ro.man.ti.cism n (1823) 1 often cap a (1): a literary, artistic, and philosophical movement originating in the 18th century, characterized chiefly by a reaction against neoclassicism and an emphasis on the imagination and emotions, and marked esp. in English literature by sensibility and the use of autobiographical material, an exaltation of the primitive and the common man, an appreciation of external nature, an interest in the remote, a predilection for melancholy, and the use in poetry of older verse forms (2): an aspect of romanticism b: adherence to a romantic attitude or style 2: the quality or state of being romantic -- ro.man.ti.cist n, often cap
Caspar David Friederich,
Cloister Cemetery in the Snow
1817-19 Oil on canvas 121 x 170 cm
formerly in the National Gallery, Berlin
only black and white and poor color images survived
|Form: This painting only exists in black and white
and poor color reproductions from before WW II however, you can still get
a sense of it from these two images.
Friederich (also sometimes spelled Friederich) uses intense contrasts of color and value structure. Color was quite important to Friederich and he has a tendency to use intense and saturated hues. Often the colors he used are the ones associated with sunset effects in the atmosphere and he plays these colors against his use of dark, earth toned silhouetted forms such as the trees and the gravestones.
Friederich also often used a symmetrical and centrally oriented composition. The symmetrical composition serves to draw the eye and he uses linear perspective and atmospheric perspective to create a sense of deep continuous space. He also does this with the size scale relationships of the human figures to the buildings and the relationship if the building's size to the trees in the foreground.
All of these formal elements are linked to his iconography.
Iconography: Many of the themes of the Romantic movement revolve around images in which the unseen forces of death, decay, time and the power of the spiritual world are made palpable.
The intense colors and value shifts that occur at dusk and dawn are part of the iconography of this image. The light that bursts through the missing window frames might be representative of the light of heaven or God which is in sharp contrast to the outlines of the building, trees and figures in the mysterious processional in the snow.
The time of day is also symbolic. Dusk is a sleepy and mysterious time of the day. For some, sunsets are symbolic of decline and decay. Decay and nostalgia are echoed in the architectonic trees and the decaying monastery or Gothic style church. The themes of death and decay are further taken up by the tombstones and the snow which highlights them. In fact the reference to the decaying Gothic style building may be a reference to the Gothic Revival style that was advocated by Sir John Ruskin who according to the Brittanica was an "English writer, critic, and artist who championed the Gothic Revival movement in architecture and had a large influence upon public taste in art in Victorian England."
Context: This image utilizes many of the standard kinds of images that we are used to seeing in film and specifically films dealing with horror, but for Friederich, these images didn't exist and he is the source of this kind of imagery for cinematographers today.
Three great movies that "quote" Friederich's paintings are "Bram Stoker's Dracula" starring Gary Oldman and Winona Rider, "Frankenstein" starring Robert Deniro, and "Gothic" directed by Ken Russell.
William Blake Frontispiece from
"Europe a Prophecy"
God as the Divine Geometer c1790
|Form: In a way William Blake was like a Gothic manuscript
illustrator. Each one of Blake's prints was a print that he hand
colored and sometimes even annotated. According to the Brittanica,
Blake's invention of what he called "illuminated printing," in which, by a special technique of relief etching, each page of the book was printed in monochrome from an engraved plate containing both text and illustration: an invention foreshadowed by his friend, George Cumberland. The pages were then usually coloured with watercolour or printed in colour by Blake and his wife, bound together in paper covers, and sold for prices ranging from a few shillings to 10 guineas.In this way, Blake's work is both an original painting and a print.
The forms that Blake works with are almost naive. In some ways, his rendering of the human anatomy is awkward and his depiction of chiaroscuro and color are almost unsophisticated. Nevertheless, the composition of many of Blake's images and the interaction of the texts with the illustration is very similar in design to Gothic manuscripts from the 13th century.
"God as the Divine Geometer" is a symmetrically placed image. Surrounding the well muscled figure is a kind of nimbus or he could be placed within the sun. In his left hand he holds a compass used for geometry and measurement. Blake would have drawn this as God's right but it would have been reversed. The figure is surrounded by clouds and a black void.
Iconography: Everything about this image is designed to create a humanistic, intelligent, and wise image of God as a philosopher and scientific creator. God is represented in the uncreated black void, he is surrounded by an aura of light and he is using an enlightened and scientific instrument to design the world. Blake has modeled his image of God as the creator from a similar source as the Gothic manuscript shown here with a similar device. God is then a scientific and logical designer but God is also a humanistic "superman/philospher" in his appearance. He is bearded and well muscled as in Michelangelo's depictions of God from the Sistine Chapel.
Context: Look in Stokstad for more context on Blake.
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In what distant deeps or skies.
And what shoulder, & what art.
What the hammer! what the chain,
When the stars threw down their spear
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
|Songs of Innocence and Experience.
According to the Brittanica,
located in Detroit Fuseli was born Swiss and then moved and worked in England
The Nightmare (Incubus)
located in Freies Deutsches Hochstift,Frankfurt-am-Main.
|Form: Theses two paintings seem to use
the chiaroscuro that Caravaggio advocates, however, if you look closely
at how the light moves across the figures you should notice that the values
transitions across the figures are not as well rendered as some of the
earlier images we have looked at. The anatomy and the realism of
the figures is sacrificed in favor of the drama and gesture of the figures.
Just like Caravaggio and some of the Neoclassic artists, Fuseli creates a stage like setting in which the figures are pushed up to the front of the picture plane. Tenebrism is used to highlight the nightmarish creatures that emerge out of the darkness.
Iconography: The titles of the painting express quite a bit about the spiritual system of beliefs and social beliefs that Fuseli and many individuals held about women, sexuality, and spirituality. Here is an image of the "weaker sex" being preyed on by the incubus which really symbolizes the weakness of the female and her inability to control her sexual nature.
These paintings are literally rebuses. The painting takes place at night and in the background is a horse. A female horse is referred to as a "mare." The combination of the two terms adds up to the title of the painting.
In the foreground of each painting is a table with a small bottle on it which contains a drug called laudanum. According to the Brittanica, "laudanum, for example, was an alcoholic tincture (dilute solution) of opium that was used in European medical practice as an analgesic and sedative." This drug was widely prescribed for females during this era because of the widely held belief that women were prone to attacks of nerves and that it was necessary to sedate women because they often became hysterical.
Opium drugs can cause hallucinations and often when women would fall asleep they were prone to nightmares caused by the drugs in their systems.
Context: Stokstad discusses the link between Fuseli and his own desires that are expressed in this painting.
The Brittanica provides some biographical information you may find useful.
b. Feb. 7, 1741, Zürich, Switz.
d. April 16, 1825, Putney Hill, London, Eng.
original name JOHANN HEINRICH FÜSSLI , Swiss-born painter whose works are among the most exotic, original, and sensual pieces of his time.
Fuseli was reared in an intellectual and artistic milieu and initially studied theology. Obliged to flee Zürich because of political entanglements, he went first to Berlin, and then settled in London in 1764. He was encouraged to become a painter by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and he left England in 1768 to study in Italy until 1778. During his stay in Rome he studied the works of Michelangelo and classical art, which became his major stylistic influences; his subject matter was chiefly literary. Fuseli is famous for his paintings and drawings of nude figures caught in strained and violent poses suggestive of intense emotion. He also had a penchant for inventing macabre fantasies, such as that in "The Nightmare" (1781). He had a noticeable influence on the style of his younger contemporary, William Blake.
In 1788 Fuseli was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, becoming a full academician two years later. During 1799-1805 and again from 1810 he was professor of painting at the Royal Academy. He was appointed keeper of the Academy in 1804.
FRIEDRICH, Caspar David
|Form: Color was quite important to Friederich and
he has a tendency to use intense and saturated hues. Often the colors
he used are the ones associated with sunset effects in the atmosphere and
he plays these colors against his use of dark, earth toned silhouetted
forms such as the trees and the gravestones.
Friederich also often used a symmetrical and centrally oriented composition. The symmetrical composition serves to draw the eye and he uses linear perspective and atmospheric perspective to create a sense of deep continuous space. He also does this with the size scale relationships of the human figures to the mountains.
All of these formal elements are linked to his iconography.
Iconography: Many of the themes of the Romantic movement revolve around images in which the unseen forces of death, decay, time and the power of the spiritual world are made palpable. The intense colors and value shifts that occur at dusk and dawn are part of the iconography of this image.
In this image Friederich is depicting a spiritual ascension. Here a so called "wanderer" symbolizes all men's wanderings through life and the possibility of enlightenment through a spiritual journey through the a metaphysical landscape. The mountain this wanderer has ascended is a metaphor for man's spiritual journey.
Strawberry Hill, located in Twickenham
Horace Walpole and others
Strawberry Hill, located in Twickenham, was bought in 1747 by Horace Walpole and over the next 30 years developed into the first conscious translation of Picturesque principles of gardening and landscape into architecture. The building was worked on by five architects; William Robinson and Richard Bentley designed the exterior in the mid-1750's, Robert Adam built the central round tower in 1759, and John Chute of the Vyne and Thomas Pitt constructed interior rooms such as the Library, Great Parlor, and Gallery. While the exterior is the first example of a resurgence of Gothic style, the interior designers drew from models of old tombs in Canterbury and Westminster Abbey and an aisle in Henry VII's chapel. Strawberry Hill, because of its use of many different revived styles, is considered to have begun the Picturesque style.
According to the Brittanica, Strawberry Hill is the,
earliest documented example of the revived use of Gothic architectural elements is Strawberry Hill, the home of the English writer Horace Walpole. As in many of the early Gothic Revival buildings, the Gothic was used here for its picturesque and romantic qualities without regard for its structural possibilities or original function.Context: According to the Brittanica Walpole was an,
English writer, connoisseur, and collector who was famous in his day for his medieval horror tale The Castle of Otranto, which initiated the vogue for Gothic romances. He is remembered today as perhaps the most assiduous letter writer in the English language.
Thomas Pitt (1737-1793) 1759-62
Burning of Houses of Parliament
(painted in 1835)
|Iconography: The buildings of Parliament represented
the stability and power of the English government. When the building
burned, for some, as in the case of Turner, the power of nature (fire)
represented a spiritual one which scrubbed clean the past of the structure.
When Pugin and Barry began the reconstruction of the buildings,
for them the use of the Gothic Revival style was a return to England's
noble and feudal past. According to Ruskin (a popular critic and
scholar) and the architects, the Gothic style was a representation of history
and a less complex more spiritually clear time.
According to the Brittanica, The earliest manifestations of an interest in the medieval era were in the private domain, but by the 1820s public buildings in England were also being designed in the Gothic mode. Perhaps no example is more familiar than the new Houses of Parliament (1840), designed by Sir Charles Barry and A.W.N. Pugin. In that large cluster of buildings, the haphazard picturesque quality of the early revival was replaced by a more conscientious adaptation of the medieval English style. Other structures built around mid-century were within this basic pattern. Later, the desire for more elegant and sumptuous landmarks created the last flowering of the style.
Arctic Shipwreck or Sea of Ice1823
|Iconography: Man vs Nature.
The theme these three paintings seem to share deals with men and the sea. Overtly all three paintings show the attempt of men to navigate their way through the oceans and the natural forces they may encounter in doing so.
Turner and Friederich do this by also using electric saturated hues and shifts of color to demonstrate how man is in his twilight. Both deal with the destruction of ships and man's attempt to navigate through the natural world. In both cases it seams that "Mother Nature" is winning the battle.
Both images deal with death as an unalterable fact. In the case of Friederich, he is showing you a failure of man to get to the forbidden arctic poles but it may represent a kind of journey to the forbidden underworld. The arctic circle is then a symbol of Hades. This may be further fleshed out by the suggestion that this painting may also be inspired in some way by the death of the artist's brother.
Turner and Gericault are showing man's battle with nature
but may also be showing the eventual judgment of man. The men in
Turner's painting in particular were slave traders. In Gericault's
painting the men are merchant marines who are "wage slaves." In Turner's
image perhaps they are being delivered to a different sort of "Last Judgment"
again delivered by Nature herself.
Turner's painting in part represents nature about to punish guilty human beings. The full title of the picture is Slavers Overthrowing the Dead and Dying- Typho[on]n Coming On, and in the left distance the beholder observes the guilty vessel about to meet its deserved end, while in the right and central foreground he encounters thrust upon him slaves being devoured by the sea and its creatures. Although Turner's painting presents images of fanciful ocean predators, his image of Gothic [196/197] horror is not the product of his imagination. In fact, he was portraying what had become sound business practice: since insurance on slave-cargoes covered only those drowned at sea and not slaves who perished from brutality, disease, and the dreadful conditions on board, profit-minded captains cast the dead and dying into the ocean. As John McCoubrey has demonstrated the artist painted his picture specifically for an anti-slavery campaign, and one may add that he has succeeded in creating a particularly effective image of these horrors. Works as different as Heinrich Heine's 'Das Sklavenschiff', Robert Hayden's 'Middle Passage', and Norman Mailer's Of A Fire on the Moon have elaborated upon the situation and paradigm of the slave-ship, but few, if any, have done so more powerfully than this painting. The closing lines of Turner's epigraph -- 'Hope, Hope, fanacious Hope!/Where is thy market now?' -- further suggest that he was attacking not only the specific horror s of the slave-trade but also the situation of an men in a society whose basic bond had become the cash nexus. [On Turner's politico-economic beliefs, see See Jack Lindsay's edition of Turner's poems. The Sunset Ship (London, I966), pp. 46-9; http://126.96.36.199/victorian/art/crisis/crisis4e.html
Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
(El Sueño de la Razon Produce Monstros),1803
Plate 43 of Los Caprichos, second edition Etching and aquatint
a web site with Los Caprichos http://images.library.smu.edu/ISC2
|Form: This print is one of many in a series of prints
published as a folio. (A collection of prints sold as a single work
The depiction of human anatomy and light and shadow in this work, as in others by Goya tends to look a bit cartoonish caricaturish and even at times the anatomy and light are so contrived that they look inaccurate.
The process used to create this print is called aquatint. According to the Brittanica, aquatint is,
a variety of etching widely used by printmakers to achieve a broad range of tonal values. The process is called aquatint because finished prints often resemble watercolour drawings or wash drawings. The technique consists of exposing a copperplate to acid through a layer of granulated resin or sugar. The acid bites away the plate only in the interstices between the resin or sugar grains, leaving an evenly pitted surface that yields broad areas of tone when the grains are removed and the plate is printed. An infinite number of tones can be achieved by exposing various parts of the plate to acid baths of different strengths for different periods of time. Etched or engraved lines are often used with aquatint to achieve greater definition of form.
Iconography: Stokstad points out that this work was meant originally as the frontispiece and remarks that the idea of the image is that of unbridled imagination. The print was accompanied with the text, "Imagination abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters; united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the source of their wonders," but Stokstad also points out how angry and satirical this image and the rest of the images in the series "Los Caprichos" is.
The image depicts a man asleep assailed by phantoms. The image of an owl is often a symbol of sleep, death and knowledge. In fact Michelangelo had used the image of the owl as death in one of the Medici tombs. The bats are almost universally icons of death and night, but in Spanish folk tales their is a vampiric creature called los chusas (the sucker which is similar to the modern Mexican myth of the chupa cabra)which is a kind of blood sucking or incubus like entity. The forces that descend on the sleeping figure are really representitive of nightmares rather than wondrous positive creatures. The overall interpretation of the image could be that the Spanish intellect is asleep and because of this the monsters of the superstitious mind seem to have too much power.
Context: According to the Brittanica Encyclopedia,
Francisco de Goya is hard to place in the historical development of the comedy of manners. His "Caprichos" (1796-98), etchings prepared by some of the most simple and trenchant brush drawings ever made, appeared in the last years of the 18th century and can be called comedies of manners only insofar as they are related to folk sayings and the bittersweet Spanish folk wisdom. Thus, they stand in the line of Bosch and Bruegel, so many of whose paintings were in Habsburg collections in Madrid. The "Proverbios" of 1813-19 are even more monumental transfigurations of various states of the human condition. Like the "Caprichos," they used the caricaturist's means for irony and satire, but there was little of the comic left in them and none at all in the "Desastres de la guerra" (1810-14, "Disasters of War"), which used the Peninsular phase of the Napoleonic Wars as a point of departure. They are closer to universality than even Callot's similarly inspired series and are searching comments on more stages of cruelty than Hogarth covered. In them, Goya was really a political cartoonist using no names; yet he was hardly a public cartoonist in the normal sense because censorship and other factors allowed only a very small circulation of his later work until a sizable edition was printed a generation after his death. The earlier work, which contains elements of comedy, did get abroad and had influence in France and England probably before Goya's death. Artistically, if not politically, his work would have had the same powerful effect whenever "discovered" or circulated.
Francisco Goya: The Third of May, 1808 painted 1814
Oil on canvas, 8'9" x 13'4" Collection Museo del Prado, Madrid
|Form: The chiaroscuro and cartoon like anatomy
of this image is very similar to the print above. Goya's color is
local but his brushwork is quick and gestural. The composition is
divided into a series of receding bands, the highly lit and spotlighted
victims creates the first band or frieze and the back of the soldiers the
Iconography: The formal elements are also iconographic. The local colors are drab and dark as is the subject. The tenebristic flair of the soldiers spot light focuses on the central figure whose pose is reminiscent of a crucifixion. This literally highlights the role of the rebels as martyrs. The arrangement of the soldiers with their backs to the viewers creates a symbolic representation as faceless soldiers who are inhuman.
Context: According to the Brittanica,
On the restoration of Ferdinand VII in 1814, after the expulsion of the invaders, Goya was pardoned for having served the French king and reinstated as first court painter. "The 2nd of May 1808: The Charge of the Mamelukes" and "The 3rd of May 1808: The Execution of the Defenders of Madrid" were painted to commemorate the popular insurrection in Madrid. Like "Los desastres," they are compositions of dramatic realism, and their monumental scale makes them even more moving. The impressionistic style in which they are painted foreshadowed and influenced later 19th-century French artists, particularly Manet, who was also inspired by the composition of "The 3rd of May." In several portraits of Ferdinand VII, painted after his restoration, Goya evoked--more forcefully than any description--the personality of the cruel tyrant, whose oppressive rule drove most of his friends and eventually Goya himself into exile.
ar.chi.tec.ton.ic adj [L architectonicus, fr. Gk architektonikos, fr. architekton] (1645) 1: of, relating to, or according with the principles of architecture: architectural 2: having an organized and unified structure that suggests an architectural design -- ar.chi.tec.ton.i.cal.ly adv
fron.tis.piece n [MF frontispice, fr. LL frontispicium facade, fr. L front-, frons + -i- + specere to look at--more at spy] (ca. 1598) 1 a: the principal front of a building b: a decorated pediment over a portico or window 2: an illustration preceding and usu. facing the title page of a book or magazine
Gothic Revival Style, architectural style that drew its inspiration from medieval architecture and competed with the Neoclassical revivals in the United States and Great Britain. Only isolated examples of the style are to be found on the Continent.
The earliest documented example of the revived use of Gothic architectural elements is Strawberry Hill, the home of the English writer Horace Walpole. As in many of the early Gothic Revival buildings, the Gothic was used here for its picturesque and romantic qualities without regard for its structural possibilities or original function.
in.cu.bus n, pl -bi also -bus.es [ME, fr. LL, fr. L incubare] (13c) 1: an evil spirit that lies on persons in their sleep; esp: one that has sexual intercourse with women while they are sleeping--compare succubus 2: nightmare 2 3: one that oppresses or burdens like a nightmare
meta.phys.i.cal adj (15c) 1: of or relating to metaphysics 2 a: of or relating to the transcendent or to a reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses b: supernatural 3: highly abstract or abstruse; also: theoretical 4 often cap: of or relating to poetry esp. of the early 17th century that is highly intellectual and philosophical and marked by unconventional imagery -- meta.phys.i.cal.ly adv Metaphysical n (1898): a metaphysical poet of the 17th century
re.bus n [L, by things, abl. pl. of res thing--more at real] (1605): a representation of words or syllables by pictures of objects or by symbols whose names resemble the intended words or syllables in sound; also: a riddle made up of such pictures or symbols
sil.hou.ette n [F, fr. Etienne de Silhouette d. 1767 Fr. controller general of finances; perh. fr. his ephemeral tenure] (1783) 1: a likeness cut from dark material and mounted on a light ground or one sketched in outline and solidly colored in 2: the outline of a body viewed as circumscribing a mass <the ~ of a bird> syn see outline ²silhouette vt -ett.ed ; -ett.ing (1876): to represent by a silhouette; also: to project on a background like a silhouette -- sil.hou.et.tist n