Romanticism: An Aesthetic Experience

Romanticism was an artistic movement that took place during the late 18th century in Europe. The movement was rooted in Germany and connected to the German ‘Sturm und Drang’ movement, which chose intuition and emotion over rationalism. This together with the ideologies and events of the French Revolution, laid the foundations from which both Romanticism and the Counter-Enlightenment emerged.

L'Arbre aux corbeaux (côte de la mer Baltique) l Caspar David FRIEDRICH

Starting as a reaction against the intellectualism of the Enlightenment; untamed nature, strong emotion, and imagination were authentic sources of beauty in a rapidly changing world. At that time, Europe was engulfed in an industrial revolution and society began to challenge conventional forms of Neoclassicism in art, music, and literature. Romanticism provided an escape from the rigidity of the social structures protecting privilege, and against the materialism of an age which, already showed signs of developing squalid living environments and making work­ers the slaves of machinery.

Landschaftsstudie l Schirmer, Johann Wilhelm

The movement turned away from the developing industry, rationalism and sprawling urban environments, therefore, places that were not yet ‘spoiled’ by human rational were considered the most pure and a source for inspiration. The typical romantic character may be expressed in Byronic ideals of a gifted, heroic yet tormented loner, following his inspiration rather than the conventions of his society.

Let’s close our eyes and dream about Romanticism. What comes to your mind?

Is it the music from Robert Schumann, Franz Schubert or Ludwig von Beethoven? The literary works from the Bronte sisters, Edgar Allen Poe or Goethe? Or perhaps a painting by William Turner or Caspar Friedrich?

Ludwig van Beethoven / d'après le portrait de Joseph Charles Stieler (1819) Dinant sur Meuse Blick auf den Tyssefoss im Bolstadfjord

The German/Swedish painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) is considered as one of the icons of Romanticism. The ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau about nature and simplicity, from Johan Gottfried Herder (who rejected classisism and seached for authenticity of the ‘true people’), and the fascination with medieval times, they all seemed to meet harmoniously in Friedrich’s paintings.

4 thoughts on “Romanticism: An Aesthetic Experience

  1. Any consideration of romanticism reveals a complex web of associations. It also reveals many contradictions of interpretation. For example consider Goethe: an apostle of the deutches aufklarung; but also embracing profound romantic sensibilities. The clue is to study the roots of romanticism; they lie in the writings of Herder, but elements also can be traced in the work of Winckelmann, considered the founding documents of neo-classicism.
    Romanticism, which is a dominating factor in modern society, has a negative and a positive aspect, leading in one direction to ideals of freedom and human equality, and in the other to racism and nazism.

  2. One of my favourite figures in this era was Jakub Ertel. His quote, “Ich mochte tun was ich fühle, nein was ich denke” – which roughly translates as “Do what you feel, not what you think” pretty much sums up the atmosphere at this time. It was a really defining moment and a huge shift in cognitive impression in the country at the time. I don’t think that without this kind of change in thinking, society would be as it is today.

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