Age of Enlightenment 1 Running head: Age of EnlightenmentFigure 1: Artist: Alaric. S, God vs. Science, Retrieved November 2, 2008 from http://science.qj.net/God-vs-Einstein-The-War-Between-Religion-and-Science/pg/49/aid/65202 Age of Enlightenment, and the Advancement of Art Phase #4, Assignment #8, Individual Project #4 Author: TSgt Loren Karl-Robinson Schwappach Prepared for: Colorado Technical University HUM140-0804A-08 Art Appreciation Prepared for Professor: Tammy Starzyk Completed on: 4 November, 2008
Age of Enlightenment 2 Abstract Throughout mans history there have been monumental breakthroughs in thought thathave radically accelerated and/or decelerated mans movement into the modern world. The darkages were a repressive time for humanity and with its eventual demise the Age of Enlightenmentwas breathed into existence, spurring revolutionary ideas, fueled by discoveries in science andboosted by free thinking philosophers. The Age of Enlightenment brought many amazingchanges to our world; among these was the idea that man could achieve anything through reason.This paper will give a brief history of the Age of Enlightenment. It will introduce a few of thegreat figures that defined the era. It will discuss the changes that ensued in the development andinterpretation of art in the era, and it will illustrate the controversial ideologies that foreverchanged how man viewed himself within the world.
Age of Enlightenment 3 The Age of Enlightenment also known by historians as the Age of Reason is a term usedto describe the movements in art, science, philosophy, and literature throughout Europe and theAmerica’s during the 18th century. Philosophers, writers, and artisans of the age believed theywere emerging from centuries of darkness into an enlightened era of reasoning. The ultimate endof this period was an improved understanding of the natural world and humankind’s place within it, based wholly on human reasoning and without the hindrance of religious beliefs. Thisenlightened age was made possible through the efforts of philosophers like Thomas Hobbes,Immanuel Kant and John Locke as well as breakthroughs in science and reasoning by NicolausCopernicus, Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton. (Age of Enlightenment, n.d.) With Isaac Newton’s discovery of the cosmic law of universal gravitation, enlightenedthinkers believed the power of human reasoning could unlock all of the secrets, the mechanics ofthe universe, and eventually the mysteries of God and human existence. Enlightened thinkersplaced great faith in the discovery of truth through the observation of nature, rather than throughthe study of accepted authorities such as the Bible and works of ancient philosophers. Theserevolutionary ideas were in contradiction to the influential medieval theologies which held thattrue knowledge could only be obtained through faith and direct obedience to God. (Age ofEnlightenment, n.d.) Following the philosophy of John Locke, enlightened writers believed that knowledgewas not inherent or divine, but came from sense experience and observation controlled by soundreasoning. The free thinking enlightened saw the church as a force which had enslaved humanthought through fear and oppression. While most enlightened thinkers and artisans did notrenounce their faith, nothing was attacked with more ferocity than the aristocratic church. Theenlightenment was the battleground where the conflict between religion and free thought was
Age of Enlightenment 4settled through the art of human reasoning. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant said it bestand set the motto for this enlightened era when he said, “Dare to know.” (Age of Enlightenment,n.d.) Main figures of the enlightenment included Descartes, Pascal, Bayle, Montesquieu,Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau. According to Voltaire the growing allure to enlightenedthinking followed seven precepts, the autonomy of reason, perfectibility and progress, theconfidence in the ability to discover causality, governing principles, assault on authority,cosmopolitan solidarity, and disgust with nationalism. These radical ideologies spreadthroughout Europe and the Americas and is exemplified thought literature of the time. TheAmerican Declaration of Independence is but one great example. (Rempel G., n.d.) Of Voltaires precepts, specifically the disgust with nationalism and the assault onauthority, Voltaire identifies a growing hatred for large governmental and religious systemsamong the populace. This hatred of nationalism was partially set because the 1750s introduced alarge reading public into societies. These educated publics learned to question the power ofauthorities while leaning towards personal reasoning and experience. (Rempel G., n.d.) The diversity of artistic works created during this period do not easily fit into strictclassifications, yet art historians have drawn a few broad categorizations of styles of the period.At the opening of the 1800 century baroque styles of art was still popular. Baroque art usedexaggerated motions and intense details in repeating patterns to communicate religious themes indirect and emotional involvements. The baroque style was highly sought and controlled by thechurch, and as such was supplanted by rococo and eventually neoclassicism as a direct result ofthe enlightenment. Rococo style, paintings were very controversial at the time and emphasizedan airy grace with refined pleasures, using warm pastel colors, elegant ornamentation, and shell
Age of Enlightenment 5like curves. Rococo paintings crossed the boundaries of Baroque style in emphasizing therelying belief in personal and pleasurable experience and reasoning against the time held systemsof church and government. Some rococo style paintings illustrated delicate jewelries, artfuldances, and beautiful women often painted in the nude. This change of pace in art was a directreflection to the change in culture brought on by the enlightenments renewed philosophy ofthought. (The Enlightenment, n.d.) The age of enlightenment was deeply accelerated by the citizenries new found interestsin reason, empiricism (the philosophical theory that knowledge arises from experience, atheology often utilized in rococo style paintings) and the classics (the art of ancient Greece andRome, spurring neoclassicism) . Since the job of an artist was to create vivid imitations ofnature, reason and empiricism dictated that this process should be refined through an intellectualgrasp of the processes used in producing the classics. The works of the ancients were seen asexamples of the most beautiful elements in nature. (The Enlightenment, n.d.) In response to the age of reason and a new found interest in the classics, neoclassical artappeared in France in the late 1780s. Neoclassicism was a stiff, harsh, unemotional alternative incontrast to the serene, happy, warm, and delicious rococo style and quickly replaced the rococostyle in popularity throughout Europe. Neoclassical art gave credit to the grandeur of ancientGreece and Roman artwork through the process of classical composition. The neoclassical artistused sharp colors, logical patterns, and strict moral themes to capture the observers’imaginations. Neoclassicism attempted to not only borrow from the antique, but also anemulation of order, unity, proportion and harmony. (Hackett L.,1992) Neoclassicism used a classical composition emphasizing a clear focus on a central hero,martyr or saint. The Holy Family in Egypt by Nicolas Poussin (see figure 2, below)
Age of Enlightenment 6demonstrates classical composition with balance, symmetry, broad, unified light effects and aprominent, hierarchical positioning of the main figures. (The Enlightenment, n.d.)Figure 2: Artist: Nicolas Poussin, Holy Family in Egypt. Retrieved November 4, 2008 from http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/fcgi-bin/db2www/descrPage.mac As the age of enlightenment progressed, the dangers of using a formulaic approach to artwere increasingly recognized as a more naturalistic art gained popularity. In the 1760s the artcritic Diderot insisted artists pay greater attention to nature, as natural reasoning was theinfluential force that had brought the era of enlightenment. Academies of art held large classeson human proportions using nude males in their studies. This built up the idea of empiricism, orknowledge gained through experience and brought a new flavor to neoclassicism. The academies of art framed their subjects in fixed complex positions using anarrangement of ropes, pulleys and blocks as illustrated by Michel-Ange Houasses a Drawing
Age of Enlightenment 7Academy (see figure 3, in black and white below). Houasse draws upon the Neoclassicalapproach of focusing on a central subject using lighting and a fundamental grasp of anatomy andproportions. (The Enlightenment, n.d.)Figure 3: Artist: Michel-Ange Houasse, a Drawing Academy. Retrieved November 4 2008 from http://www.mimsstudios.com/formerstudents.htm As artists quested for a more naturalistic style, a new growing appreciation for landscapeart sought to capture the beauty in everyday life, and required more direct observations of theartists. In landscape art, there was a growing inclination to place greater emphasis on directlyobserved sketches of the landscape, allowing for imitation of a greater variety of natural effects.(The Enlightenment, n.d.) Enlightenment artists required greater naturalism or realism in art, in both style andsubject. The quest for greater naturalism and reason was seen in France as an antidote to theredundant, superfluous rococo style. The second half of the enlightenment produced a greater
Age of Enlightenment 8respect for nature and was seen as a moral solution to the corruption of the rococos aristocraticpatrons. (The Enlightenment, n.d.) The Triumph of Venus, by François Boucher (see figure 4 below) exemplifies the rococostyles erotic, sinful pleasures and light hearted tones. While this style has many appealingfactors, like its delicate curves, pastel colors, beautiful women and playful cupids, it became anabomination to the free thinking moralist culture produced during the later age of enlightenment.(The Enlightenment, n.d.)Figure 4: Artist: Francois Boucher: The Triumph of Venus. Retrieved November 4, 2008 from http://www.reprodart.com/a/boucher-francois/the-triumph-of-venus.html Enlightened thinkers viewed good art as a process and product of reasoning through theuse of experience, and well established rules derived from the classics. Voltaire drew on this
Age of Enlightenment 9evolutionary outlook towards reason when he stated "I value poetry only insofar as it is theornament of reason" (The Enlightenment, n.d.) Arts of the enlightenment believed there were many beauties in art that seemed to lieoutside the reach of instruction, and yet could easily be reduced using practical principles ofreasoning. Hume, a philosopher of the enlightenment wrote that the imagination of man isinspired and delighted with whatever is remote and extraordinary, and is running without controlinto the most distant parts of space and time in order to avoid the objects which custom hasrendered too familiar to it. In other words man will always seem the extraordinary over theordinary. This concept was a minor contradiction to the enlightened thought that the power ofhuman reasoning could unlock all of the secrets of the universe, for if man cant take logicalcontrol of his reasoning process chaos ensues. Although, says volumes about mankinds abilityto fathom through the unknown. (The Enlightenment, n.d.) In summary the enlightenment brought great new ideas centered on reason, modernism,classicism and control. The enlightenment was a spectacular response to the dark oppressivemedieval culture that had imprisoned man through the use of authoritative control. It challengedhumanity to pursue a deeper awareness of the universes natural laws through a deep process ofhuman reasoning. In painting the age of enlightenment dethroned the baroque style sought bythe aristocratic clergy, and freed the artists to use the seductive and flavorful rococo style, soughtby the free thinking rich, and eventually lead to the refinement and return to a more structured,moralistic, purpose driven neoclassic style, sought by the educated enlightened. Can mankindunlock all of the laws an mysteries of the universe through pure human reasoning as illustratedby Alarics image of God vs. Science (see title page, figure 1) or will some mysteries ofmankinds origin and future forever be veiled by the divine? I faithfully prefer the later.
Age of Enlightenment 10 ReferencesAge of Enlightenment (n.d.). In Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 4, 2008, from http://encarta.msn.comRempel G. (n.d.). The Age of the Enlightenment. Retrieved November 2, 2008, from http://mars.wnec.edu/~grempel/courses/wc2/lectures/enlightenment.htmlStokstad, M. (2007). Art: a brief history (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.The Enlightenment (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2008 from http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/mod/resource/view.php?id=169873The Enlightenment (2003), Retrieved November 3, 2008 from http://www.teacheroz.com/Enlightenment.htmLewis, Hackett. (1992). The Age of Enlightenment. Retrieved November 4, 2008, from http://history-world.org/age_of_enlightenment.htm