Romanticism And Realism


Romanticism And Realism Essay, Research Paper

At the end of the Baroque Period in the eighteenth and nineteenth century art was divided into two

distinct categories, Romanticism and Realism. Romanticism, the passion-filled works illustrating

stimulating accounts of specific events with symbolic gestures emerging from the scene, separated itself

from the more politically correct stance taken by Realists.

A fine example of Romanticism is G?ricault?s Raft of the Medusa. The brutal scene, set afloat on

the wild seas, is emphasized by the chiaroscuro modeling of the lump of figures in the center of the raft.

The X form of the composition draws your eye all around the composition. The eye starts at the top right

with the Revolutionary figure holding on to a piece of cloth in the colors of the French Revolution and then

is drawn down the diagonal. G?ricault then depicts the striving, the dying, and the dead as they overlap

each other in a fierce struggle to survive. The eye is then drawn up and down the dark opposing diagonal.

This whole scene is then placed on the mighty ocean to delineate the fact that the raft is a metaphor for

France being on a hostile ocean of depravity.

The Grande Odalisque also typifies Romanticism. Ingres, using example such as the Mannerist

Parmaganino?s Madonna with a long neck, takes the artistic license to elongate the figure of this Turkish

harem girl. Influenced by the neo-classical revival Ingres draws upon the Greek technique of flat linear

forms and depicts his model in an impossible position allow us the view of both her shoulders and her

breast; the figure is given an extra three vertebrae in order to maintain this position. Ingres endows a feeling

of sensuality into the figure instead of the paint. The chromatic effect of the composition pulls the harem

girl to the front as she is the only warm color in the piece. Ingres also gives her a very exotic feel with her

accessories: the peacock fan, velvet drapes, and other exorbitant furniture. Ingres also uses Raphael?s

typical female head and a gaze that says, ?You have just interrupted me,? but you don?t know what you

interrupted further intriguing the voyeur.

In contrast to the almost mystical passion and intrigue of Grande Odalisque is Rue Transnonain.

This lithograph by Daumier is realism in the truest sense. Daumier depict the social injustice of the

innocent killing of all the workers in a housing block. Daumier draws in the viewer with the initial scene of

a man in his pajamas lying dead against his bed. The viewer is then drawn to pay closer attention to the

work. In careful examination of the piece the viewer sees a baby crushed under the man with just its head

and arms coming out from under the weight of this man. There is a pool of blood forming from the baby

which intends to play on the viewers sympathy eliciting violent emotions of hatred towards the butcher

who took the lives of these innocent people who were obviously sleeping as indicated by the attire and

disarray of the bed. The awful scene depicted in Rue Transnonain. elicits emotions and a need for social


The Third Day of May, by Goya is an example of a transitional piece which reflects both Realism

and Romanticism. In this piece Goya depicts a specific incident in which a number a civilians in Madrid

were rounded up in killed in retaliation for the deaths of French soldiers a few days before. Painted during

Goya?s ?Black Period? the tenebroso conflict of the light fighting away at the dark sky is extremely

dramatic and the chromatic effect from this adds to the suspense and drama of the situation at hand. Goya

also puts the victim of this murderous rampage in a white shirt to symbolize innocence, strongly drawing

on the Romantic style. But Goya also uses the harsh reality of the dead body and the pool of blood

accumulating on the ground to make a social commentary on the death of these men, drawing on the school

of Realism.

Courbet, considered by many the father of realism, also uses techniques of both schools. To

illustrate, in Burials of Ornans, Courbet depicts a funeral scene with an intense feel for the emotions felt by

the mourners. ?Unlike the superhuman or subhuman actors on the grand stage of the Romantic canvas, this

Realist work move to the ordinary rhythms of contemporary life.? (Gardner?s, p. 898) Courbet, though, also

incorporates the romantic landscape into this piece with the broad sky at dusk composed of grays and the

last yellows of the setting sun. The truly impassioned, yet somber, landscape draws out a heartfelt

sympathy for loss that the mourners are feeling independent of any expression that a figure may have.

Romanticism and Realism played a major part in the development of art and had a direct influence

on one another. The division of art during this period is definitely due to the enlightenment and the

revolutionary times, in which heated debates between moralist of the Romantic school and the scientific

naturalist of Realism and the combinations and the divisions of the two schools. The art of these times

paralleled the economic divisions. The industrial revolution helped fuel the fire of the rivalry making the

rich richer and the poor poorer; the art always reflecting the differences in the classes and their attitudes

about the quality of life in their day and age.

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