Romanticism was a multi-layered movement that took manyforms and affected most branches of the arts. It began in the late 18 thcentury and flowered most fully in the early 19 th. Unlike the Neoclassicists who promoted order and reason, theRomantics believed in the power of the imagination, emotion andindividualism. These qualities could be evoked in very different ways.Much of their work was focused on the past but was typically set in theMiddle Ages rather than classical antiquity. While classical artistsreshaped nature to suit their ordered compositions, the Romanticsportrayed it as wild and ungovernable. In their landscapes, someRomantic painters liked to show the individual as being dwarfed by theforces of nature, which were portrayed as an expression of humanemotions and often given a mystical or visionary role. At the same time, a sense of individualism can also be linked tothe spirit of rebellion that epitomizes the Romantic era. Its anti-rationalistovertones led artists to explore themes that were linked with horror,madness, violence and the supernatural. There was also a taste for theexotic.
Man and WomanContemplating the Moon by Friedrich
The Romantic movement in Germany was led by agroup of artists known as the Nazarenes (c.1809-30), whosought to revive honesty and spirituality in Christian art. Thiswas most obvious from their attempts to mimic the lifestyle ofthe painter-monks from the early Renaissance. The term“Nazarene” stemmed from their communal, semi-monasticlifestyle and their affectation of wearing biblical clothing andhair styles. Contemporary critics believed that the Nazarenes wereresponsible for the rebirth of German art, although theyconceded that much of their work was focused on the past. TheNazarenes were also closely linked with the upsurge ofnationalist sentiments in Germany, which led some of theirmembers to portray patriotic themes from German history andlegend. The Nazarenes also attempted to revive the art ofmedieval fresco painting.