Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Romanticism in England

It's cutting me up inside how out of order these are.
Romanticism is probably my favourite kind of painting, not that I know loads about it but it's better than the 100's of variations of the Virgin and Child I've been shown so far!
Romanticism was a movement in the 19th century that captures the sense of the sublime. The concept of the individual and their relationship with the world. It's just chilled really. The images labelled romantic wont all be the same style. Romanticism was less of a style and more of a concept of a world cut from its organic setting at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

Landscape with Aeneas at Delos, Claude Lorraine, 1672
Landscape tradition was hard to introduce in the continent but was already common in England. Claude, to introduce it, drew a 'classical landscape' with an episode of Aeneas coming back to Rome from Troy. It was an attempt to create something noble out of a genre that was low on the hierarchical scale of genre paintings. This tradition lasted until the 19th century. Although a French painter who spent most of his time in Italy, this is relevant for what happened in English landscape painting at the end of this tradition.

Flatford Mill, John Constable, 1816-17
Constables reaction to the phenomenon outlined above was an abandonment of the constant reference to Rome and Greece. He believed a landscape needn't be justified - it is an autonomous entity.
He began painting in Suffolk, a typical idyllic rural landscape, the mill in this painting belonged to his father. He was particularly famous for his naturalistic depiction of clouds and believed in celebrating familiar nature alongside the idea of 'god in nature'.
He was about at the same time as the poets Woodsworth and Coleridge - a visual companion to some of their work.
The Haywain, 1821
Constable won a prize for this in Paris. It was literally an unseen landscape for those living in the Mediterranean.
Snowstorm: Hannibal and his army crossing the Alps, J.M.W Turner 1812
Turner was the opposite of Constable, although both were Romantics (Turner definitely hinting towards the future in his impressionist-like work but his attitude made him a romantic) they expressed it in different ways. It's funny that out of the two it was Turner who was considered a revolutionary figure because of the two, Turner was more loyal to the academy. The main subject in this painting is the tempest but there is a historical scene being played out at the bottom: Hannibal, the brave and intelligent enemy of Rome, heading to conquer the city. Turner does not lend much importance to him. Nonetheless, I think the mere mention of an academy accepted subject makes him more akin to the academy then Constable was.

Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway, 1844
My personal favourite :) It has an impressionist style, with extremely strong impasto. Turners late style without a doubt influenced the impressionists. He was a visionary. This painting is a celebration of industrial life rather than classical past or a tragic episode from contemporary history. The main subject here is obviously the train, but in the background there is a barely visible bridge and someone leisurely passing in a boat. Whereas the right hand side has scenes from the slow pace of rural life, a peasant in the fields. Some people have even said the tiny tiny little blob (you really need to google this and zoom) on the rail track is a rabbit about to run in front of the train. Does this represent the destruction of nature? Or simply that the industrial world was catching up quickly with agriculture that has had thousands of years to establish itself? (while industrialisation barely took 100). I dunno, it's so interesting though.

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