Romanticism placed more emphasis on emotion; it marked a rejection of cold rationalism and logic. The passion of revolution and war spurred a return to base instincts and feelings. Romantic artists emphasized emotion, nature, and national histories. Romantic writers expressed similar themes and responded to current events.
Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau questioned the need for complete reliance on logic - emphasizing that emotion led to moral and societal improvements.
Romantic art was all about emotional expression with dramatic uses of color and movement. It was also heavily inspired by “exotic” settings, such as the Middle East and Egypt.
Imaginary View of the Grand Gallery of the Louvre in Ruins, Hubert Robert (1796) (Louvre)
The Shadows of French Heroes who died in the wars of Liberty, received by Ossian Anne-Louis Girodet, (1802) (Château de Malmaison)
Liberty Leading the People, Eugène Delacroix (1830)
One of the most famous romantic paintings is French - Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People. This work of art combines revolutionary passion with the bold red, white, and blue colors of the French flag.
Romantic literature was characterized by a few key indicators:
Focus on the narrator/writer’s emotions and inner thoughts
Rejection of rationalism and industrialization
Emphasis on nature, beauty, personal expression, and imagination
Idealization of the family (women and children) and rural life
Use of common language and subjects
An example of romantic literature is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s story, The Sorrows of Young Werther. The setting of the novel is the German countryside. Its thematic elements focus on unrequited love. When the title character, Werther, is unable to be with his love Charlotte, he takes his own life.