works by artists outside of the academic milieu. Critics widely panned the exhibition, as they considered the works to be unfinished and sloppy, and Monet’s Impression: Sunrise ended up giving the name to an entire avant-garde movement. The work, which depicts the harbor at Le Havre in Normandy at sunrise, uses the quick, soft brushstrokes and unblended color Monet would become known for to show the factories and boats in the early morning. It is the color, and the hazy, smoggy light, that give the view the sense of a coal-smoke filled sunset over the water.Claude_Monet,_Impression,_soleil_levant

Claude Monet, Impression: Sunrise, 1873 (photo By Claude Monet – wartburg.edu, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5504881)

Monet would continue his studies of light and color, but by the 1890s, he had begun to create series of works that focuses on how light and weather affect the way a particular structure, garden, or haystack over a period of time. Monet rented rooms across from the cathedral in Rouen on 2 occasions so that he could study the effects of light and weather on the façade. What makes this particularly interesting is the fact that the Gothic cathedral was originally built as a meditation on divine light, but Monet, in his series of about 30 works, created a meditation on science and optical theories. The series were something he would return to many times, especially after building his home and studio at Giverny, outside of Paris. Here, he built an extensive garden, complete with a pond and Japanese bridge, and reworked images of the garden many times for the rest of his life. One of his most famous series is that of the water lilies, which he returned to even as he began to lose his sight in the early 20th century from cataracts.

Claude Monet, Rouen Cathedral, West Façade, Sunlight, 1894 and Rouen Cathedral, the Portal and Tower of Albane, the Morning, 1894 (photos By Claude Monet – Digital photo by User:Postdlf, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11873031 and By Claude Monet, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2327183)

Claude Monet, Bridge Over a Pool of Water Lilies, 1899 and Water Lilies, 1915 (photos By Claude Monet – http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/full.php?ID=3794, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6937782 and By Claude Monet – Neue Pinakothek, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3334951)

Other Impressionist artists expressed this new modernity, and the new concept of leisure time brought by factories, ready-to-wear clothing, and department stores, choosing to mainly paint the leisure activities of Paris. Renoir focused on this in many of his Impressionist works (he would renounce Impressionism in his later years), focusing on leisure and the flâneur. Works like Moulin de la Galette and Luncheon of the Boating Party still draw on the interest in light seen with Monet, but here the focus is less on optical theories and more on the fun activities of the Parisian scene. In both, the sunlight is filtered through either trees or the awning, and the scene is about fun, dancing, conversation, and drinking. These are the new Parisians, people who may (or may not) work at a factory or shop, but have leisure time to spend with friends.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Moulin de la Galette, 1876 and Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880-1881 (photos By Pierre-Auguste Renoir – http://allart.biz/photos/image/Pierre_Auguste_Renoir_2_Bal_du_moulin_de_la_Galette_Smaller_version.html (derivative work of musee-orsay.fr image?)Notwithstanding the source description, this is the version at the Musée d’Orsay (in the smaller version the central figure leaning forward lacks an earring)., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5712177 and By Pierre-Auguste Renoir – plain photo, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=640340)

The Impressionists counted some female members among their ranks, including Berthe Morisot, the sister-in-law of Édouard Manet, and the American ex-patriate Mary Cassatt. The female artists associated with the movement were expected to paint different subjects than the men, sticking to images of women and children more than explorations of modernity. The impact of the interests of the rest of the artists in the group can be seen in their work, though, as the discussion above of the impact of japonisme on Cassatt’s art shows. These were also women who were interested in carving a place for themselves in what was (and still is) a male-dominated field. They often used the close-up, which was inspired by photography, in composing their scenes, such as Morisot’s The Cradle, which shows a mother watching her child sleep. This work also shows the impact of her explorations of the effects of light on color as well, in the highlights on the gas-lit covering of the cradle, which contrast with the shadows on the curtains behind the mother. Cassatt’s The Boating Party uses a photograph-like cropping method to explore gaze again, much as she had in Woman in Black at the Opera. Here, a lower class man is rowing a middle class mother and child across a lake, and the gazes here hint at class tensions between the 2 adults.

Mary Cassatt, The Boating Party, 1893–94 and Berthe Morisot, The Cradle, 1873 (photos By Berthe Morisot – Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=132770 and By Mary Cassatt – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=148929)

Photographers were interested in motion, and many late-19th century photographs combine science with art. One of the photographers who experimented with this was Eadweard Muybridge, a Scottish-American photographer in San Francisco, whose experiments with motion capture led him to invent the zoopraxiscope, a device for speeding up the film, and making it appear that the images were moving. This was a precursor to the motion picture camera.


Eadweard Muybridge, The Galloping Horse, 1878 (photo by Eadweard Muybridge – Library of COngress Prints and Photographs Division; http://hdl/loc.gov/loc/pnp/chp.3a45870, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/inde.php?curid=88447)

This would prove to be incredibly influential on many of the Impressionist artists. Degas began to use photography as a tool in his studio, even though he did not consider it to be an art form in its own right. Many of Degas’s paintings and drawings have photographic characteristics, including cropping, that make them seem like snapshots. This can be seen in works like L’Absinthe and Visit to a Museum, which have the immediacy of a photograph. Visit to a Museum also features Degas’s friend Mary Cassatt, and is, like many of her works, a study about seeing and the gaze, but here it is a tribute to the manner in which one artist looks at art by others. L’Absinthe is about the other side of this modernity and leisure time as it shows 2 people obviously drunk in a cafe in the middle of the day.

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, L’Absinthe, 1876 and Visit to a Museum, c. 1885 (photos By Edgar Degas – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=150049 and Edgar Degas [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

There were also some other Americans living in Europe that were also on the fringes of the Impressionist movement. One was John Singer Sargent, who was sometimes not considered an Impressionist because he did not allow form to dissolve into light. This can be seen in works like The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit and Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau), where, although the brushstrokes are soft and the light diffused, the paintings still maintain a crispness to them. This is in contrast to James Abbott McNeill Whistler, who may have been the first artist to declare that he was creating art for art’s sake. He began naming his works after musical works of the period, comparing the act of painting with the act of composing. These were often meditations on color and shade, which caused Ruskin to compare them to paint thrown on a canvas. Whistler sued him, and won the case, although he was only awarded a farthing (less than a penny) and had to pay court costs. His works are really the first in Western art to move so far toward abstraction.

John Singer Sargent, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, 1882 and Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau), 1883-84 (photos By John Singer Sargent – http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/the-daughters-of-edward-darley-boit-31782, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=158665 and By John Singer Sargent – http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/20012492, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=170730)

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Nocturne in Black and Gold (The Falling Rocket), c. 1875 and Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Old Battersea Bridge, 1877 (photos By James Abbott McNeill Whistler – http://www.dia.org/the_collection/overview/viewobject.asp?objectid=64931, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=127417 and By Whistler, James McNeill – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=160246)

Although sculptures cannot be discussed as meditations on optical theories and color, there were many changes in sculptures in the late 19th century. Degas created a number, although only one, Little Dancer 14 years old, was the only one cast during his lifetime. Many were cast after his death after the models were found in his studio. Little Dancer shows the young girl stretching before dance class, and is really a mixed-media piece, as the silk ribbon, tulle tutu, and wooden base are all part of the work. Works like Fourth Position Front, on the Left Leg show Degas’s experimental techniques, and remain unsmoothed, with the rough surface caused by the artist’s fingers in the soft surface of the wax. This is very reminiscent of Impressionist brushwork, and Degas own experiments with pastels.

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, Fourth Position Front, on the Left Leg, c. 1880s and Little Dancer  14 Years Old, c. 1881 (photos  By Gunnar Bach Pedersen – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1363342)

Probably the most influential sculptor of this period was Auguste Rodin, whose influence on twentieth-century art parallels that of Impressionist painters. He was very influenced by Italian Renaissance in his concept of monumental human figure, and his works often recall those of Michelangelo. Rodin was also one of the first major sculptors to create works that focused on less than the whole of the human body. He would also often use parts of a larger work as finished pieces. His Gates of Hell, a commission for a never-built museum of decorative arts, took as its subject Dante’s Inferno. Here, figures swirl in and out of high relief as scenes morph into one another. The figure of The Thinker at the top then becomes Dante himself, thinking about his experiences in this Hell. The Thinker is also a completed, stand-alone piece that emphasizes the musculature of the form, but still contains the rough, unfinished look of Degas’s sculptures.

Auguste Rodin. The Gates of Hell, 1880-1900, cast after 1925 and The Thinker, 1881 (photos By Roland zh – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9034360 and By Daniel Stockman – Flickr: Paris 2010 Day 3 – 9, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17608895)


Auguste Rodin, The Hand of God, modeled c. 1896-1902, commissioned 1906 (photo By Yair Haklai (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

It was at the end of the 19th century, with the Impressionists, that the pace of change in art became really apparent. Now, art was avant garde, and it was the Academic style that was becoming passé. Artists were showing the influences of new science and technology in their works, as well as the impact of photography on art.


The culture and politics of the mid-19th century reflects its status as the age of revolution. Today’s human rights ideas born in the nineteenth century, since the Industrial Revolution created new class divisions and movements for citizens’ and workers’ rights. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote The Communist Manifesto, published in 1848, which was a discussion of the history of politics from a Socialist point of view. For Marx and Engels, there had been a logical progression through to the bourgeois leadership of the mid-19th century, and the next step would be the overthrow of the bourgeois by the proletariat, leading to all property being held in common and a barter system of exchange. This seemed to be borne out by the revolutions in Europe in 1848, all of which ended up failing. One lasting effect of The Communist Manifesto was the push for more humane working and living conditions for the lower classes.

One of the means of disseminating art and information quickly and cheaply in the 19th century was lithography, a method for mass reproduction of an original illustration, invented at the end of the 18th century. In many ways, this was the first industrial means of artistic production, as the stone could be reused multiple times, for different images. One of the Realist artists who used this to great political effect was Honoré Daumier, who make what would now be called political cartoons for left-wing newspapers in Paris, including Le Charivari. He produced works that were intensely critical of the government of Louis-Philippe, who was turning out to be as repressive as the Bourbons. One of these was Rue Transnonian, 15 Avril 1834, which told the story of an event the government was trying to sweep under the rug. Government soldiers claimed to have been fired upon, and so went through a tenement on Rue Transnonian in the middle of the night, killing all within. The man in the center in his nightgown is meant as a reference to the man in his nightgown in Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People. Daumier also delighted in comparing Louis-Philippe to both a pear and Rabelais’s Gargantua, the monstrous glutton of the 16th century. This landed him in jail, and got him fined, and led to a major crackdown on the liberal press, to which Daumier also reacted.Rue_Transnonain

Honoré Daumier, Rue Transnonian, 15 Avril, 1834, 1834 (photo Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1103691)

Honoré Daumier, Gargantua, 1831 and Le passé, le présent, l’avenir, 1834 (photos By Honoré Daumier – Olga’s Gallery, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38997 and By Honoré Daumier – http://www.daumier-register.org/werkview.php?key=76, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4134987)honorc3a9_daumier2c_27done28099t_you_meddle_with_it2121_28ne_vous_y_frottez_pas212129-27_le28099association_mensuelle2c_plate_20_28march_183429-_lithograph

Honoré Daumier, Freedom of the Press-Don’t Meddle with it, 1834 (photo by Honoré Daumier [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Daumier also portrayed social injustice in his paintings, showing the differences between classes in a number of works. Many of the painters of the period were both reacting against the Salon and showing how a series of Revolutions in France hadn’t changed the realities of the lower classes. Daumier’s Third Class Carriage can be contrasted with his First Class Carriage, showing the differences in accommodations for each of the classes. In the first class image, there are only a few people, they are clean, and they seem distant. In the third class carriage, the people are packed in the carriage, it’s dirty, and they seem worn and tired.

Honoré Daumier, Third Class Carriage, c. 1862 and First Class Carriage, 1864 (photos By Honoré Daumier [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons and Honoré Daumier [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

French academic art of the period dominated the Salon, and the academic artists dominated Salon judging. Their work was Poussiniste, with crisp lines and saccharine themes. It didn’t challenge the viewers or speak to the realities of the age, although there was occasionally coded messages within the works, such as with Thomas Couture’s Decadence of the Romans, which, while couched as a painting about the Roman Empire, was really about the corruption of the court of Louis-Philippe right before the 1848 Revolution, which would sweep in the short-lived Second Republic (replaced by 1852 with Louis-Napoleon’s Second Empire).

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Venus Anadyomene, 1848 and Adolphe-William Bouguereau, Fraternal Love, 1851 (photos by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons and William-Adolphe Bouguereau [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)


Thomas Couture, Decadence of the Romans, 1847 (photo by Thomas Couture [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

The Realist painters reacting against the Salon also painted en plein aire, or outside, creating more immediate, sketchy works. One of the schools of these painters was the Barbizon School, located in the Forest of Fontainebleau. One of the most famous of these painters is Jean-François Millet, who painted the peasants of the small towns around the forest, giving them dignity, but also showing the realities of a life unchanged by 3 Revolutions. The Sower shows a man up early in the fields, sowing his seeds. Millet painted him so that his face is unseen, making him a bit of an everyman, a type of peasant. The three women in The Gleaners are showing in the extreme foreground, with others bringing in the harvest in the back, and the overseer looking at the women all the way to the right rear of the image. These are the poorest of the poor peasants, picking up the leftovers in the field, with their ragged clothes and gnarled hands. These images are an extreme contrast to the Academic images pictured above, with the looser brushstrokes, muted colors, and less glamorous subject matter.

Jean-François Millet, The Sower, 1850 and The Gleaners, 1857 (photos By Jean-François Millet – LgE5YAcQ5OqmZA at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22140406 and By Jean-François Millet – CgHjAgexUzNOOw at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20111149)

Rosa Bonheur may have been one of the most interesting artists of this period, not only because she was female, but also because of her upbringing by her Saint Simonist father; ability to legally wear pants in France as a woman (yeah, that was a thing); and the fact that she lived openly with her female partner. Bonheur was known for her realistic paintings of animals that she did after visiting slaughterhouses, and she went on to be awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, the first woman to do so. Her work Ploughing in the Nivernais has a similar subject matter to Millet’s work, but here the peasants are equated with the land, and the oxen take on the same shape as the hills behind them. The message here is that this is the real France, an important one in 1849. The Horse Fair of 1853 shows the men easily controlling the large draft horses, again heroicizing the peasants in France.

Rosa Bonheur, Ploughing in the Nivernais, 1849 and The Horse Fair, 1853 (photos by Rosa Bonheur [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons and Rosa Bonheur [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Gustave Courbet was the painter most directly associated with Realism. He believed that art could not be taught, but that one needed inspiration, fueled by study and observation. His iconography impacted by socialist ideas, and his most famous quote was that he had never seen an angel, and so didn’t paint them. His works are often unflinching looks at the realities of the local peasants and bourgeoisie of his hometown of Ornans, as well as landscapes that capture the rugged beauty of the Franche-Comté. His works often had these lower classes heroicized in the foreground of large-scale, otherwise flattened out works, such as with The Stonebreakers, which, like Millet’s The Gleaners, shows the poorest peasants, here breaking stones for the roads of the French cities. Again, we do not see their faces, making them everymen, but we do see their tattered clothing and worn shoes. Because the background is both flattened out and de-emphasized, the focus of the work is entirely on them. In Funeral at Ornans, Courbet paints the local bourgeoisie, including his father, aunt, and sister, in the foreground, attending a funeral. The background is again flattened out, and the viewer is forced to confront the faces of these ordinary people, a major critique of the work leveled in 1850. Gustave_Courbet_018

Gustave Courbet, The Stonebreakers, 1849 (photo By Gustave Courbet – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=149656)Courbet,_Un_enterrement_à_Ornans

Gustave Courbet, Funeral at Ornans, 1849 (photo By Gustave Courbet – Own work Taken on 15 December 2005, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1694257)

In 1855, Courbet opened his own exhibition, The Pavilion of Realism, across from the Salon, from which all of his works had been rejected. Although it was panned, and was neither a critical or financial success, this was a first for artists. Others had exhibited solo works (Thèodore Gèricault, for example) or even series, with the intent of selling (William Hogarth), none had tried to put on a competing exhibition to the Salon, something that would have repercussions for the rest of the 19th century. One of the works exhibited there was The Painter’s Studio: A Real Allegory Summarizing Seven Years of My Life As An Artist from 1848-1855, which was left purposely unexplained by the artist. Courbet wanted the viewer to read their own allegories into the work, although there are some things that can be at least somewhat explained. The nude female model behind the artist in the center and the nude male behind the canvas Courbet is working on represent his rejection of Classicism. The avant garde, including Charles Baudelaire, to the right represent Courbet’s friends. To the left are a group that represent all levels of French society, including Emperor Napoleon III, perhaps a reference to Courbet’s fascination with classism. Courbet_LAtelier_du_peintre

Gustave Courbet, The Painter’s Studio: A Real Allegory Summarizing Seven Years of My Life as an Artist 1848-1855, 1855 (photo By Gustave Courbet – Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=81748)

Édouard Manet‘s works of the 1860s were consistent with Realism, and he shocked the French public with his affronts to propriety. Manet was known for his works, painted alla prima, that both interrogated the history of art and engaged with it. His works, missing the social consciousness of other Realist artists, focused on making people look at the paintings as paintings. He did not try to hide the 2-dimensionality of his works, instead emphasizing flatness of his outlined figures. This can be easily seen in his painting, Déjouner sur l’herbe (Luncheon in the Grass), where the 3 figures in the foreground are taken from an engraving of a lost tapestry design by Raphael, but the nude female figures with 2 clothed men is also a reference to Giorgione or Titian’s Fête Châmpetre. Here, though, the nude woman is not allegorical, but is completely modern, naked, engaging the viewer directly. She is also one of Manet’s favorite models, Victorine Meurent, and one of the men is his brother, Éugene. The woman in the background is as large as the figures in the foreground, compressing the space. Manet is the painter of modern France and the flâneur, the wanderer, stroller, of this new modern France. A bourgeois man, with a great deal of leisure time, who bought their clothes at the new prêt-à-porter department stores. The realities of modernity is also the theme of Olympia, another image of Meurent, this time as a high class courtesan (Olympia was slang at the time for prostitute). Here, Manet uses the composition of Titian’s Venus of Urbino as his starting point. But, Manet makes some important changes, such as removing the background; changing the dog to a cat; and flattening the space completely. He also adds the Afro-French maid offering flowers to Olympia, who stares out at the viewer who has assumed the role of the next customer of Olympia. Manet was careful to record her name, Laura, and she is almost certainly a reference to the racism of the day, and Social Darwinism. In this theory, people believed that the whiter the skin of a person, the more evolved they were socially, and that darker skinned people were more interested in sex, therefore more sexually available. This was an excuse for overt racism.Edouard_Manet_024

Édouard Manet, Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon in the Grass), 1863 (photo By Édouard Manet – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=154407)


Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1863 (photo By Édouard Manet – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=154424)

The English Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood looked to the “truthful” crafts tradition of the Middle Ages. These artists wanted to return to before Raphael, or before the Renaissance, and yet they mixed their Romanticism with a Realist attention to detail. One of the leaders of the movement was Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who was interested in Biblical stories. His works have a distinctly religious feeling, but he tried for some realism, such as using his sister as a model in Ecce Ancilla Domini (The Annunciation) and attempting to place the scene in the Middle East. Beata Beatrix shows his wife, Elizabeth Siddal, as Dante’s Beatrice, with a dove of the Holy Spirit, dropping the poppy symbolizing death into her hands. The reference is also to the fact Siddal had just died of a laudanum overdose.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ecce Ancilla Domini (The Annunciation), 1850 and Beata Beatrix, 1864-70 (photos By Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=127907 and By Dante Gabriel Rossetti – http://www.nationalmuseum.se/sv/Om-Nationalmuseum/For-press-och-media1/Pressbilder1/Prerafaeliterna/Dante-Gabriel-Rossetti-iBeata-Beatrixi/ [dead link], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6078047)

John Everett Millais was another of the Pre-Raphaelites interested in the combination of extreme realism and romantic subject matter. Ophelia uses the story from Shakespeare’s Hamlet as its subject. Millais went so far as to find a spot in the English countryside that matched Shakespeare’s description of the scene. His friend Siddal floated in a heated bathtub wearing an antique dress so that he could paint the scene more realistic. Another innovation of the Pre-Raphaelites was the use of white as their under-color, as opposed to black or red. Millais also became known as a portraitist, painting even the influential British critic of the 19th century, John Ruskin. Ruskin was one of the leading influences on British artistic taste for much of the 19th century, until his mental health issues became overwhelming. In Millais’s portrait, Ruskin is in nature, a reference for his love of the sublime, and is dressed impeccably, but stares off unfocused into space.

John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1852 and John Ruskin, 1854 (photos by John Everett Millais [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons and John Everett Millais [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

American Realism had a slightly different bent than that of the French or British, although it was influenced by the former. The leading American Realist painter of the late 19th century was Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins, who taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and was also very influential on photographic experiments on showing motion. Eakins was very interested in light, especially the new technology of indoor, gas lighting. His painting, The Gross Clinic, focuses on Dr. Samuel Gross teaching a class at the Jefferson Medical College focused on the new medical study of anesthesia. Here, the lighting is focused on the central scene of the operation, and the only woman in the room, the young man’s mother, is averting her eyes. His paintings of rowers focused on the athletes up close in the process of rowing, with realistic depictions of light and reflection.

Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins, The Gross Clinic, 1875–76 and John Biglen in a Single Scull, 1873 (photos by Thomas Eakins [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons and Thomas Eakins [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Henry Ossawa Tanner was the son of a former slave who became the first African American to exhibit at the Paris Salon. He studied under Eakins and traveled the Middle East. In fact, Tanner felt that the racism in France was less extreme than in the US, and ended up moving to Paris permanently. Works like The Banjo Lesson and The Thankful Poor are attempts to upend stereotypes of African Americans prominent in the late 19th century. In these works, Tanner used soft brushwork and hazy light to show the realities of late 19th century African American life. In 1897, Tanner took a trip to the Holy Land, and painted a series of overtly religious works. Works such as Annunciation also focus on Realism, with light symbolizing the angel and the entire scene placed in a realistic Middle Eastern space. Mary also looks more like a Middle Eastern girl than a European one, another of Tanner’s realistic touches.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Banjo Lesson, 1893 and The Thankful Poor, 1894 (photos By Henry Ossawa Tanner – 1893 painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner, via http://www.artchive.com/artchive/T/tanner.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4864369 and By Henry Ossawa Tanner – The Athenaeum: Home – info – pic, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42118461)


Henry Ossawa Tanner, Annunciation, 1898 (photo By Henry Ossawa Tanner – egH-HjJH-o2B4A at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21885843)

Joseph Paxton designed the The Crystal Palace in 1851 for the first “Expo” held in London. His design was selected for the exhibition house, partially because his proposal was less expensive and could be built in time. It was dubbed the Crystal Palace for its extensive use of glass, partially because Paxton had been designing greenhouses. The structure was modular, and so could be easily assembled and taken down. Paxton used some new materials, like cast iron and pressed glass. His design was 1852 feet long, a reference to the fact that the exposition was held in 1852, and the structure held the mechanical and technology exhibitions. The building was moved to a new site, but burned down in the 1930s.

Joseph Paxton, Crystal Palace, London, 1851 (photos by Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75946 and By J. McNeven – collections.vam.ac.uk, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=665739)

In Chicago, the fire of the 1870s led to a new style of building, the Commercial Style. The architects of this style built up, using the new steel and iron, as well as Mr. Otis’s elevators, creating the early skyscrapers. An early proponent of this style was Louis Sullivan, who came up with the maxim that “Form follows function,” meaning that the form of the building should show the function of that building. His structures were usually also clad in such a way that there were floral or botanical elements to add interest, but represented a totally new architectural style that incorporated older elements like pilasters, cornices, and friezes.

Louis Sullivan, Wainwright Building, St. Louis, MO, 1890-91 and Carson Pirie Scott & Co., Chicago, IL, 1899-1901 (photos by Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=356313 and By by Louis Sullivan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Realism may not have been possible without the invention of photography, which means “Drawing with light.” This made the creation of multiple images simple, and was the culmination of centuries of experimentation. Two techniques were patented in 1839-1841: Frenchman Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre’s daguerreotypes and William Henry Fox Talbot‘s calotypes. The French state purchased Daguerre’s process and made the technical details public, making it possible for anyone to create daguerreotypes. This did not happen with Talbot’s method, making it unavailable for a period of years. The camera obscura, and experiments with it, produced the earliest photographs after years of experimentation. One of the earliest of these was Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce‘s View from His Window at Gras, taken with an 8 hour exposure. The long exposure time made the scene grainy and hard to see, but Niépce’s real breakthrough was determining the way to fix the image and stop development. Daguerre was Niépce’s partner, and after his death, went on to perfect their method of making positive images. These were one-of-a-kind images that involved coating glass or metal with chemicals. Early daguerreotypes required a 15-30 minute exposure time, which meant that it was not possible to show motion. Also, the images had to be taken in the day time, as the invention of photography predated that of gas lighting.

Early 19th century drawing of a portable camera obscura and Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce, View from his Window at Gras, 1826
(photos by By unknown illustrator – 19th Century Dictionary Illustration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13346295 and By Joseph Nicéphore Niépce [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, Still Life in the Artist’s Studio, 1837 and View of the Boulevard du Temple, 1838 (photos By Louis Daguerre – Société française de photographie, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=330674 and By Louis Daguerre – Scanned from The Photography Book, Phaidon Press, London, 1997., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5005681)

Talbot’s calotypes were negatives, which means that they were more reproducible, and eventually lead to the glass-plate negatives used later in the 19th century. These were also a bit more clear than daguerreotypes.Articles_of_Glass_on_Three_Shelves_by_Henry_Fox_Talbot

William Henry Fox Talbot, Articles of Glass, 1843 (photo By Henry Fox Talbot – http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/38991?search_no=116&index=18, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37921973)

By the mid-19th century, artists were experimenting with all kinds of new ways to create photographs. One of the most famous of those was Nadar (Gaspar-Félix Tournachon). He was known for his portraits of French avant-garde artists and writers, as well as for his photographs with artificial lighting of the Catacombs in Paris. Nadar also built a balloon, Le Géant, with which he took aerial photographs. Julia Margaret Cameron was the wife of a British civil servant who took photographs of her friends and family. She was allied with the Pre-Raphaelites, and exploited the short focal length of the lenses of those cameras, creating soft-focus images of Arthurian legends and Biblical stories.

Nadar (Gaspar-Félix Tournachon), Georges Sand, c. 1860 and Le Catacombe, 1861-1862 (photos By Nadar – Galerie Contemporaine, 126 boulevard Magenta, Paris – Photographe Goupil [et] C° – Cliché Nadar, 51 rue d’Anjou-Saint-Honoré à Paris.Photographie de George Sand sur le site Gallica.Ministère de la Culture (France) – Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine.Diffusion Réunion des musées nationaux., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24900938 and By Nadar – http://www.umpf.net/salon/Nadar.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8301190)nadar2c_aerial_view_of_paris2c_1868

Nadar, Aerial View of Paris, 1868 (photo by Nadar [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Julia Margaret Cameron, Charles Darwin, 1868 and Vivien and Merlin, 1874 (photos By Julia Margaret Cameron – Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=245731 and Julia Margaret Cameron [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Some photographers like Matthew Brady combined portraiture and photo-journalism, creating a number of photographs in and around the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln credited Brady’s portrait of him, known as the Cooper Union Portrait after the building in which Brady’s studio was, with winning him the election of 1860. Here, Lincoln seems humanized as he leans on a Bible and other books. Brady also followed the Union Army, taking a series of photographs of the war and battles, and sending them back to newspapers and magazines to be published. Brady often manipulated or posed the images, especially since it wasn’t safe or possible for him to take the image in the heat of battle.

Matthew B. Brady, Lincoln “Cooper Union” Portrait, 1860 and On Antietam Battlefield, 1862 (photos by Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1225173 and By Internet Archive Book Images – https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14759652941/Source book page: https://archive.org/stream/civilwarthroughc00elso/civilwarthroughc00elso#page/n208/mode/1up, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43599620)

After the War, a number of American photographers followed the US Geological Surveys West, photographing a number of the sites of the American West. Carleton Watkins was perhaps the most well known of these, even though he had no field training during the Civil War. His photographs of Yosemite and the giant sequoias of the California Coast. These photographs, along with others by other photographers of the West formed the basis of the paintings by Albert Bierstadt.

Carleton E. Watkins, Three Brothers, Yosemite, California, c. 1860s and Section of the Grizzly Giant, 33 Feet Diameter, Mariposa Grove, Yosemite, No. 111, 1861 (photos By Carleton Watkins – 2wG2ot_hMLIATQ at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29675697 and By Carleton Watkins (American, 1829 – 1916) (1829 – 1916) – photographer (American)Details of artist on Google Art Project – twG7q8HItWs0-Q at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21991903)

In all, the Realist movement and photography changed art drastically. This was the beginning of the movement away from linear perspective.



The word Romantic is derived from the Romance languages, and evoked a nostalgia for the past, a longing for untouched nature, and an interest in the “noble savage.” Much of the philosophical underpinnings for the movement came from French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, which was also inspired the French Revolution. The artists depicted dreams and nightmares as internal events, perhaps because psychology began to be studied as a serious science in the 19th century. The concept of the “noble savage” also came from Rousseau, who saw native peoples as being closer to nature, a concept based on racist ideas of native people in colonized parts of Africa, Oceania, Asia, and the Americas. Most Romantic artists evoked mood through the use of color and shadow. Often, the stories used as subject matter have a more threatening, often sexual content. This is also the period when artists began to have a more social consciousness.


Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Oedipus and the Sphinx, 1808 (photo By Sailko (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

In the painting above, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres used the story of Oedipus from Greek mythology, with Oedipus confronting the Sphinx to save Thebes. There are bones and bodies in the lower left foreground of the work, but Oedipus is mostly nude and heroic in the foreground as he confronts the monster with a female head and torso. In Ingres’s paintings, he combines Poussiniste crisp linearity with Rubenesque softness of brushstrokes. The painting has both erotic and threatening overtones. One of Ingres’s most famous works was commissioned by Paolina Borghese, the sister of Napoleon, but was never delivered to her because of the fall of Napoleon from power. This was the Grande Odalisque, a painting of how Ingres imagined a harem, and a woman that lived within, looked. This fits with the Romantic interest in a non-European, or at least white, other, especially within the context of Orientalism, something defined by Edward Said as “dat[ing] from the period of European Enlightenment and colonization of the Arab World. Orientalism provided a rationalization for European colonialism based on a self-serving history in which “the West” constructed “the East” as extremely different and inferior, and therefore in need of Western intervention or “rescue” (What is Orientalism?). The woman in this painting is light skinned, more European than Middle Eastern, reclining on rich silks and furs, with a peacock feather fan in one hand and a hookah at the end of the couch. Ingres exaggerated her back and legs, making them not anatomically correct, which was one of the critiques leveled against the work when it was displayed at the Salon of 1814.jean_auguste_dominique_ingres_-_the_grand_odalisque_-_wga11841

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, La Grande Odalisque, 1814 (photo by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Théodore Géricault often illustrated the theme of man against nature. He painted Officer of the Imperial Guard on Horseback after the disastrous invasion of Russia by Napoleon. Géricault’s style was much more Rubenesque than Ingres, and in this work, he showed the drama and psychological impact of war and battle. Although he used distortions in the horse and man increase the drama, and he filled the scene with smoke and fire, and has the horse trampling over broken cannon. The scene is much more chaotic than David’s image of Napoleon at Saint Bernard PassAn_Officer_of_the_Imperial_Horse_Guards_Charging

Théodore Géricault, Officer of the Imperial Guard on Horseback, 1812 (photo By Jean Louis Théodore Géricault – http://www.allartpainting.com/an-officer-of-the-imperial-horse-guards-charging-p-4985.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7987219)

Géricault’s most famous work is The Raft of the Medusa, for which he did a number of studies, including of cadavers. The story of the work comes from the wreck of a merchant marine ship that was captained by an appointee of the restored Bourbon monarchy, as he had supported the monarchy throughout the Revolution. The captain piloted the ship onto the rocks off the coast of Senegal, causing it to wreck. The captain and other important passengers were loaded onto the lifeboats, while the ship’s carpenter made a raft for the other almost 150 passengers, who were left adrift for 2 weeks with no food or water. By the time they were found by another ship, there were only 15 alive on the raft. The government in Paris attempted to sweep this under the rug, but Géricault created his painting, which was rejected by the Salon. He took the work to London, and exhibited it there, making sure to publicize the incident. Géricault’s work was one of the first to show the new social consciousness of Romantic artists. Here, the work pushes up in a heroic triangle to the Afro-French man at the top of the composition, as they wave at the small speck of a ship on the horizon. To the left, there is a storm clearing, and around the edge of the raft are a number of dead bodies, reminding the viewer of the great loss of life. Géricault chose to show the figures on the raft as strong and able, not dehydrated, starved, and sun burned, to make them seem heroic.Raft_of_the_Medusa_-_Theodore_Gericault

Théodore Géricault, The Raft of the Medusa, 1819 (By en.wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=858254)

When Géricault came back to Paris, he painted a series of 10 images of the patients of Dr. Étienne-Jean Georget, which show the facial characteristics of “monomaniacs,” mentally ill people the doctor perceived as having a single type of mania, such as envy, kleptomania, and kidnapping. It is important to remember that the mentally ill were generally removed from society and treated as subhumans in the 19th century. When looking at Géricault’s Madwoman with a Mania of Envy, you can see her red-lined eyes and pinched mouth. The removal of any background forces you to only focus on the face of the woman.Théodore_Géricault_hiena_de_SalpêtrièreThéodore Géricault, Madwoman with a Mania of Envy, c. 1822 (photo By Jean Louis Théodore Géricault – Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1250119)

Eugène Delacroix was another of the Romantic artists who combined Orientalism with some social consciousness. His painting of the Massacre at Chios tells a story from the Greek of Independence, where the Greeks of the island of Chios rose up, and almost managed to throw the Ottomans off the island. The Turks responded by killing most of the residents and selling the rest into slavery, and for people like Delacroix, this became the symbol of the struggle of the Europeans (white folks) against the dangerous other (non-white folks). In fact, this was the war that Lord Byron would die in. In Delacroix’s scene, the suffering Greeks in the foreground are emphasized, and the Turks are dark, dangerous, and threatening. The entire background is taken up by smoldering fires and the wreckage of the island. Another example of Delacroix’s Orientalism comes from his image Women of Algiers, painted when he was in Tunisia, then a French colony. Delacroix was actually given permission to go into the harem, making this more realistic than Ingres’s image of the odalisque. The women that are part of the harem are light skinned and European-looking again, but their servant is from Sub-Saharan Africa, and is dark skinned. She seems more disapproving, but the racism of Orientalism can be seen here also, since the women are sitting around, and the implication is that they are lazy. Delacroix’s The Death of Sardanapalus memorializes a moment from the Lord Byron poem that purports to tell the story of the death of the last Assyrian king, Sardanapalus. According to Byron’s tale, Sardanapalus ordered that his possessions, harem women, horses, and servants would be burned on his funeral pyre as his enemies invaded. Delacroix’s scene shows the king reclining on his bed as the servants, women, and horses are killed around him. His favorite harem woman is face-first on the bed, going willingly, and the entire scene is highly sexualized and erotic, with overtones of sadomasochism.

Eugène Delacroix, Massacre at Chios, 1822-24 and Women of Algiers, 1834 (photos By Eugène Delacroix – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38993 and By Eugène Delacroix – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38993)


Eugène Delacroix, The Death of Sardanapalus, 1827-28 (photo By Eugène Delacroix – http://cgfa.sunsite.dk/delacroi/p-delacroix22.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38990)

In 1830, The French rose up in the July Revolution against the brutality of the restoration monarchy of the Bourbons. This Revolution brought the citizen-king, Louis Philippe, duc d’Orléans, to power in the July Monarchy, with promises to be a better king. Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People memorializes the July Revolution, with Liberty, an allegorical figure with her face fully in profile, wearing a phyrgian cap, associated with both freed slaves in Rome and the 1789 Revolution. She holds the Tricolour, the French flag, as she leads a group of people of all classes over the barricade. The colors of red, white, and blue carry through the scene, in the clothing of the dead royal guards and the clothing of the people. The man in the front left corner wearing his nightshirt was meant as a reminder of the brutal repressions of the Bourbons. The Cathedral of Notre Dame in the background is meant to definitively place the scene in Paris.Eugène_Delacroix_-_La_liberté_guidant_le_peuple

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830 (photo By Eugène Delacroix – This page from this gallery., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38989)

There was also a strong Christian strain in Romanticism, which took the form of nostalgia for a form of religious mysticism from the late medieval year. An artist most associated with this form of Romanticism was William Blake, little-known engraver, painter, and poet. He is known for self-publishing long books filled with illustrations, often hand-colored with watercolors. Blake developed a new type of copper etching that allowed him to write directly onto the plate. His image of God drawing the Universe is drawn from 13th century French Bible Moralisées, but Blake has God making his hand into a compass as he separates light from darkness.Europe_a_Prophecy,_copy_D,_object_1_(Bentley_1,_Erdman_i,_Keynes_i)_British_Museum

William Blake, God Creating the Universe (Ancient of Days), frontispiece of Europe: A Prophecy),  1794 (photo By William Blake – William Blake Archive, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27197029)

William Blake, Little Boy Lost, from Songs of Innocence and Experience, 1789-94 and Tyger, from  Songs of Innocence and Experience, 1789-94 (photos By William Blake – William Blake Archive, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=532611 and Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39837)

Henry Fuseli is an excellent example of the English interest in the sublime. The Aesthetic of the Sublime is defined as the “irrational” attraction to fear, pain, ugliness, loss, hatred, death… along with beauty, pleasure, joy, and love. His painting The Nightmare shows a beautiful woman in bed, with an incubus on her chest and a scary horse face peering through the curtains. His etching and aquatint of Satan, Sin, and Death goes back to the medieval mystical Christian belief that Sin was the child of Death and Satan. Both of these show the Sublime as something that is both beautiful and frightening, ugly and terrifying.

Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare, 1781 and Satan, Sin, and Death, 1776 (photo By Henry Fuseli – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15453518)

The greatest of the Spanish Romantic painters (and printmakers) was Francisco de Goya y Lucientes. Goya’s images reflect his psychological insights and support for intellectual and political freedom, as seen in his series Los Caprichos. This series is all about the loss of the reason of the Enlightenment, and the increase in fear that followed. Two plates from this series the self-portrait El Sueño da la razon produce monstruos and Que viene el Coco show this concern. In El sueño, the painter is surrounded by bats and cats as he sleeps, referring to the nightmares and visions that visit in sleep, which is a very Romantic notion. Que viene el Coco is a scene of the boogeyman visiting a mother and her children, again referring to the idea of nightmares and threats that come from the lack of reason. He became court painter to Charles III and Charles IV, and painted a portrait of the family of the latter. This portrait, which can be read as a mocking of the royal family, as it would seem that their flaws were emphasized, although there is evidence that the Queen, Maria Luisa, loved it, saying it was a good likeness of the family. At any rate, Goya, drawing on the tradition of Velázquez, included himself in the background painting.

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Los Caprichos, plate 43, El Sueño da la razon produce monstruos, published 1799 and Los Caprichos, plate 3, Que viene el Coco, published 1799 (photos By Francisco Goya – Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1777126 and By Francisco Goya – PDF from Arno Schmidt Reference Library, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=612721)


Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Family of Charles IV, 1800 (photo By Francisco Goya – Museo Nacional del Prado, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=152072)

Goya also created a series of works that dealt with the Spanish rebellion against Napoleonic rule, brought on by the appeals of Ferdinand VII (second from left in portrait, in blue) to Napoleon to help him consolidate his rule after conspiring against his father. Napoleon, though, overthrew him, and put his brother Joseph on the throne in 1808, leading to a 4 year Spanish rebellion that ended in 1812, with Ferdinand VII recrowned king in 1813. In May 2, 1808, the Spanish rose up against the French, leading to French retaliation on May 3. These events were memorialized in a 2 painting series, meant to be seen together, The Second of May, 1808 and The Third of May, 1808, which show the nearly successful rebellion and the French reaction. The first is chaotic, with the same actors you will see in the second image attempting to remove Napoleon’s Ottoman troops from Madrid. In The Third of May, the men who were the rebels in the first image are seen being executed by the French, who have no faces and seem like automatons. The man at the center is almost Christ-like in his pose and placement within the scene. Taken together, especially with his series of etchings The Disasters of War, these paintings reveal Goya’s deep ambivalence toward war. The Disasters of War also show both Spanish and French atrocities, with Goya refusing to indict one side or the other, choosing to indict both.

 Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, The Second of May, 1808, 1814 and The Third of May, 1808, 1814 (photos By Francisco Goya – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6330945 and By Francisco Goya – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6330945)

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Disasters of War: 26, One Can’t Bear to See These Things, c. 1810-1814 and Disasters of War: 3, The Same, c. 1810-14 (photos By Francisco Goya – PDF from Arno Schmidt Reference Library, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=629953 and Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=628324)

Another strain of Romanticism was the interest in nature, although this took a slightly different form in each country. German Romanticism was heavily informed by Sturm und Drang, led by Goethe, which looked to return to medieval German mysticism. The Germans in the early 19th century were also greatly impacted by the Napoleonic Wars, many of the battles of which took place in Germany. One of the great painters of the movement was Caspar David Friedrich, whose self-portrait, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, shows the German Romantic tendency to dwell on man’s isolation and smallness in the face of the grandeur of nature. He also painted 2 companion pieces, Monk by the Sea and Abbey in the Oak Forest, which also speak to this smallness of man. Abbey also deals with the temporary nature of man’s constructions compared with the longevity of nature. Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, 1817-1818 (photo By Caspar David Friedrich – The photographic reproduction was done by Cybershot800i. (Diff), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1020146)

Caspar David Friedrich, Monk by the Sea, 1809 and Abbey in the Oak Forest, 1809 (photos By Caspar David Friedrich – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3-936122-20-2. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=151077 and By Caspar David Friedrich – scanned from book, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2691130)

The English Romantics who were interested in nature seemed to focus on nostalgia for the pre-Industrial countryside of England, which was the most industrialized country in the early 19th century. They attempted to ignore the early 19th century realities of coal smoke to power the factories and pollution. One of these was John Constable, who came from a wealthy family. His painting The Hay Wain shows people using what would have been at the time outdated technology in a bucolic landscape to harvest the wheat. The entire scene is a romanticized view of the realities of English country life, as is his painting of Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Garden. Here, the cows graze in the field as people walk along a country path, and the trees frame the Gothic cathedral perfectly.

John Constable, The Hay Wain, 1821 and John Constable, Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Garden, 1820 (photos By John Constable – John Constable, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7862726 and By John Constable – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=149396)

Another English Romantic artist who painted scenes that dealt with the sublime aspects of nature and the effects of industrialization was Joseph Mallord William Turner. He was also known for his washed out colors, made from diluting his oil paints with more linseed oil, and in many ways was a precursor to the Impressionists. His Rain, Steam, Speed: The Great Western Railway shows the brand-new railway on a bridge with the old bridge on the left. In the right, off to the side of the bridge, is a farmer plowing in his fields, and there is a rabbit attempting to jump off the bridge to get away from the train. His Fighting Temeraire Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up, 1838 also deals with the progression of industrialization. Here, the last of the wooden sailing ships of the British Navy was being tugged by a coal powered tug boat to be broken up, with the coal smog covering the sun on the right side of the painting.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Rain, Steam, Speed: The Great Western Railway, 1844 and The Fighting Temeraire Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up, 1838, 1839 (photos By J. M. W. Turner, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=905512 and J. M. W. Turner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Turner also painted a number of scenes of historical events, although the events were typically not that far off in history. He painted the Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, October 16, 1834 from 2 different views. Both, though, do not correspond to any reality of the Thames, and also shows the fire as a major conflagration, larger than it would have actually been to enhance the drama. Turner’s Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing the Dead and Dying Overboard, Typhoon Coming) shows an actual event as well, when the captain of the slave ship Zong in 1781 threw the dead and dying slaves overboard as a typhoon came on. This was partially to lighten his load, and partially because slaves were considered cargo. Part of the racist legacy of slavery was that the African people forced into slavery were treated as less-than-human. Again, Turner creates a scene where the people are small in the vast seascape, with the ship dwarfed by the waves, and the people in the water tiny as compared to the sea and fish.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, October 16, 1834, 1835 and Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing the Dead and Dying Overboard, Typhoon Coming), 1840 (photo by J. M. W. Turner [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons and By J. M. W. Turner – Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2816953)

American landscape painters in the early 19th century were interested in creating a mythical America, something to glorify the new nation of the United States. The idea was to show the American landscape as vast and empty, ready to be filled and civilized, which could be read as an antithesis to Rousseauian ideals. Thomas Cole was a member of the Hudson River School, and painted vast landscapes that adhered to these ideals. One is View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm (The Oxbow), which shows the storm moving off to the left, over the still wild landscape, with the civilized landscape to the right. George Caleb Bingham painted an image of Fur Traders Descending the Missouri in 1845, long after that way of life no longer existed. But, Bingham was memorializing a way of life that was distinctly American, combining the idea of showing the vast landscape with the idealization of the “noble savage.”Cole_Thomas_The_Oxbow_(The_Connecticut_River_near_Northampton_1836)

Thomas Cole, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm (The Oxbow), 1836 (photo By Thomas Cole – Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=182973)

Winslow Homer’s work can be regarded as transitional. He was largely self-taught and first worked as a magazine illustrator. He also was embedded with the Union Army during the Civil War, creating drawings that were sent back to magazines and newspapers in the Union cities. Homer’s Army of the Potomac—A Sharpshooter on Picket Duty, 1862, exemplifies his visual recording of the war. Here, the sharpshooter sits in a tree, holding his rifle, ready to shoot, creating a view of the war that seems at once immediate and romantic. Homer also created a series of paintings immediately after the war that gave a view of the realities of the Union Army, or at least Romanticized views of that reality. The Dark Side shows African-American mule drivers for the Union Army resting in the tent, but fits in with stereotypes of African-Americans being lazy. Prisoners from the Front shows a Union Army officer and 2 men with 3 Confederate soldiers they had captured. The Confederates seem bedraggled, but perhaps the most interesting part of the piece is the indistinct African-American soldier for the Union Army in the back. Veteran in a New Field shows a veteran, who has put down his coat and canteen in the field, wielding the scythe in a field of wheat. But, the scythe is old-fashioned and is more like that carried by personifications of Death, as a reference to the amount of people killed in the 5 years of the Civil War.bestmattedmed
Winslow Homer, Army of the Potomac—A Sharpshooter on Picket Duty, 1862

Winslow Homer, The Bright Side, 1865 and Prisoners from the Front, 1866 (photos by Winslow Homer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons and Winslow Homer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

winslow_homer_-_the_veteran_in_a_new_fieldWinslow Homer, Veteran in a New Field, 1865 (photo by Winslow Homer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Another strain of American Romanticism post-Civil War was the creation of images that would be the impetus to go West. Many of these were painted by Albert Bierstadt, a German-American artist. His works also fit within the 19th century American ideology of Manifest Destiny, the idea that white Americans were meant to control the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Also, they fit with the ideas of the Vanishing Race, that Native Americans were dying out and/or assimilating, partially because of Manifest Destiny, and partially because they were racially inferior in the racist ideology of the period. Works like The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak shows both the beautiful landscape of the American West, with the Native people in the foreground. The Rocky Mountains in the back are slightly Alpine, which shows the tendency of Bierstadt’s work to make the American West into the new Europe, in no small part to try to get more Europeans to move into that landscape. Sunrise, Yosemite Valley also shows Bierstadt’s luminism, which emphasizes the clarity of light.

Albert Bierstadt, The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak, 1863 and Sunrise at Glacier Station, 1870 (photos by Albert Bierstadt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons and By Albert Bierstadt – Usenet, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7933348)

Some artists, such as George Catlin painted images of the Native people of the Plains, attempting to keep things as “authentic.” Many books state that Catlin “observed the Native American sense of oneness with nature, which, as with European Romantics and American landscape painters, was seen as imbued with powerful spiritual forces” (Adams, p. 730). But, this just fits with Romanticized stereotypes of Native people.george_catlin_-_the_white_cloud2c_head_chief_of_the_iowas_-_google_art_project

George Catlin, White Cloud, Head Chief of the Iowas, 1844-45 (photo by George Catlin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

The revivalist strains of architecture were also important in this period, with the Gothic Revival style taking the lead. This was popular in England, France, and Germany, partially because all of those countries tried to claim the original Gothic as originating in their medieval country (only France could really make that claim). The English wanted the rebuilt Houses of Lords and Commons (Westminster Palace) to be in this new style. Charles Barry and A.W.N. Pugin won the competition for this building, which was supposed to reflect a nationalistic, Christian architectural style, and remind people that the parliamentary system of government had been established in the Middle Ages. A number of churches in the US and England were also built in this Neo-Gothic Style, with Richard Upjohn pioneering Carpenter’s Gothic, sending a manual to small towns around the country that would allow them to build Gothic-style churches out of wood.the_houses_of_parliament2c_london_28284841528429

Charles Barry and A.W.N. Pugin, The Houses of Parliament, London, 1836-1870 (photo By mwanasimba from La Réunion (The Houses of Parliament, London) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

Richard Nash showed a Romantic vision of the Far East with his Royal Pavilion built in Brighton for the Prince of Wales between 1815 and 1818. This was build with new materials like cast iron, and reflected the nature of England as an empire, with holdings in India and the Far East.

Richard Nash, Royal Pavilion, Brighton, England, 1815-1818 (photos By Peter Greenhalgh [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons and By Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29475957)

The Romantic period marked both the time of increased empire building, and the time of increased social consciousness. This would continue throughout the 19th century.


Works Cited

Adams, Laurie Schneider. Art Across Time, Part II. 4th ed. Nw York: McGraw Hill, 2011.

“What is Orientalism?” Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Arab Stereotypes. 4 August 2016.   http://www.arabstereotypes.org/why-stereotypes/what-orientalism.



Jacques-Louis David, The Oath of the Horatii, 1784 (photo By Jacques-Louis David – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=150025)

The Neoclassical style was in many ways a style of both the American and French Revolutions. It also can be seen as a direct reaction against the Rococo, and the softness and frivolity of that style. Neoclassicism is marked by crisp lines, more earth tones in the colors, and narrow stage-set compositions. There is also in this style a use of the architectural settings of antiquity, as well as some of the stories and themes, but in a new context from the Renaissance. There are less of the gods and goddesses of antiquity, and more of the political stories. This style would also be adopted by Napoleon in his quest to turn the early 19th century French empire into a recreation of the Roman Empire.

There are, as a comparison of the sculptures by Antonio Canova, the leading sculptor of the Neoclassical style, and Clodion (Claude Michel), the leading sculptor of the Rococo, vast differences between the 2 styles, which were competing for popularity at the end of the 18th century. The sculpture by Canova, Cupid and Psyche, is crisp, linear, and the eroticism is very toned down. Clodion’s work, Nymph and Satyr Carousing (The Intoxication of Wine), is highly erotic, with an emphasis on textures and movement not seen in Canova’s more static work.

Antonio Canova, Cupid and Psyche, 1793 and Clodion (Claude Michel), Nymph and Satyr Carousing (The Intoxication of Wine), c. 1780-1790 (photos By Jörg Bittner Unna (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

Jacques-Louis David was a leading artist working in this style, and was training by Joseph-Marie Vien, winning the prestigious Prix-de-Rome at the Salon in 1774. His 1784 Oath of the Horatii, pictured above, based on a story from the early years of the ancient Roman Republic, could be seen as either a call for a new style of art, or a manifesto of the Revolution. Here, in contrast to the Rococo, the lines are clear and crisp, the colors more earthly, and the setting of the work is both overtly Classical and incredibly shallow, making it appear that the figures are acting on a shallow stage. This also contrasts with the bourgeois Realism of artists like Chardin and Greuze, who had been championed by philosophes such as Diderot. But the story tells of the crushing of a pro-monarchy faction by a pro-Republic one, and so can be read in a more political fashion. Now, the men on the left become the Republicans, the Revolutionaries beginning to be active in Paris after the success of the American Revolution. They stand straight and strong, willing to heroically sacrifice themselves for the good of the Republic. The women on the right are curving and at least partially in shadow, speaking to the view of the French Revolutionaries (David included), that the aristocracy was like women in France, soft, weak, overly emotional, and ineffectual. The late 18th century French view of women was that they should remain more in the home and on the sidelines, which may account for the hatred of the Queen, Marie-Antoinette. David used other moments from Greek, specifically 5th century Athenian, and Roman history to exemplify the heroic self-sacrifice that became a theme in the years leading up to the Revolution in France. One of these is The Death of Socrates, where Socrates is portrayed as a hero in the center of his grieving followers, including Plato, about to drink the hemlock that will lead to his death. This is not the Socrates described by the ancient Greeks as being ugly, dirty, and looking like a satyr, but a muscular, idealized figure about to sacrifice himself for the good of Athenian democracy. The setting here is again narrow, with muted colors and crisp lines. Another example is the painting of The Lictors Bringing Brutus the Bodies of His Sons, which is thematically similar to The Oath of the Horatii. Here, Brutus sits in shadow as the bodies of his sons are brought in after he had them killed in the forum for supporting a pro-monarchy plot. Brutus sits below a statue of the goddess Roma, not looking as the headless bodies are brought in, and his wife, daughters, and a servant, all women, are reacting emotionally on the right. Both Brutus and the Horatii show the cost of heroic self-sacrifice, but also the triumph of the Republic, democracy, reason, and morality.

Jacques-Louis David, Death of Socrates, 1787 and The Lictors Bringing Brutus the Bodies of His Sons, 1789 (photos By Jacques-Louis David – http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/436105, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28552 and By Jacques-Louis David – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=215505)

After the Oath of the Tennis Court at Versailles, depicted by David in an unfinished work, and the rise of the Jacobins and Robespierre, David aligned himself with that faction, even voting for the beheading of Louis XVI in 1793. The fall of Robespierre in 1794 landed David in jail, but in between, he also memorialized the assassination of his friend and fellow Jacobin, Jean-Paul Marat, who was killed in his bath by the Girondin Charlotte Corday. David painted this death as a religious scene, ironic since the Jacobins were fervent atheists, and included Corday’s name on the note in Marat’s hand. This work is in keeping with David’s themes of the 1780s and 1790s of heroic self sacrifice. Death_of_Marat_by_David

Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat, 1793 (photo By Jacques-Louis David – http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/436105, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28552 and By Jacques-Louis David – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=215505))

The American Revolution, of course, preceded the French Revolution, and in many ways, helped to cause the French Revolution. The intent, after the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, was liberation from monarchy, which is in stark contrast to the original intent of the French Revolution, which began as a quest for governmental reform. The new American Republic required both a political break and a break in architectural style, going from “Colonial Georgian” to Federal style. The new Federal style was really Neoclassicism, as the new Republic saw itself as the heirs to Athenian democracy and the Roman Republic, although the development of Federalism as a style of government set this new Republic apart from any previous one. These American Revolutionaries wore homespun clothing and refused to wear powdered wigs, making them distinctive in elite 18th century society, as Jean-Antoine Houdon’s bust of Thomas Jefferson shows. Houdon depicts Jefferson in the same manner as an ancient Roman portrait bust, down to the realistic wrinkles, set jaw, and receding hairline.


Jean-Antoine Houdon, Thomas Jefferson, 1789

This work dates to the period when Jefferson served as the first Ambassador of the new United States of America to France, where he was popular with the salonnières of Paris, and traveled around France to see some of the Roman ruins in the south of the country. These informed some of his most important building designs of the new Republic, as did his copies of Vitruvius and Palladio’s Four Books of Architecture. Jefferson often used his structures as an opportunity to both use the older, European structures as a model, and show that the new Republic could use local materials to build structures just as grand, as with his Plantation home at Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia, which is built to copy Palladio’s Villa Rotunda, but with some major changes, such as the use of red brick and timber that would have been locally-produced building materials. Monticello_2010-10-29


Thomas Jefferson, Monticello, Albemarle County, Virginia, 1769-1784, rebuilt and enlarged 1796-1809 (photo by By YF12s – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11925425)

Jefferson also designed the Virginia State Capitol building, or at least the central portion of it, in Richmond, to mimic the late Roman Republican Temple of Portinus in Nîmes, France, built in the late 2nd century BCE. The new temple in this American democracy was the Republic, a sentiment which can also be seen in the new Capitol Building built in the brand new capital city of Washington, D.C. This structure, designed originally by William Thornton, with modifications by architects Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Sr. and Charles Bulfinch, can be seen as a Neoclassical homage to the Pantheon and Greco-Roman temple design, but now these structural designs were being used to hold the bicameral legislature of the US.

Thomas Jefferson, Virginia State Capitol, Richmond, 1785-88 and Roman, Temple of Portunus, Nimes, France, late 2nd century BCE (photos By Anderskev – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7770383 and CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=175858)


William Thornton, with modifications by architects Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Sr. and Charles Bulfinch, US Capitol Building, Washington, D.C., built 1793-1800, with later additions (Photo by By Martin Falbisoner (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

Another of Jefferson’s contributions was the founding of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, one of the first universities to be founded in the new US after the Revolution. He wanted this institution to reflect his Humanist views, as well as the idea of universal education (well, at least for white men), and so made it possible for anyone (who was a white man) to go to the school. The centerpiece of the original portion of the University was the Rotunda, the original library of the school. This is a direct imitation of the Pantheon, but the gods here are now knowledge and education.

Thomas Jefferson, Rotunda, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1822-26 and Roman, The Pantheon, Rome, 117-125 (photos By Aaron Josephson; cropped by Ibn Battuta [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons and By KlausF – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=449456)

The new US Congress and Presidents also commissioned a number of art works to commemorate and glorify the events leading up to and surrounding the Revolution, as well as some of the prominent figures of those events. John Trumbull was commissioned by President Madison to paint 4 large works to be installed in the Capitol Rotunda. One of these is The Declaration of Independence, which is meant to depict the moment when the document was signed in Liberty Hall in Philadelphia, the decisive moment when the Revolutionaries chose to completely break with England. A number of the signers were still alive in 1818 when this was painted, and Trumbull took care to attempt to show each of their faces. The effect of this, though, is stilted, and seems to be a less realistic view of the actual event. Another commission was from the U.S. Congress, and was to be a statue of Washington. Horatio Greenough was given the commission, and produced a work that was inspired by Phidias’s Early Classical sculpture of Zeus in the temple at Olympia. This was something that Congress was not necessarily looking for, as it turned the first president into a god. The portrait of Washington by Houdon from the 1788-1792 was more in keeping with the less grandiose manner of Presidential depictions, and the Neoclassical American emphasis on the Roman Republic.john_trumbull_-_declaration_of_independence_-_wga23100
John Trumbull, Declaration of Independence, 1818 (photo by John Trumbull [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Horatio Greenough, George Washington, 1832-41, Antoine Chryostome Quatremère de Quincy, Reconstruction of Zeus at Olympia, 1815, and Greek coin depicting statue of Zeus at Olympia, 1st century CE (photos By ‘Matthew G. Bisanz, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7977517)


Jean-Antoine Houdon, George Washington, Virginia State Capitol Building, 1788-1792 (photo By User:AlbertHerring (Image taken by me for Wikipedia) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte came to power in France, taking the title of First Consul, a direct reference to Roman political systems. Napoleon was the from a minor noble family in Corsica, and had distinguished himself in the wars in Europe that broke out after the rise of the Jacobins. In 1804, he crowned himself emperor. One of the most important artists associated with Napoleonic rule was Jacques-Louis David, the famous Jacobin. It is ironic that such a fervent anti-monarchist could support a dictator who declared himself emperor, but David seems to have thought that only a strong hand could fix the problems in First Republic France. In 1800, Napoleon invaded Italy by crossing the Alps, and David painted a portrait of this occasion, faux-engraving “Bonaparte” on the rocks next to “Hannibal” and “Karolus Magnus,” the Carthaginian general and Charlemagne, impressive company for an audacious military leader. Napoleon is shown easily controlling the rearing warhorse as he crosses the Alps with his army behind him. A later portrait by David of Napoleon in his study at the Tuileries Palace in Paris shows a military leader, this is right before his disastrous invasion of Russia, but working on the Napoleonic Code, which took the old laws of France and replaced them with a distinctly paternalistic system. These portraits are in contrast to one painted by David’s student, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, which depicts Napoleon on his throne. Here we have Napoleon as the deified Roman emperor on his imperial throne. He is characterized as a ruler imbued with the power of imperial Rome and sanctioned by God. But, this was also one of Napoleon’s least favorite portraits of himself, as his limbs and head are very much out of proportion.

Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon at Saint Bernard Pass, 1800 and Napoleon in His Study, 1812 (photo By Jacques-Louis David – Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43128 and By Jacques-Louis David – The York Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=150022)


Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Napoleon on His Imperial Throne, 1806 (photo by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Napoleon also began to construct monuments in Paris that were modeled after some in Rome. If Rome had been the capital of the old Roman Empire, and all roads led to it, then Napoleon was going to make Paris the capital of the new Roman Empire, and all roads would now lead there. In the Place Vendôme, formerly Place Louis XIV, he constructed a column out of bronze that was modeled after Trajan’s Column in Rome. This Colonne de la Grande Armée was meant to commemorate the Battle of Austerlitz, and the bronze came from cannons seized at that battle from the combined armies of Europe. This was a commemoration of one of the most decisive battles of the Napoleonic Wars, and one won by Napoleon. Another commemoration of this battle was the Arc de Triomphe, which was modeled on Roman Imperial triumphal arches, although on a much more grand scale.

Germain Boffrand and Jules Hardouin Mansart; column by Vivant Denon, Jacques Gondoin and Jean-Baptiste Lepère, Place Vendôme, Paris, 1687-1720; column 1807-1810 and Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin et al, Arc de Triomphe, Paris, 1806-1836 (photos By http2007 – FlickR, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4093585 and By Guilhem Vellut from Paris, France (Arc de Triomphe @ Paris) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

Napoleon’s family was also commemorated with elaborate portraits. Many of them ruled the puppet governments in countries he conquered, and one such sibling as Paolina Bonaparte Borghese, who ruled parts of Italy with her husband, Camillo Borghese. She was known for her extra-marital affairs, and went so far as to have Antonio Canova depict her as Venus Victorix, nude and resplendent as she reclined on a couch holding the golden apple. Her sister, Marie Anne Elisa Bonaparte, also named as ruler to parts of Italy by their brother, commissioned a portrait from David’s student Marie-Guillemine Benoist, which shows the Grand Duchess wearing a crown and dressed in sumptuous clothing as she reclines atop a coronation robe. This is an interesting contrast to the portrait of an Afro-French woman also painted by Benoist. This work, Portrait of a Negress, which shows the woman dressed in white, but with one breast exposed, can be read in one of two ways. Either Benoist, a woman of aristocratic heritage, was responding to the ideas inherent in the racism of the time that women of African descent were more sexual and more sexually available, or this is a protest, in a small way against that. Napoleon had not yet reinstated slavery in the French Empire, and so this woman would have possibly been free (it was revoked from 1794-1802). She looks out at the viewer with a wary expression, exposed by not engaged. Certainly, it is a contrast to the image of a fully clothed princess.

Antonio Canova, Paolina Bonaparte Borghese as Venus Victrix, front and rear views, 1805-1808 (photos by Antonio Canova [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons and By user:shakko – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5747405)

Marie-Guillemine Benoist, Marie Anne Elisa Bonaparte, c. 1810 and Portrait of a Negress, 1800 (photos By Marie-Guillemine Benoist – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=147865 and By Marie-Guillemine Benoist – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15883167)

The Neoclassical style bridged the 18th and 19th centuries, becoming the dominant style in a period of profound changes. This is also the beginnings of a mix of styles and movements, often competing with each other in the arts.



Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, 1767 (photo By Jean-Honoré Fragonard – wartburg.edu, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=611509)

The Rococo Style was an expression of wit and frivolity, although at its best it has a more somber, satirical undercurrent. It was primarily the style of the aristocracy as well, who had little to do, since Louis XIV had stripped their power, and handed it to government bureaucracy. The style is generally light, fluffy, and pastel, and focuses on the pleasure of the moment. The name for the style comes from the French words rocaille and coquille, and referred to the preference for shell-like, rocky motifs, especially in the gardens, which were turned into fanciful grottoes with purposely overgrown plants and trees and faux-architectural ruins. This faux-natural theme in the gardens can also be seen in the garden represented by Fragonard’s painting above, and fits with the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who advocated for a return to nature.

Rococo garden, Schloss Veitshöchheim, Franconia, Germany (photos by By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons and By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)Boboligrotto

Boboli Gardens, Pitti Palace, Florence, Grotto by Bernardo Buontalenti with Paris Abducts Helen by Vincenzo di Rossi (photo by Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=136860)

At the same time, there were serious advances taking place in music and science. This is the moment when the piano and other louder instruments were created, partially to be able to fill the new symphony halls with sound. It was the period of Mozart and Handel, and the rise in popularity of opera. Linnaeus also developed the classification system still used in biology today, and, by 1750, the Industrial Revolution was underway in England. Politically, Frederick the Great turned Prussia into an aggressive military power, and began the process of unifying Germany.

Another part of the aesthetic of the Rococo was the use of chinoiserie, the fanciful take on Chinese art and culture that came out of the craze for Chinese porcelains, silks, and other trade goods. The Pagoda designed for Kew Gardens in London by William Chambers in 1761 is an example of this, and was only one part of the overall focus on the exotic and fanciful. Romanticized views of these exotic-seeming elements of European landscapes and gardens were also popular.Kew_Gardens_Pagoda

William Chambers, Pagoda, Kew Gardens, London, 1761 (photo by By Targeman – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2165524)

In France, the death of Louis XIV in 1715 released the nobility from his tight control. His great-grandson, the new king Louis XV was only 5, and so the nobility moved to Paris, and began to build elaborate hôtels, urban townhomes that were more like mini-palaces. Here, the ladies of the house, called salonnières, began to have daily (or nightly) salons, where politicians, philosophers, artists, and many others would come together to discuss current events, art, science, etc. These typically took place in ornate rooms, often roughly circular or oval in shape, and without corners to encourage conversation. A good example of this is Germand Boffrand’s Salon de la Princesse from the Hôtel de Soubise in Paris, designed c. 1740. Another shift noticeable in this Salon, especially if it is compared with the Galerie des Glaces in Versailles, is the paintings, here showing the story of Cupid and Psyche, which focus on the softer subjects like love.

German Bouffant, Salon de la Princess, Hôtel de Soubise, Paris, c. 1740 and Charles-Joseph Natoire, The Story of Psyche, 1737-1739 (photos By Chatsam – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47395491 and By Charles-Joseph Natoire – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15463504)

One of the leading painters of the Rococo in Paris was the Flemish artist Antoine Watteau, known for his fêtes galantes, or festive gatherings, which became so popular another category was added to the Salons for his acceptance into the Académie. These, like Pilgrimage to Cythera and Departure from Cythera, are light, pastel paintings of scenes of lovers and enjoyment, done in a Rubenesque, painterly fashion. Cythera was also the mythical island home of Venus, the goddess of love, so it fit within this fashionable subject matter of an idyll. Fragonard’s painting, The Swing, pictured at the top, is another one of these fashionable idylls, but here the young woman is having fun in her Rococo garden. She is being pushed on the swing by a man, perhaps her father or husband, while her young lover hides in the rose bushes, and gets an up-skirt view. The Cupid statues in the piece seem to be in on the joke, but her dog is about to reveal the young man’s hiding place. The piece both reveals aristocratic pursuits, and the eroticism inherent in them, while perhaps also offering a bit of a negative commentary on these pursuits.

Antoine Watteau, Pilgrimage to Cythera, 1717 and Departure from Cythera, 1717 (photos By Antoine Watteau – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=160130 and By Antoine Watteau – Retouched from File:L’Embarquement pour Cythere, by Antoine Watteau, from C2RMF.jpg, originally C2RMF: Galerie de tableaux en très haute définition: image page, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15715131)

 One of the most interesting of Watteau’s works is L’Enseigne de Gersaint (The Shop Sign of Gersaint), made for the shop of his art dealer, Edme-François Gersaint, on the Pont Notre Dame in Paris. Watteau, who was in failing health at the time he painted this, was staying with Gersaint at the time. In this work, originally painted on one canvas, workers are packing away a painting of Louis XIV, referring to the change in king and in French culture. Wealthy, aristocratic people are browsing the shop, and closely examining a painting of nudes, while a beautiful shop girl, who may also be available for purchase, helps others with jewelry. Watteau’s greatest comment on society in the work is the dog picking at fleas in the street outside of the shop, perhaps a reference to the aristocrats as fleas on France. antoine_watteau_-_l27enseigne_de_gersaint_-_wga25482

Antoine Watteau, L’Ensigne de Gersaint (The Shop Sign of Gersaint), 1721 (photo by Antoine Watteau [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

François Boucher may have been the most well-known and powerful of the French Rococo, in no small part because he had the patronage of Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, the Marquise du Pompadour, the chief mistress to Louis XV. He often used her as his model in paintings of Venus, such as Venus Consoling Love from 1751. In this work, Boucher shows his talent of painting different textures, switching from the feathers of the doves, silks of her drapery, and leaves of the trees and plants. Boucher painted a number of portraits of the Marquise, which often showed her as an Enlightenment intellectual, but maintained comparisons of the Marquise and Venus, with the roses on her dress. Often, such as in the portrait from 1758, there are references to her connections to Louis XV, as she remained an important advisor to the king even after they were not involved in a sexual relationship any more.venus_consoling_love2c_franc3a7ois_boucher2c_1751

François Boucher, Venus Consoling Love, 1751 (photo by François Boucher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

François Boucher, La Marquise du Pompadour, 1756 and Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, la Marquise du Pompadour, 1758 and (photos By François Boucher – Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=518252 and By François Boucher – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6333527)

A number of the portraitists at this time were also female artists, many of whom were well-respected and had nobility as their patrons. Rosalba Carriera was known for her use of pastels, or pigments rolled into sticks and held together with a binder. Her portrait of the young Louis XV done in 1721 shows the young but dignified king in a softer, less intimidating manner than the portrait of his great-grandfather by Rigaud. Her work was also very influential for younger artists like Élizabeth Vigée-Lebrun and Adélaïde Labille-Guiard. Vigée-Lebrun was one of the leading portrait painters in eighteenth-century Europe, whose greatest patron was Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France. A comparison of 2 portraits of Marie-Antoinette by Vigée-Lebrun shows the maturation of the Queen. The one painted in 1778, immediately after her marriage to Louis XVI, emphasizes her regal nature, and is in keeping with traditional royal portraiture, down to the column behind her emphasizing the royal family’s role as the support of France. The one painted 10 years later emphasizes the Queen as a mother, in keeping with the vogue of Rousseau’s ideas of mother’s duties to their children. The empty crib is meant to remind viewers of the death of a child, and the entire work was supposed to humanize an unpopular Queen, making her more sympathetic. Vigée-Lebrun and Labille-Guiard also did self-portraits which referenced their roles as female artists, and Labille-Guiard was instrumental in having the number of women in the Acadèmie doubled (from 2 to 4). Her portrait of herself with 2 students has the typical Rococo surface elegance, but serious message about role of women artists. Here, her students, also women, are excitedly viewing the work of their master. Vigée-Lebrun’s Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat is a conscious reference to Rubens’s portrait of Susanna Fourment, also called The Straw Hat. Here, though, it is the female artist looking coyly out of the work at the viewer.rosalba_carriera_-_louis_xv_of_france_281710-177429_as_dauphin_-_google_art_project

Rosalba Carriera, Louis XV, 1721 (photo by Rosalba Carriera [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Élizabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Marie Antoinette, 1778 and Marie Antoinette and Her Children, 1788 (photos By Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1021832 and By Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun – Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=150165)

Élizabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat, 1782 and Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Self-Portrait with Two Pupils, 1785 (Photos By Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun – http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/elisabeth-louise-vigee-le-brun-self-portrait-in-a-straw-hat, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23940843 and By Adélaïde Labille-Guiard – http://www.ladyreading.net, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=512615)

Rococo painting in England emphasized portraiture, especially of the wealthy, and nature. Sir Joshua Reynolds was the founding President of the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1768, and produced about 2000 portraits of clients from the upper classes. These often emphasized the wealth and landholdings of the sitter, or, as in the case of his portrait of Mrs. Sarah Siddons, their claim to fame. Siddons was one of the most famous actresses of the London theater scene in the 18th century, and his portrait emphasizes drama. His portrait of Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, emphasized her role as a mother to her daughter, showing the English aristocracy was also reading Rousseau. Thomas Gainsborough was another of the famous portraitists in England, known for his full-length portraits set in landscapes. His portrait of Elizabeth Linley, Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the famous singer of the period, puts her in a vast landscape, and shows his debts to Rubens and van Dyck.

Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse, 1783 and Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire with her daughter, Lady Georgiana Cavendish, c. 1785 (photos by Joshua Reynolds [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons and Joshua Reynolds [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

In architecture, as in painting, Rococo emerged from late Baroque classicism, which it both elaborated and refined. Rococo architecture reached its height in Germany, with structures like Balthasar Neumann’s Würzburg Residenz, modeled on Versailles. It is in the staircase of this structure that the changes to Baroque classicism become clear, with the elaborate gilt stucco on the cornices and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s frescoes on the ceiling, which serve to glorify the bishop-princes of the Schönborn family. The throne room of this structure really emphasizes the links to Versailles architecturally, as well as the links to the salons of the Parisian hôtels. Here, through the use of gilt stucco, pastel colored marbles, and frescoes, the room has an impressive, over-the-top feel. The portion that shows the investiture of Bishop Harold by the emperor includes a faux-drape of honor drawn back in front of the scene and trompe-l’oeil moments, such as the halberd of the soldier on the steps and the dog that seems to be sitting atop an engaged column.

Balthasar Neumann, Würzburg Resident, Bavaria, 1719-1753 and staircase with frescoes by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1752-1753 (photos By Franz VisualBeo Horvat, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=701006 and By Oktobersonne – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50065324)

Balthasar Neumann, Throne room of the Würzburg Resident with frescoes by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Investiture of Bishop Harold, Kaisersaal, Residenz, Würzburg, Germany, 1751-52 (photos by By I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17365446 and By Giovanni Battista Tiepolo – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15465344)

German Rococo church architecture in Bavaria was heavily influenced by Boromini and palace architecture. Dominikus Zimmermann’s Wieskirche, or Church of the Meadow, borrows Boromini’s elliptical plan, and combines it with the wedding-cake interior decoration of Neumann’s Residenz. The interior is filled with pastel marbles, gilt stucco, and a ceiling fresco of Heaven that features Jesus sitting on a rainbow.

Dominikos Zimmermann, Wieskirche, Bavaria, 1745-1754 (photos by By Dallas Epperson, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48806281 and By michaelXXLF – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=284163)Kuppelfreskowieskirche

Johann Baptist Zimmermann, Ceiling Fresco of the Wieskirche, before 1758 (photo By Johann Baptist Zimmermann – Olympus C-5060, F/2,8, 1/30 Sekunde, ISO-100, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17668623)

In the Age of Enlightenment, philosophical ideas translated into political movements. Much of this was based on the writings of the 17th century Englishman, John Locke, who advanced “empiricism,” the basis of the scientific method. There were also some very radical political ideas of this period, many of which came from the French philosophes, or thinkers, who were often middle-class and well-educated. These philosophes, many of whom frequented the salons of the Parisian salonnières, used the journals and newspapers of the day to advocate for social and political change, including religious freedom, universal education, and, in France, a Constitutional monarchy. Many of their ideas came from Locke’s Two Treatises of Civil Government, which argued against the divine right of kings. This work argued that the government ruled at the will of the governed, and could be overthrown at any time. Jean-Jacques Rousseau went further in his Social Contract, where the “contract” was not between people and government, but between the people themselves. By the end of the 18th century, the success of the American and French revolutions broke Western European belief in the divine right of kings. Many of these philosophes, and some American Founding Fathers, were Deists, which means they saw god as a clockmaker who set the world in motion and walked away, leaving man to his choices. Others were atheists, which was a rising idea in the 18th century.

It is also in this period that there is the beginning of modern art theory and art history. The term aesthetic is an 18th century term. Johann Joachim Winckelmann in the 1760s moved to Rome, and became the Papal librarian. He has been called the father of art history based on his 1764 publication The History of Ancient Art which argued that style was determined by culture. His categories of Greek art became a model for later art historical divisions. Immanuel Kant published Critique of Judgment in 1790 where he advocated the notion of aesthetic assessment of and response to both nature and art. For Kant, beauty resided in the interplay between the viewer and the viewed, which gave the aesthetic response a significant and independent role in human experience. G.W.F. Hegel in the early decades of the 19th century combined elements of Winckelmann and Kant. He addressed the spiritual concern between art and religion, and identified the historical evolution of style as inevitable and could be perceived and understood in retrospect. All of this shows the interest in scientific classification of all aspects of life in the 18th century, and the attempts by philosophers to explain as much as they could about the natural world, man, and man’s place in their world.

The Frenchman Denis Diderot was one of the philosophes in Paris, and he wanted to publish a book, or series of books, that explained everything, from how to smelt iron, to how to make wallpaper, to the nature of god.  The encyclopédistes classified knowledge on a scientific basis, and this desire fit with the ideals of universal education. His Dictionnaire Raisonné des Arts, des sciences, et des métiers also called the Encyclopédia. This was banned by the French censors working for the government of Louis XV, but the patronage of the Marquise du Pompadour got the work published. Diderot and the other encyclopédistes combined detailed engravings with detailed articles to explain the arts, sciences, and other things explained in the Encyclopédia.diderot

Pages on Tinsmithing from the Encyclopédia, 1751-1772

The philosophes typically promoted the bourgeois realist art over the aristocratic Rococo style. This sort of art, as personified in the works of Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, emphasized the simpler things of the lower classes, as well as the morals of these classes. There are no erotic undertones in these works, and the works have the feeling of 17th century Netherlandish paintings by Rembrandt or Vermeer. His La Fontaine (Servant Getting Water) shows a middle-class house, with a woman and child visible in the background, and the servant in the foreground. The color palette here is much more somber, and there is an emphasis on realistic depiction of the things that would be found in a bourgeois house.Jean-Siméon_Chardin_-_Woman_Drawing_Water_at_the_Cistern_-_Google_Art_Project

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, La Fontaine (Servant Getting Water), 1733 (photo By Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin – LwEbD1QuT9v-hA at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21880104)

In England, the paintings of Joseph Wright of Derby focused often on the scientific experiments that would happen after supper in the homes of the wealthy. These often used light as the means to tell the story. Traditionally, light associated with god(s) and the divinity of rulers; in Christian art, Christ was the “light of the world.” With the Enlightenment, light became associated with the rational and empirical—the primacy of reason and intellect. His painting of An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump highlights this idea, with the light emphasizing the central scene of the experiment, and the young boy in the back drawing back the curtains to reveal the dim moonlight. The message is that the light of science and reason was stronger.an_experiment_on_a_bird_in_an_air_pump_by_joseph_wright_of_derby2c_1768

Joseph Wright (of Derby), An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, 1768 (photo by Joseph Wright of Derby [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Another popular strain in English bourgeois art of the period was that of William Hogarth, who satirized contemporary manners and social conventions. He was particularly pointed in his criticisms of the nobility, and often did series that commented on what he saw as the lack of moral compass of the elite. His series Marriage-a-la-Mode critiqued what he saw as the French influence in marriage, which was arranged as a financial transaction, often so that one family could gain social standing. In the first painting of this series, Lord Squanderfield (the name is a purposeful pun) has run out of money, and is arranging the marriage of his son to the daughter of a wealthy upper middle class man. It is obvious, from the young couple’s lack of interest in each other, that the marriage is doomed to failure, and Hogarth made sure to give the young man a mark of syphilis on his neck to emphasize his lack of morals. The rest of the series deal with cheating, murder, and death, ending in tragedy for both families. Hogarth would paint these as series, and would sell prints of the paintings to the middle class, who avidly collected these paintings satirizing the upper classes.Marriage_A-la-Mode_1,_The_Marriage_Settlement_-_William_Hogarth

William Hogarth, Marriage-a-la-Mode: The Marriage Contract, c. 1743 (photo By William Hogarth – The National Gallery, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38101317)

Countercurrents persisted in art throughout the 18th century. There was a prevalence of irony and satire, such as with Hogarth, and darker forces underlay the optimistic view of nature and levity of Rococo. In Germany, the Sturm und Drang movement was ruled by a belief that nature had power over reason, heavily drawn from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, which was about the human battle for control over evil nature. Caspar David Friedrich’s watercolor sketch from 1797 shows this German ideal, one that would become stronger in the early 19th century with the rise of Napoleon.landscape_with_pavilion

Caspar David Friedrich, Landscape with Pavilion, 1797 (photo by Caspar David Friedrich [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

In the British colonies of North America, there was a continuation of the classical in both portraits and history paintings. John Singleton Copley’s portrait of Paul Revere uses Caravaggesque tenebrism with a view of Revere’s status as a silversmith Colonial Boston. Benjamin West painted The Death of General Wolfe, a scene from the Seven Years War. But, this was almost refused by the king because the contemporary dress of the figures was thought vulgar, since the universal message was thought to be better conveyed with the figures wearing togas.john_singleton_copley_-_paul_revere_-_wga5216

John Singleton Copley, Paul Revere, c. 1768–70 (photo by John Singleton Copley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Benjamin West, The Death of General Wolfe, c. 1770 (photo by Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=160192)

In architecture, in England at least, there was a return to the Classical, and a number of revival styles sprang up. Richard Boyle, the Earl of Burlington modeled his villa, Chiswick House, near London, on Palladio’s Villa Rotunda. He even used the centralized plan of Palladio’s Late Renaissance structure, although he modified some parts of the house to make it more befitting an English country estate. Robert Adam was a leader of the Classical revival, as well as an amateur archaeologist who studied Roman ruins and dug at Pompeii. His remodeled fireplace niche in the entrance hall of Osterley Park House created the atmosphere of a Roman villa, using what he had seen in Pompeii, although there was a lack of understanding of the place of color in Roman structures. Horace Walpole remodeled his villa of Strawberry Hill at Twickenham near London in the Gothic Revival style. This is a large, sprawling structure without the soaring grandeur of Gothic buildings. He drew on romantic notions of the Gothic as beginning in England, and created a fantasy of what Gothic was, including the use of English Perpendicular fan vaulting.

Richard Boyle (Earl of Burlington), Chiswick House, near London, begun 1725 (photo By Patche99z at English Wikipedia – Originally from en.wikipedia where it had a different name: File:Chiswick House 022b.jpg; description page is/was here., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3005530 and Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=985967)


Robert Adam, Entrance Hall, Osterley Park House, 1767-1768 (photo By MCAD Library – https://www.flickr.com/photos/69184488@N06/11891497834, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49074017)

Horace Walpole, Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham, Near London, 1749-1777 (photos By John Wilder – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35818644 and By Jonathan Cardy – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35736789)

There were other movements and strains of art beginnings in the late 18th century as well, with the Revolutions and the rise of Napoleon. This would lead to the rise of both Neoclassicism and Romanticism.