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Any art gallery you visit today bears the traces of an epic struggle that erupted in the art world in Europe some 200 years ago. This was the rebellion by artists of the romantic school against the classic tradition in painting. The division between these conflicting creative forces was to influence painting for generations. Kenneth Clark, distinguished British art historian, and critic, here describes the nature of the rebellion and provides background that is necessary for a more appreciative understanding of almost all art, from ancient to modern.

Somebody asked at end of the difference between classicism and romanticism The reply  was  shortest on record: “Classicism is health, romanticism disease.”

However the two are defined, the rise of a consciously romantic style and its long struggle with orthodox classicism is one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of art. In European paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries, these two forms existed happily side by side. In the middle of the 18th century, there appeared a division between

Of patriotic virtue: “The picture’s success as a piece of propaganda was immediate,” says Lord Clark. The figures are all taken from the antique – the Brutus direct from the statue in the Capitoline. Even the furniture was copied from the antique. But the idea of putting the figure of Brutus in shadow seems to be a real stroke of imagination”

Delacroix won official approval by painting this romantic (and political) picture after the Revolution of 1830. Nearly all of his great works involve the shedding of blood. “It remains an acceptable illustration of the ‘Marseillaise, says Lord Clark. “The Liberty was followed by a number of scenes of battle and civil commotion, painted with vaguely revolutionary sympathies”

“Many of Turner’s paintings,” says Lord Clark, “depend for their effect entirely on light and color, and have no identifiable subject-nothing to distract us from the pure sensation. They are modern paintings. In

every other respect, Turner was an arch-romantic, recreating the moods of all the great romantic poets-Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley by an appeal through color to our emotions.” This canvas was painted as a tribute to a friend who died at sea

“Many of Turner’s paintings,” says Lord Clark, “depend for their effect entirely on light and color, and have no identifiable subject-nothing to distract us from the pure sensation. They are modern paintings. In

THE ROMANTIC classic and romantic art far deep than anything which had preened it.

In 1755. Johann Winckelmann, the first man of outstanding gifts to Decupy himself with the history of a stated the position of the classic

It’s: “Art should aim at noble simplicity and calm grandeur.” One of the most distinguished classicists was Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), but his classicism was nourished by contact with nature and passionate involvement with human life and society. He was at first consent to paint in the various styles then current in Paris, his native city. Hut in 1775, after heroic struggles, won the diploma of the Paris Academy and was sent to Rome. When he arrived at the Villa Medici, the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum were not 20 years old. David filled his mind with the history of Rome, his sketchbooks with the outlines of ancient sculpture, and returned to Paris in 1780 determined to revive in painting the Virtues of the ancients.

The romantics, on the other hand, said that art should excite emotions. It is arguable that the Romantic movement first showed

self as an expression of the emotion of danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, is a source of the sublime.” From which Burke deduces the sublime effect of darkness, or destructive power, of solitude and silence and the roaring of animals.”

As it developed, romanticism proposed a new set of human values. It became a rebellion against the static conformity of the 18th century; in art. this became a rebellion against generalized forms borrowed from Greco-Roman sculpture, and against the classicists’ prohibition of color and movement as expressions of vital force.

The Romantic Movement also discovered or rediscovered the importance of color in painting. The references to color in academic (classic) textbooks of the late 18th century are often incredible. The subject was treated as something improper, almost vicious. One can see why; color appeals to the senses, and not to reason or the sense of duty. Yet the impact of modern painting is almost entirely due to color.

Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) and J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) became the leading masters of romantic painting. Both were diametrically opposed to the school of smooth enclosed, self-contained art. Superficially, no two men could be more different. Delacroix was a French aristocrat, a man of the highest culture, an admirable writer. Turner, an Englishman, was plebeian, uneducated, and incapable of writing a grammatical sentence. Delacroix was a neurasthenic, continually fussing about his health. Turner, until he lost all his teeth, had an iron constitution. Delacroix moved among leading poets and men of let terms of his time. Turner, apart from a few old cryonics, preferred the company of sailors at Limehouse and lived anonymously in a series of lodging houses. But Delacroix and Turner were united by two things: a passionate desire to express their feelings through color, and deep pessimism.

What we call romanticism was inevitably the living impulse of the 19th century. It caught and held the spirit of the French Revolution which was one of change and emotion. After 1815, classicism ( cept in architecture) became an att for connoisseurs, except when it was saved by its old ally, realism,

KENNETH CLARK, formerly director of the National Gallery in London, has written many notable books and essays, including Civilization: The Gothic Revival: The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form: and Rembrandt and the Italian Renaissance. Elevated to a lifetime peerage in 1969, he bears the title Lord Clark of Silkwood. The thirteen programmers in the series outline the history of Western artarchitecture and philosophy since the Dark Ages.  The New Yorker magazine described it as revelatory for the general viewer.

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