Make A Playlist: Add a video to get started!
faq  |  playlists  |  log in  |
Make A Playlist: Add a video to get started!
Add to Playlist

Romantic Art as a Cheerleader for 19th Century Nationalism


In the 19th century national movements were on the rise, cheered on by stirring art. We’ll see examples as Europeans — from Germany to Scotland, and Norway to Italy — demanded their freedom.

Complete Video Script

[7] Some of the strongest passions of the 19th century were stoked by the struggles of ethnic groups — rising up to form their own nation. Romantic artists had a natural affinity for these patriotic underdogs. And galleries were filled with art that cheered on freedom.

[8] In Germany — still little more than a patchwork of medieval dukedoms — patriots began imagining a united country. By embracing their common German roots — the dreamy medieval legends…heroes fighting for the fatherland — artists stoked idealistic dreams of a glorious German-speaking future.

[9] In Scotland, as patriots chafed at English rule, artists celebrated its independent spirit with a romanticized blend of myth and history. Proud warriors sport clan regalia, as if emboldened by kilts and plaid. In spite of tragic losses, a downtrodden yet resilient nation survived, spirit intact.

[10] In Norway, salt-of-the-earth locals reveled in their Norwegian-ness, celebrating traditional dress, heading for a country wedding, while engulfed in the majesty of the fjords.

[11] And in Italy, patriots united passionately behind dynamic leaders against their foreign oppressors. All across Europe, art illustrated how the modern forces of social progress battled old values, as Europeans demanded freedom.

[12, Pantheon, Paris] To appreciate Romantic art, it helps to understand what preceded it. Back in the 1700s, in the Age of Enlightenment, so much — including art — was subjected to "the test of reason." Art and architecture was Neoclassical--clean, simple, and logical…like this.

[13, Oath of Horatii, David; Death of Socrates, David; Pauline Bonaparte, Canova] In Neoclassical paintings, heroes were posed…death scenes were stoic…and idealized nudes sat calmly while deep in thought.

[14, The Death of Sardanapalus, 1826, Delacroix, Louvre Museum, Paris] But, the Romantic-style art which followed — like this super-charged orgy of drama and violence — was an unruly explosion of emotions.

[15, Liberty Leading the People, 1830, Delacroix, Louvre Museum, Paris] This fearless Romantic heroine, storms the barricades in the cause of liberty as guns blaze, smoke billows, and bodies fall…as she leads the common people to victory.

[16, Raft of the Medusa, 1819, Géricault, Louvre Museum, Paris] And what could be more stirring than shipwrecked souls lost at sea. It's a human pyramid of emotion, from the depths of despair…to a hope-filled pinnacle of ecstasy as they spot the rescue ship. If Romantic art controls your heartbeat, this is a masterpiece.

[17] The Neoclassical and Romantic styles seem like opposites. Yet, both styles coexisted for decades, mirroring the conflicting social trends of the times.