Eugène Delacroix. Liberty Leading the People . 1830. 8’ 6" × 10’ 7”.
J. M. W. Turner. Interior of Tintern Abbery . 1794. 12-5/8" × 9-7/8”.
Map: Romantic England.
What is Romanticism? The Romantics were dedicated to the discovery of beauty in nature through their subjective experience of it. William Wordsworth’s poem “Tintern Abbey” embodies the growing belief in the natural world as the source of inspiration and creativity that marks the early Romantic imagination. Wordsworth’s poem was included in Lyrical Ballads , a book he co-authored with Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1798 as a self-conscious experiment dedicated to presenting “incidents and situations from common life . . . in a selection of language really used by men.” How do Wordsworth and Coleridge differ as poets? Of all Romantic poetry, perhaps the odes of John Keats most fully embody the Romantic imagination’s ability to transcend even death, which Keats faced when he realized at age 23 that he was dying of tuberculosis. In a nightingale’s song or a Grecian urn, Keats discovers the essence of a beauty that represents a form of nature higher than mortal life itself.
John Constable. Landscape and Double Rainbow . 1812. 13-1/4" × 15”.
John Constable. The Stour Valley and Dedham Village . 1814. 21-3/4" × 30-3/4”.
How does landscape painting reflect a Romantic worldview? Landscape painters in the nineteenth century saw the natural world around them as the emotional focal point or center of their own artistic imaginations. John Constable, painting in the valley of the Stour River in his native Suffolk, considered himself “a worshipper of Nature.” What is the “transcendence” that Wordsworth and Constable find in nature? J. M. W. Turner specialized in capturing light, not the objects of nature so much as the medium through which they are seen. What is Turner’s conception of the “sublime”? In Germany, the painter Caspar David Friedrich often places solitary figures before sublime landscapes that constantly raise the theme of doubt. Why does doubt excite Friedrich’s imagination? In America, the Romantic imagination found itself at home in the untamed wilderness. What tensions do the paintings of Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church explore?
John Constable. Willy Lott’s House, East Bergholt . ca. 1820. 9-7/8" × 11-1/8”.
John Constable. The Hay Wain . 1821. 51-3/8" × 73”.
J. M. W. Turner. The Upper Falls of the Reichenbach . ca. 1810-15. 10-7/8" × 15-7/16”.
J. M. W. Turner. The Fall of an Avalanche in the Grisons . 1810. 35-5/8" × 47-1/4”.
J. M. W. Turner. Snow Storm—Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth . 1842. 36" × 48”.
Caspar David Friedrich. Monk by the Sea . 1810. 47-1/2" × 67”.
Closer Look: The Sublime, the Beautiful, and the Picturesque: Tintern Abbey . Wye Valley, Monmouthshire, Wales.
Hubert Robert. Closer Look: The Sublime, the Beautiful, and the Picturesque: Pyramids . ca. 1750. 24" × 28-1/2”.
Caspar David Friedrich. The Wanderer above the Mists . 1817-18. 37-1/4" × 29-1/2”.
Thomas Cole. The Oxbow (View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm) . 1836. 4’ 3-1/2" × 6’ 4”.
Frederic Edwin Church. Twilight in the Wilderness . 1860. 40" × 60”.
What is Transcendentalism? The American writers of Romantic sensibility were, like the painters, free to discover the self in nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson codified their thinking in his 1836 treatise Nature . His contemporary, Henry David Thoreau, sought to experience nature firsthand by retreating to a small cabin in the woods on Emerson’s property, where he wrote Walden, or Life in the Woods , first published in 1854. How do Emerson’s “transparent eyeball” and Thoreau’s “stream of time” compare?
Title page of Henry David Thoreau's Walden, or Life in the Woods , 1854 (first edition). 1854.
What are the characteristics of the Romantic hero? Almost everyone recognized that even if Napoleon personified the Romantic hero, he also possessed a darker side. In many eyes, he was a modern Prometheus. What are the different views of Prometheus? in Hegel? in the poems of Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley? in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein ? How does Johann Wolfgang von Goethe view his Promethean figure Faust? Despite its darker side, what are the attractions of the Promethean figure?
Baron Antoine-Jean Gros. Napoleon in the Pesthouse at Jaffa . 1804. 17’ 5" × 23’ 7”.
Thomas Phillips. Lord Byron, Sixth Baron, in Albanian Costume . 1835. 29-1/2" × 24-1/2”.
Theodor M. von Hulst. Illustration from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley . 1831.
J. H. W. Tischbein. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the Roman Campana . 1787. 64-1/2" × 81”.
Eugène Delacroix. Mephistopheles appearing to Faust in his Study . Illustration for Goethe’s Faust. 1828. 10-3/4" × 9”.
What experiences shaped Goya’s worldview? The Spanish painter Francisco Goya was at first enthusiastic about Napoleon, but quickly changed his mind after the emperor’s invasion of Spain in 1808. How did he see Spanish society? How did the royal family reflect their culture? How did Napoleon’s invasion confirm his pessimism?
Francisco Goya. The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters , from the series Los Caprichos. 1796-98. 8-1/2" × 6”.
Francisco Goya. The Third of May, 1808 . 1814-15. 8’ 9-1/2" × 13’ 4-1/2”.
Francisco Goya. Grande hazara! Con muertos! (Great courage! Against corpses!) , from the series The Disasters of War , no. 39. 1810-14.
Francisco Goya. Saturn Devouring One of His Children . 1820-23. 57-7/8" × 32-5/8”.
What insight lies at the heart of Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick? Romantic thinking was more problematic for the novelist Herman Melville. While many of the characters in his Moby Dick reflect a deeply Romantic sensibility, Melville challenges their way of approaching the world as overly simplistic and even dangerously so. How does the world he portrays in Moby Dick compare to that presented in the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich?
J. M. W. Turner. The Whale Ship . ca. 1845. 36-1/8" × 48-1/4”.
What is Romantic music? Beethoven’s musical career can be divided into three eras. In the early years, he was deeply influenced by the classical music of Mozart and Haydn. In the so-called “Heroic Decade,” after coming to the brink of suicide in 1802 due to his increasing deafness, he was guided by an almost pure state of subjective feeling. In great symphonies like the Eroica and the Fifth, he defined the Romantic style in music. How would you describe that style? After undergoing much personal anguish related to his family, Beethoven entered his late period, during which he completed three uniquely structured piano sonatas and his triumphal Ninth Symphony in 1824. Beethoven’s approach to the Romantic style in music required innovation and originality. Succeeding generations of composers followed his lead by expanding the musical vocabulary of orchestras and developing new symphonic forms. What are the innovations of Hector Berlioz and Felix Mendelssohn? Other composers, such as Franz Schubert and Robert and Clara Schumann, set the poems of Romantic poets such as Schiller and Goethe to music in compositions called lieder . Frédéric Chopin composed almost solely for the piano and was famous especially for his études , studies that address particular technical challenges.
Carl Schütz. Neuer Markt (“New Market”) , Vienna.
Musical Notation: Beethoven's First Symphony: opening four-note motif.
Joseph Carl Stieler. Portrait of Beethoven . 1820. 24-3/8" × 19-3/8”.
Andrew Geiger. A Concert of Hector Berlioz in 1846 . 1846.
The Early Romantic ImaginationWhat is Romanticism?• The Ideal of the Romantic: William Wordsworth’s “TinternAbbey” — This poem can be taken as one of the fulleststatements of the Romantic imagination and argues that inexperiencing the beauty of nature, the imagination dissolves allopposition.• A Romantic Experiment: Lyrical Ballads — Althoughpublished anonymously, this work was co-written byWordsworth and Coleridge and included “Tintern Abbey.”• Romanticism as a Voyage of Discovery: Samuel TaylorColeridge — Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” wasalso included in Lyrical Ballads. The supernatural and mysticalcharacter of his imagination helped to define Romantic art as avoyage of discovery.
• Classical versus Romantic: The Odes of John Keats — Anode is a poem of exaltation, exhibiting deep feeling and Keatsrepresents the essence of Romantic poetry. “Ode to aNightingale” and Ode on a Grecian Urn” typify this form.What are the “classical” components in the verse and thought ofKeats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn (Reading 27.7)?
The Romantic LandscapeHow does landscape painting reflect a Romantic worldview?• John Constable: Painter of the English Countryside —Tension between the timeless and the more fleeting aspects ofnature deeply informs the paintings of Constable.• Joseph Mallord William Turner: Colorist of the Imagination— Turner freely explored what he called “the colors of theimagination.” Earth and vegetation seem to dissolve into lightand water.• The Romantic in Germany: Friedrich and Kant — Friedrichrepresents the imaginative capacities of the Romantic mind byplacing figures, often solitary ones, before sublime landscapes.Some Romantic sentiments were expressed by Kant in Critiqueof Pure Reason.
• The American Romantic Landscape — In America, theRomantic landscape was literally shaped by the presence ofvast tracts of wilderness. Thomas Cole’s works The Oxbow andTwilight in the Wilderness exemplify the power of the landscapegenre.What is specifically “American” about the landscapes of Cole?
Transcendentalism and the American RomanticsWhat is Transcendentalism?• The Philosophy of Romantic Idealism: Emerson andThoreau — Emerson wrote Nature which became a beacon forthe “Transcendental Club” who took their name from Schellingwho argued that scientific observation and artistic intuition werecomplementary, not opposed.Is a specific “American” character reflected in Transcendentalism?
Romanticism’s Darker RealitiesWhat are the characteristics of the Romantic hero?• The Romantic Hero — Ultimately, Napoleon was thepersonification of the Romantic hero: a man of common originwho had risen to dominate the world stage. Hegel and Carlyleintroduced the notion of the dialectic and the “Great Man”theory, respectively. Lord Byron and the poet Shelleychampioned free will, goodness, and idealism in the face ofoppression. All these figures related to the story of Prometheus.Goethe created two Romantic characters, Werther and Faust
Goya’s Tragic VisionWhat experiences shaped Goya’s worldview?• Goya before Napoleon: Social Satire — Goya was angered at theabandonment of reform by Charles III and produced a series ofprints called the Caprichos depicting the follies of Spanish society.• The Third of May, 1808: Napoleon’s Spanish Legacy — TheSpanish population rose against Napoleon and on this datehundreds of Spaniards were executed outside of Madrid. This workis one of the greatest testaments to the horrors of war.• The Black Paintings — as an old man Goya retreated to a houseoutside of Madrid where he executed a series of 14 oil paintingsdirectly on the plaster walls. Saturn Devouring One of His Childrenis one work depicting a sense of despair, isolation, and loneliness.Discuss Goya’s progression from social satire to his later “BlackPaintings.”
Herman Melville: The Uncertain World of Moby DickWhat insight lies at the heart of Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick?• Melville also found a dark expression of the Promethean hero in thisnovel. The white whale symbolizes both good and evil, as well aselements of the natural world that cannot be controlled by humans–that are truly wild.
Beethoven and the Rise of Romantic MusicWhat is Romantic music?• Early Years in Vienna: From Classicism to Romanticism — ThePromethean hero was also reflect in the music of Beethoven, thekey figure in the transition from the classical to the Romantic era.• The Heroic Decade: 1802-1812 — Beethoven becameincreasingly deaf which spurred him to greater creativity. His senseof self-sufficiency, of an imagination turned inward, guided by analmost pure state of subjective feeling, lies at the very heart ofRomanticism. His Third Symphony, the Eroica, expresses this newstyle.
• The Late Period: The Romantic in Music — Beethoven’s NinthSymphony is a statement of faith in humanity, a utopian vision. Hisfinal piano sonatas present a form of theme and variations.• Romantic Music after Beethoven — The symphonies composedby Berlioz are notable for their inventiveness and novelty andemphasize overwhelming emotion, passions, and otherworldlyscenes. Mendelssohn felt that the meaning of music lies in themusic itself. Schubert and the Schumanns did not concentrate onthe symphonic form. They chose to set poetry to music calledlieder. Chopin performed at salon concerts. The Fantasieimpromptu showcases the expressive range of Chopin whichcombined impulsive creativity and imaginary and fantastical effects.