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the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It reflected a desire to rekindle the spirit and forms of classical art from ancient Greece and Rome, whose principles of order and reason were entirely in keeping with the European Age of Enlightenment. Neoclassicism was also, in part, a reaction against the ostentation of Baroque art and the decadent frivololity of the decorative Rococo school, championed by the French court - and especially Louis XV's mistress, Madame de Pompadour - and also partly stimulated by the discovery of Roman ruins at Herculaneum and Pompeii (1738-50), along with publication in 1755 of the highly influential bookThoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works of Art, by the German art historian and scholar Johann Winckelmann (1717-68). All this led to a revival of neoclassical painting, sculpture and architectural design in Rome - an important stopover in the Grand Tour - from where it spread northwards to France, England, Sweden and Russia. America became very enthusiastic about Neoclassical architecture, not least because it lent public buildings an aura of tradition and permanence. Neoclassical painters included Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-79), Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), Angelica Kauffmann (1741-1807) and Jean-AugusteDominique Ingres (1780-1867); while sculptors included Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828), John Flaxman (1755-1826), Antonio Canova (1757-1822), and Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844). Among the best known exponents of neoclassical architecture were Jules-Hardouin Mansart (1646-1708), Jacques Germain Soufflot (1713-80), Claude Nicolas Ledoux (1736-1806), John Nash (1752-1835), Jean Chalgrin (1739-1811), Carl Gotthard Langhans (1732-1908), Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841), and Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764-1820).
Origins & Scope The revival of artistic canons from Classical Antiquity was not an overnight event. It built on Renaissance art itself, as well as the more sober styles of Baroque architecture, the mood of Enlightenment, the dissatisfaction with the Rococo, and a new respect for the earlier classical history painting of Nicolas Poussin (1593-1665), as well as the classical settings of Claude Lorrain's (1600-82) landscapes. Furthermore, it matured in different countries at different times. Neoclassical architecture actually originated around 1640, and continues to this day. Paradoxically, the abundance of ancient classical buildings in Rome meant that the city at the heart of the neoclassicism movement experienced little neoclassical architecture. In addition, despite appearances, there is no clear dividing line between Neoclassicism and Romanticism. This is because a revival of interest in Classical Antiquity can easily morph into a nostalgic desire for the past. Neoclassicism – Characteristics Neoclassical works (paintings and sculptures) were serious, unemotional, and sternly heroic. Neoclassical painters depicted subjects from Classical literature and history, as used in earlier Greek art and Republican Roman art, using sombre colours with occasional brilliant highlights, to convey moral narratives of self-denial and self-sacrifice fully in keeping with the supposed ethical superiority of Antiquity. Neoclassical sculpture dealt with the same subjects, and was more restrained than the more theatrical Baroque sculpture, less whimsical than the indulgent Rococo. Neoclassical architecture was more ordered and less grandiose than Baroque, although the dividing line between the two can sometines be blurred. It bore a close external resemblance to the Greek Orders of architecture, with one obvious exception - there were no domes in ancient Greece. Most roofs were flat. 1
42-20 BCE).the Swiss painter Angelica Kauffmann (1741-1807).A. but he saw these qualities in the restraint and nobility with which Laocoon suffers his terrible agony. He rather unexpectedly chose the statue in the Vatican known as Laocoon and His Sons (c. In Britain. as we have seen. the Frenchman Joseph-Marie Vien (1716-1809) (who taught J-L David). an Italian who 2 . be seen as a rejection of the baroque. as one of the principal examples of the 'edle Einfalt und stille Grosse' of the best Greek works. and Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828). Ingres (1780-1867) the French master of academic art. Thorvaldsen Museum. who produced a number of publications onGreek art that for the first time attempted to organize Greek statues according to their stylistic development. but as a further development of baroque classicism that looks back to the style of the late 17th century rather than directly to Greek sculpture or Roman sculptureof antiquity. and the American expatriate Benjamin West (1738-1820). the French political artist Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825). and naturalism for its own sake was condemned as imitation of nature. and his pupils Jean-Germain Drouais (1763-88). J. Copenhagen). The classicism of the 1740s and of Bouchardon in particular should not however. Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson (1767-1824). but a call to artists to purge themselves of everything extraneous to the pure realization of the idea of their work. the Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844) known for his Jason with the Golden Fleece (1802-3. Only in Rome in the 1760s did the growing dissatisfaction with what Jacques-Louis David called 'la queue de Bernini' or the tail-end of the baroque. but the novelty in Winckelmann's argument is that his ideal of simplicity is not just an admonition to avoid over-elaboration. the Italian portrait painter Pompeo Batoni (1708-87). but the greatest exponent was Antonio Canova (1757-1822). find expression in a coherent theory. Neoclassical Sculptors Leading Neoclassical sculptors include Antonio Canova (1757-1822) who sculpted for Popes and Napoleon. celebrated followers of Neoclassicism included: Sir Joshua Reynolds and the Irish virtuosoJames Barry. the German antiquarian.D. the tenuous ascendency of the rococo during the Regence period led to a reaction in favour of a nobler and more serious style of sculpture in the 1740s which. was associated with a feeling of nostalgia for the reign of Louis XIV. Antonio Canova The theory and the earlier development of neoclassicism was essentially the achievement of foreigners in Rome.Neoclassical Painters Founders and famous artists of Neoclassicism include the German portraitist and historical painter Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-79). The spokesman for neoclassical art was Johann Joachim Winckelmann(1717-68). The quality of restraint had always been admired by classical theorists. As a result a convincing appearance of reality was no longer a sine qua non. best known for his portrait busts in marble. Winckelmann saw the Baroque as an unfortunate inheritance that had to be swept away if artists were to return to the purity and simplicity of classical antiquity. the Englishman John Flaxman (1755-1826) who also designed Jasperware for Wedgwood. In France.
who persuaded you to abandon the pursuit of Nature?' Neoclassical Painting. a contemporary and supporter of Canova. and the curvilinear forms and strong diagonals have yielded to a rigid system of horizontals and verticals. Canova's zeal in removing the excrescences from Bernini's conception has also removed much of the artistic vitality. the subject would not have been treated in a manner different from the present'. the Comte de Caylus. In 1781 Canova was given a block of marble by the Venetian ambassador for a group of Theseus and the Minotaurand. while the figures are spaced out and separated from each other. caused an upsurge of renewed interest in Roman art. A series of remarkable archeological discoveries. Furthermore. apparently on Hamilton's advice. is summed up in the remark of the director of the French Academy. He became a sudden convert to the doctrine of neoclassicism. Milizia. (An approach taken up by Renaissance sculptors like Michelangelo. All this helped scholars to establish a more accurate chronology for GrecoRoman art. especially for the group of Daedalus and Icarus (1779). Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-78). and had achieved a great reputation in Venice. This work is still in an unmistakably late Baroque idiom. the surface of the figures is minutely depicted and their relationship graceful and conversational. however. why have you changed your style. 'I feel assured. he decided to show the moment of triumph after the battle instead of the battle itself. using historically correct settings and costumes. His less ambitious works where a little rococo esprit remains are now much more acceptable than his grander tombs. it had been required to sculpture a Pope. that if in Greece. whose bronze and stone masterpieces were the natural outgrowth of a Golden Age when artists and philosophers were united in the contemplation of the perfection of the human body. Its emergence was greatly stimulated by the new scientific interest in classical antiquity that arose during the course of the 18th century. which was bitter in his early days. characters and themes. and we can follow the change in his work and the reaction of his contemporaries to it. This project invited direct comparison with Bernini. It marks the end of the baroque era in sculpture and henceforward the new Grecian style gradually took over as the official style for all monuments and large-scale sculptural projects. Apostoli in Rome. The writings of the German scholar Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-68) were particularly 3 . the dazzling polychromy has been replaced by unsullied Carrara marble. while spectators who saw the Theseus for the first time were convinced that it was a copy of a Greek original and were astonished to be proved wrong. Canova was born in Possagno. and Robert Wood provided engravings of Roman monuments and other antiquities and further heightened interest in classical antiquity. and during the happiest ages of Grecian art. from around 1712 onwards. for to him and to Winckelmann imitation meant the return to the original spirit of the Greeks. His Success with the Theseus led to the commission for the tomb of Pope Clement XIV (1784-7) in Ss. near Venice. asked Canova. He brought a version of it to Rome in 1779 where he became friendly with the Scottish painter Gavin Hamilton. who on seeing the Theseus. Tell me. praised the tomb of Clement XIV for its Grecian qualities. whose numerous strands and styles stimulated greater respect for the culture of the period. several influential publications by Bernard de Montfaucon (1655-1741).The Revival of the Antique Neoclassical painting typically involved an emphasis on austere linear design in the depiction of classical events. notably the excavation of the buried Roman cities of Herculaneum (begun 1738) and Pompeii (begun 1748).studied in Venice. but his contemporaries took a more high-minded view of his achievements. and Canova's final realization can be seen as deliberate purification of Bernini's concept of the papal tomb. who had become the arbiter of neoclassical taste after the death of Winckelmann in 1768.) The opposition to Canova. Yet Canova always abhorred the practice of copying Greek works. The work is revolutionary in its uncompromising severity.
(Cornelia. heroism. If some of these elements had already been seen in works by British and American painters like Hamilton and West. the excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii. large groups of 4 . Thus David's historical compositions like the Oath of the Horatii (1784. 1792. and stoicism . was Claude Lorrain (1600-82). the Swiss artist Angelica Kauffmann (1741-1807). Rome) by Mengs. despite Mengs's apparent agreement with Winckelmann's theory of Greek aesthetics. including JMW Turner.the same values that were being asserted at the time in connection with the French struggle for liberty. The latter genres were based on actual prototypes which had survived from antiquity. and the Scotsman Gavin Hamilton(1723-98). is barely distinguishable from much rococo art. Other influences included works by the great Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665). and an equally important influence on neoclassicism.1750-80) . and set out against a more monumental background. 60s. such as diagonal compositional movements. (Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting . the style he used in most of his church and palace ceilings was more akin to existing Italian Baroquetraditions than to ancient Greece. the Italian portraitist Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (1708-87). austerity. Later Neoclassical Painting (1780s onwards) . During the late 1780s and early 90s coinciding with the outbreak of the French Revolution . Moreover. and 70s. Puskin Museum of Fine Arts. The earliest painters of the neoclassical school were centred round Winckelmann and Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-79) in Rome. along with patterns of drapery that owe much to Greek sculpture. They included the Frenchman Joseph-Marie Vien (1716-1809) (whose pupils included J-L David).Characteristics Neoclassicism as expressed in painting developed in different ways to neoclassical sculpture or architecture. But almost no paintings had been found to survive.Jacques-Louis David and other painters borrowed inspirational subjects from Roman republican history in order to celebrate the values of simplicity. Paris) represent a strong sense of gravitas.) The same might be said of the work ofElisabeth VigeeLebrun (1755-1842). as well as a certain rhetorical quality of posture and gesture. which borrowed heavily from 17th-century classicism as well as the High Renaissance master Raphael.filled with biblical and mythological narrative . sentimental paintings. He and his contemporary Jean-Francois Peyronwere more interested in narrative painting than the ideal forms that fascinated Mengs. Mother of the Gracchi. Early Neoclassical Painting (c. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Villa Albani. And while their compositions typically included poses and figurative arrangements from Greek sculpture and vase paintings. until. for instance.influential in this regard and rapidly established him as the champion of Greek art. His contemporary in Rome. and of the latent style of Neoclassicism. but also there is nothing to be seen of the distinctive features of Baroque painting. The style of Kauffmann's pretty.) Even its classical scenes have a rococo-type lightness. Richmond. Another case in point is the neoclassical painting Parnassus (1761. that is.Characteristics A purer more rigorous school of Neoclassical painting appeared in France in the 1780s under the leadership of Jacques-Louis David. the greatest French painter of the 17th century. all of whom were active in the 1750s. Louvre.inspired a wide range of successors. 1785. whose own brand of classical history painting set the standard in academic art for generations and became the embodiment of French classicism. whose Italianate landscapes . they were still strongly influenced by the preceding rococo. the figurative confrontations in J-L David's pictures are much more dramatic: not only are they starker and in clearer profile on the same plane.
This was because .witness its reliance on tenebrism andchiaroscuro .neoclassical painters. and pared down to its austere essentials .figures. such as the Swiss-born romantic painter Henry Fuseli(1741-1825) and the English romantic William Blake (1757-1827). like The Turkish Bath (1862. and historical accounts by Pliny.which were heavily dependent on linear design. Most of the subject matter of neoclassicism painting was furnished by the history and mythology of ancient Greece and Rome.a principle which could be applied easily enough to events taken from Greek mythology or Roman history. Musees Royaux des Beaux Arts. this later French style of neoclassical painting was far more uncompromising. Neoclassical Costume. Tacitus. National Gallery of Canada. Other subjects included events from medieval history. Louvre) by Theodore Gericault. a style later borrowed by several other figurative painters. author of Iliad and Odyssey in the 8/9th century BCE. works by Dante. Brussels). and minimal stage setting. Neoclassicism Versus Romanticism For much of the period 1790-1840. The dividing line between the two can therefore be quite blurred. and background details in their compositions . Setting. Ingres produced a large number of portraits and subject paintings . Widely available prints of classical sculptures and paintedGreek pottery helped to shape this bias. as shown by the following paintings: The Death of General Wolfe (1770. Neoclassicism coexisted happily with the opposing tendency of Romanticism. These drawings are marked by their reduced pictorial space. why should a modern hero be dressed in Roman clothes? This question was never satisfactorily overcome. Louvre) are essentially cold compositions. This neoclassical austerity is aptly illustrated in the emotionally detached works of the great Neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867). except perhaps in J-L David's paintings such as Portrait of Madame Recamier (1800. Louvre). Virgil. the single most important source was the Greek writer Homer. but which ran into controversy when applied to contemporary settings: after all. Louvre) by J-L David. but the differences are minimal.quite in keeping with the ruthless cultural vision of the French Revolution. among others. and Ovid. Plutarch.using a variety of classical and oriental themes .far from being opposites .these two styles are ideologically close to one another. which can be clearly seen in the simplified illustrations made by the English sculptor John Flaxman (1755-1826) for editions of works by Homer and Aeschylus. The first two belong to the Neoclassical school. as well as an austere linearity in their depiction of the human form. Historical or mythological compositions are typically based on inspirational events which can so easily be cast in a romantic or emotional light. as it appeared in poetry by Homer. Raft of the Medusa (1819. at least by the 1790s. and TheDeath of Sardanapalus (1827. settings. a shallow picture plane and muted colours. 5 . Louvre) by Eugene Delacroix. Sophocles. atmosphere and light . Ottowa) by Benjamin West. and a deep appreciation for Gothic art. Napoleon Crossing the Alps (1801. Subject Matter The Neoclassical painting school attached great value to the historical accuracy of costumes. Unlike the early Italian neoclassicism produced in Rome. and flamboyant drapery. Of these works. plays by Aeschylus. Divergence From the Baroque Style Where 17th century Baroque painters made full use of the dramatic qualities of colour. emphasized outline and linear design. Louvre) or La Grande Odalisque (1814. the others to Romanticism. and Livy. Even his supposedly sensuous nudes. and Euripides. brilliantly executed. See also David's masterpiece Death of Marat (1793.
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