Romanticism was a movement that dominated all genres; including literature, music, art and architecture; in Europe and the United States in the first half of the 19th century. It originated in late 18th century as a reaction against the ideals of order, calm, harmony, idealization and rationality which marked Classicism in general and late 18th-century Neoclassicism in particular. Romanticism laid emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of the past and nature. The artists of the movement created works which highlighted that sense and emotions were as important in experiencing the world as reason and balance. They stressed on the individual, the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional and the visionary. Know more about Romanticism through the 10 most famous artists of the movement and their greatest masterpieces.

 

Thomas Cole
Thomas Cole

#10 Thomas Cole

Lifespan: February 1, 1801 – February 11, 1848

Nationality: American

Romanticism found its primary expression in the United States in the works of a group of painters of a movement known as the Hudson River School. Their paintings reflect three themes of America in the 19th century: discovery, exploration and settlement. Thomas Cole was the founder as well as the most renowned artist of the Hudson River School. He is most known for his landscape paintings of the American wilderness. These romantic portrayals convey a sense of awe at the vastness of nature. The most famous among these is perhaps The Oxbow, which depicts a panorama of the Connecticut River Valley just after a thunderstorm. Cole also produced allegorical works like his five-part series The Course of Empire, which portray the growth and fall of an imaginary city; and The Voyage of Life, an allegory of the four stages of human life: childhood, youth, manhood and old age.

Masterpiece: The Oxbow (1836)

The Oxbow (1836)
The Oxbow (1836) – Thomas Cole

Other Famous Works:-

The Voyage of Life (1842)

The Course of Empire (1833–36)

 

Francesco Hayez
Francesco Hayez

#9 Francesco Hayez

Lifespan: February 10, 1791 – December 21, 1882

Nationality: Italian

Francesco Hayez was an extremely prolific artist who enjoyed a long and successful career. He began as a Neoclassical painter, then turned to Romanticism and ended as a sentimental painter of young women. Born in a relatively poor family, Hayez showed a predisposition towards drawing and apprenticed as an art restorer. He then became a student of the painter Francesco Maggiotto before moving to Milan; where by the mid-19th-century, he became the leading representative of Romanticism. His 1859 painting Il bacio (The Kiss) is regarded as a symbol of Italian Romanticism, of which it encompasses many features. Francesco Hayez is renowned for his grand historical paintings, political allegories and exceptionally fine portraits. He is the most famous Italian Romantic painter and he had a significant influence on future artists in the nation.

Masterpiece: The Kiss (1859)

The Kiss (1859)
The Kiss (1859) – Francesco Hayez

Other Famous Works:-

Melancholic Thought (1842)

The Meditation (1851)

 

Ivan Aivazovsky
Ivan Aivazovsky

#8 Ivan Aivazovsky

Lifespan: July 29, 1817 – May 2, 1900

Nationality: Russian

Ivan Aivazovsky was one of the leading Russian artists of his time who also served as the main painter of the Russian Navy. He was a prolific artist whose career spanned for almost 60 years during which he created around 6,000 paintings. Aivazovsky was awarded the Order of St. Vladimir in 1865 and the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky in 1897 by the Russian Empire. He was also one of the few Russian artists to achieve worldwide recognition during his lifetime. In 1857, he became the first non-French artist to receive the Legion of Honour. The following year, he was awarded the Order of the Medjidie by the Ottoman Empire. Ivan Aivazovsky is the most famous Russian Romantic painter. He is also regarded as one of the greatest marine artists of all time. Well known Russian writer Anton Chekhov coined the phrase “worthy of Aivazovsky’s brush”. It became the standard way of describing something overwhelmingly lovely in 19th century Russia.

Masterpiece: The Ninth Wave (1850)

The Ninth Wave (1850)
The Ninth Wave (1850) – Ivan Aivazovsky

Other Famous Works:-

Ship in the Stormy Sea (1887)

The Black Sea at Night (1879)

 

Theodore Gericault
Theodore Gericault

#7 Theodore Gericault

Lifespan: September 26, 1791 – January 26, 1824

Nationality: French

Though he died at the age of just 32, Theodore Gericault had a huge impact on the history of French painting; and France went on to dominate the world of western art in the 19th century. Gericault’s preference for contemporary subjects; his attraction to the dark side of human psychology; his radical style; and his compassion for the weaker sections of society; all set the path for Romanticism’s emphasis on emotion and subjectivity. His 1819 painting The Raft of the Medusa; which depicted the aftermath of a contemporary French shipwreck; became an icon of the emerging Romantic movement in French painting and “laid the foundations of an aesthetic revolution” that would ultimately ousted the prevailing Neoclassical style. Theodore Gericault is regarded as one of the pioneers of Romanticism and he had a huge influence on the following generation of French artists including Eugène Delacroix.

Masterpiece: The Raft of the Medusa (1819)

The Raft of the Medusa (1819)
The Raft of the Medusa (1819) – Theodore Gericault

Other Famous Works:-

The Epsom Derby (1821)

The Charging Chasseur (1812)

 

John Constable
John Constable

#6 John Constable

Lifespan: June 11, 1776 – March 31, 1837

Nationality: English

Romantic English artists favoured landscape and the most influential among these was John Constable. Constable was deeply attached to the area where he was born, the Essex-Suffolk border in east England. His most celebrated masterpieces depict the landscape of this area, which is now known as Constable Country. Constable rebelled against the Neoclassical style; which used standard practices while creating landscape art and mostly used it to display historical and mythical scenes. He instead focussed on nature itself to bring out its beauty and power. Constable never achieved financial success. He sold only 20 paintings in England in his lifetime. He was more popular in France but he refused all invitations to travel internationally to promote his work. He once wrote, “I would rather be a poor man in England than a rich man abroad.” John Constable made an invaluable contribution to the genre of landscape painting and he produced some of the most captivating pictures of England by any artist ever.

Masterpiece: The Hay Wain (1821)

The Hay Wain (1821)
The Hay Wain (1821) – John Constable

Other Famous Works:-

Flatford Mill (Scene on a Navigable River) (1816)

The Lock (1824)

 

William Blake
William Blake

#5 William Blake

Lifespan: November 28, 1757 – August 12, 1827

Nationality: English

William Blake, widely recognized as one of the greatest poets in the English language, was also among the most original visual artists of the Romantic era. Blake claimed to experience visions throughout his life. He revered the Bible but was hostile to the Church of England and organized religion in general. Blake created numerous illustrations of biblical texts. He was also influenced by the texts of writers like Dante, Shakespeare and Milton. Woking primarily in engravings, Blake created illustrations of mythical worlds full of gods and powers; and sharply criticized the effects of the industrial revolution and the suppression of individualism. The visionary art of Blake, and his use of image and text to convey a single concept, played a key role in not only Romanticism but several future art movements well into the 20th century. William Blake was largely unrecognised during his lifetime. However, recently he was ranked 38 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons and was called “far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced”.

Masterpiece: Newton (1795)

Isaac Newton (1795)
Isaac Newton (1795) – William Blake

Other Famous Works:-

The Ancient of Days (1794)

Nebuchadnezzar (1805)

 

Eugene Delacroix
Eugene Delacroix

#4 Eugene Delacroix

Lifespan: April 26, 1798 – August 13, 1863

Nationality: French

Eugene Delacroix is widely regarded as the leader of the Romantic movement in France. He laid emphasis on colour and movement rather than clarity of outline and carefully modelled form. His violent subject matter; the dramatic poses of his figures; his stress on capturing expression and emotion; his exploration of natural light in outdoor landscapes; and most prominently his expressive brushwork and dramatic use of colour; all played a key role in making Romanticism the dominant movement in not only France but throughout the western world. Liberty Leading the People, the masterpiece of Delacroix, is perhaps the most renowned work of the entire Romanticism movement. Eugene Delacroix is the most famous French Romantic painter and he greatly influenced later art movements like Impressionism and Symbolism.

Masterpiece: Liberty Leading the People (1830)

Liberty Leading the People (1830)
Liberty Leading the People (1830) – Eugene Delacroix

Other Famous Works:-

Death of Sardanapalus (1827)

The Massacre at Chios (1824)

 

Caspar David Friedrich
Caspar David Friedrich

#3 Caspar David Friedrich

Lifespan: September 5, 1774 – May 7, 1840

Nationality: German

Caspar David Friedrich developed a significant reputation in his early career. However, his reputation declined in his later years as critics, who failed to understand his work, severely attacked it. He died poor and in obscurity; and it was not till the middle of the 20th century that he found favour with the new generation of critics and art historians. Today, Friedrich is an icon in Germany, is internationally renowned and is considered the most important German Romantic artist. He is viewed as a figure of great psychological complexity, “a celebrator of beauty haunted by darkness”. Friedrich is best known for works which put humans amid night skies, morning mists, barren trees, etc. thus illustrating diminished strength of man in the larger scale of life. He was fascinated by nature and could see the presence of the divine in it. Freidrich took landscape art and infused it with deep religious and spiritual significance. He is considered one of the most important artists in the genre.

Masterpiece: Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818)

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818)
Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818) – Caspar David Friedrich

Other Famous Works:-

Monk by the Sea (1810)

The Sea of Ice (1824)

 

Joseph Mallord William Turner
Joseph Mallord William Turner

#2 J.M.W. Turner

Lifespan: April 23, 1775 – December 19, 1851

Nationality: English

Joseph Mallord William Turner is one of the greatest landscape artists of all time and perhaps the most renowned British artist ever. During his time, landscape painting was considered low art. Turner, with his application of poetic and imaginative approach to landscape art, elevated the genre to rival history painting. His dedication to render heightened states of consciousness and being, helped define the Romanticism movement. Turner is known for his mastery in capturing the effects of colour and light which made him famous as “the painter of light”. He precisely captured architectural and natural details in his early works but in his mature stage, his compositions became more fluid with mere suggestion of movement. These abstractions are considered ahead of his time and were a forerunner to the artistic movement Impressionism. A deeply experimental and progressive painter, J.M.W. Turner was a key figure of Romanticism who deeply influenced future generation of artists.

Masterpiece: The Fighting Temeraire (1839)

The Fighting Temeraire (1839) - J.M.W. Turner
The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up (1839) – J.M.W. Turner

Other Famous Works:-

Rain, Steam and Speed (1844)

The Slave Ship (1840)

 

Francisco Goya
Francisco Goya

#1 Francisco Goya

Lifespan: March 30, 1746 – April 16, 1828

Nationality: Spanish

Francisco Goya rose to prominence in the artistic scene through his series of tapestry cartoons and became the court painter to the Spanish Crown. He later developed a penchant for portrayals of a dark nature for which he is most known today. Dubbed as his Black Paintings, they portray intense, haunting themes, reflective of both his fear of insanity and his bleak outlook on humanity. Goya is also renowned for highly imaginative elements in his art and bold use of paint. It was he who, more than anyone else, exemplified the Romantic values of the expression of the artist’s feelings and his personal imaginative world. His art embodies Romanticism’s emphasis on subjectivity, imagination, and emotion. Goya has been termed as both the last of the Old Masters and the first of the Moderns. He has also been called “the last great painter in whose art thought and observation were balanced and combined to form a faultless unity”. Francisco Goya is the most famous Romantic artist; and among other things, one of the great portraitists of modern times.

Masterpiece: The Third of May 1808 (1814)

The Third of May 1808 (1814) - Francisco Goya
The Third of May 1808 (1814) – Francisco Goya

Other Famous Works:-

The Nude Maja (1800)

Saturn Devouring His Son (1823)

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