Romanticism

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I have to merge with my clouds and rocks in order to be what I am. Solitude is indispensible for my dialogue with nature. ~ Caspar David Friedrich

Romanticism (also the Romantic era or the Romantic period) was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature.

Quotes on Romanticism[edit]

  • For the Romantics and for speculative philosophy, ... to be critical meant to elevate thinking so far beyond all restrictive conditions that the knowledge of truth sprang forth magically, as it were, from insight into the falsehood of these restrictions.
    • Walter Benjamin, "The Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism" (1919), Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, volume 1 (1996), p. 142
  • I must stay alone and know that I am alone to contemplate and feel nature in full; I have to surrender myself to what encircles me, I have to merge with my clouds and rocks in order to be what I am. Solitude is indispensible for my dialogue with nature.
  • Close your bodily eye, so that you may see your picture first with the spiritual eye. Then bring to the light of day that which you have seen in the darkness so that it may react upon others from the outside inwards. A picture must not be invented but felt. Observe the form exactly, both the smallest and the large and do not separate the small from the large, but rather the trivial from the important.
    • Caspar David Friedrich, as quoted in The Romantic Imagination: Literature and Art in England and Germany (1996) by Fredrick Berwick and Jürgn Klein, and in [1] "Culture: Caspar D. Friedrich and the Wasteland" by Gjermund E. Jansen in Bits of News (3 March 2005)
  • The heart is the only true source of art, the language of a pure, child-like soul. Any creation not sprung from this origin can only be artifice. Every true work of art is conceived in a hallowed hour and born in a happy one, from an impulse in the artist's heart, often without his knowledge.
  • The artist’s feeling is his law. Genuine feeling can never be contrary to nature; it is always in harmony with her. But another person’s feelings should never be imposed on us as law. Spiritual affinity leads to similarity in work, but such affinity is something entirely different from mimicry. Whatever people may say of Y’s paintings and how they often resemble Z’s, yet they proceed from Y and are his sole property.
    • Caspar David Friedrich, in his writings Thoughts on Art, Caspar David Friedrich; as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 32
  • And however one's mind may be elevated, and kept us to what is excellent, by the works of the Great Masters — still Nature is the fountain's head, the source from whence all originally must spring — and should an artist continue his practice without referring to nature he must soon form a manner.. ..I shall return to Bergholt, where I shall make some laborious studies from nature — and I shall endeavour to get a pure and unaffected manner of representing the scenes that may employ me.
    • John Constable, in his letter to John Dunthorne (29 May 1802), from John Constable's Correspondence, ed. R.B. Beckett (Ipswich, Suffolk Records Society, 1962-1970), part 2, pp. 31-32
  • But You know Landscape is my mistress — 't is to her that I look for fame — and all that the warmth of the imagination renders dear to Man.
    • John Constable, in a letter to his future wife, Maria Bicknell (22 September 1812), as quoted in Leslie Parris and Ian Fleming-Williams, Constable (Tate Gallery Publications, London, 1993), p. 23
  • How sweet and beautifull is every place & I visit my old Haunts with renewed delight... nothing can exceed the beautiful green of the meadows which are beginning to fill with butter Cups — & various flowers — the birds are singing from morning till night but most of all the Sky larks — How delightfull is the Country.
    • John Constable, in a letter to his wife, Maria (20 April 1821); as quoted in Leslie Parris and Ian Fleming-Williams, Constable (Tate Gallery Publications, London, 1993), p. 28
  • Still I should paint my own places best; painting is with me but another word for feeling, and I associate "my careless boyhood" with all that lies on the banks of the Stour; those scenes made me a painter, and I am grateful; that is, I had often thought of pictures of them before ever I touched a pencil, and your picture ['The White Horse'] is one of the strongest instance I can recollect of it.
    • John Constable, in a letter to Rev. John Fisher (23 October 1821), from John Constable's Correspondence, part 6, pp. 76-78
  • We must bear in recollection that the sentiment of the picture is that of solemnity, not gaiety & nothing garish, but the contrary — yet it must be bright, clear, alive fresh, and all the front seen.
    • John Constable, in a letter to David Lucas (15 February 1836), on the mezzo print of the 'Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows'; as quoted in Leslie Parris and Ian Fleming-Williams, Constable (Tate Gallery Publications, London, 1993), p. 37
  • For a man who is sensitive to nature, happiness consists in expressing nature. How infinitely happy, then, is the man who reflects nature like a mirror without being aware of it, who does the thing for love of it and not from any pretensions to take first place. This noble unself-consciousness is what we find in all truly great men, in the founders of the arts. I picture the great Poussin, in his retreat, delighting in the study of the human heart.. ..I picture Raphael in the arms of his mistress, turning from La Fornarina to paint his Saint Cecilia.. ..I am only too well aware that I am far not only from their divine spirit, but even from their modest simplicity...
    • John Constable, in a letter to his friend J. B. Pierret - 23 October 1818, Forest of Boixe; as quoted in Eugene Delacroix – selected letters 1813 – 1863, ed. and transl. Jean Stewart, art Works MFA publications, Museum of Fine Art Boston, 2001, p. 43
  • We are not tradesmen. We shall not bury our youthful hearts, at twenty-five or thirty, in the depth of a safe. Passionate hearts, and above all those that are filled with the love of one or other of those arts that are the soul's sustenance.. ..You are going to be a painter, my friend; we shall go forwards together. O heavenly painting, what happy moments will you give us.
    • Eugène Delacroix's quote in a letter to his friend J.-B. Pierret; Mansle, 2/3 October 1820; as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 75
  • Some say it is a complete downfall; that the 'Death of Sardanaplus' [Delacroix painted this painting in 1827 after the drama written by Lord Byron,] is that of the Romantics, inasmuch as Romantics do exist; others merely say that I am an 'inganno' [a fraud].. ..So I say they are all imbeciles, that the picture has its qualities and its defects, and that while there are some things I could wish to be better, there are not a few others that I think myself fortunate to have created, and which I wish them.
    • Eugène Delacroix's quote in a letter to his friend Charles Soulier, 11 March 1828; as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, pp. 67-68
  • I have already told you about him and about the impression he [= John Constable, the English landscape-painter] had made on me when I was making 'The massacre at Chios'. He and Turner were real reformers. They broke out of the rut of traditional landscape painting. Our School [French Romanticism], which today abounds in men of talent in this field, profited greatly by their example. Géricault [first leader of French Romanticism, followed by Delacroix after his early death] came back in a daze from seeing one of the great landscapes Constable sent us.
    • Quote of Eugène Delacroix, from a letter to Théophile Silvestre, Paris, 31 December 1858; as quoted in Eugene Delacroix – selected letters 1813 – 1863, ed. and translation Jean Stewart, art Works MFA publications, Museum of Fine Art Boston, 2001, p. 352
  • Maybe Delacroix stands for Romanticism. He stuffed himself with too much Shakespeare and Dante, thumbed through too much Faust. His palette is still the most beautiful in France, and I tell you no one under the sky had more charm and pathos combined than he, or more vibration of colour. We all paint in his language, as you all write in [Victor] Hugo's.
    • Paul Cezanne, in 'What he told me – II. The Louvre'; Joachim Gasquet’s Cézanne, - a Memoir with Conversations, (1897 - 1906); Thames and Hudson, London 1991. p. 197
  • There are considerable affinities between idealism and romanticism, indicated in part by Kant’s admiration for Jean-Jacques Rousseau. For both idealism and romanticism, the focus is not on rational control and scientific observation of the real world of experience, but on internal mental conceptions and, in the case of romanticism, feelings. Romanticism is individualistic, in the sense that all that matters to the individual is his or her experience; in a political sense, however, crucially, romanticism is conservative and even reactionary in its tendencies to oppose material progress and the advance of knowledge.
    • Alan Ebenstein, Hayek's Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek (2003), Ch. 2. German and Viennese Intellectual Thought
  • To romanticize the world is to make us aware of the magic, mystery and wonder of the world; it is to educate the senses to see the ordinary as extraordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, the finite as infinite.
    • Novalis as quoted in "Bildung in Early German Romanticism" by Frederick C. Beiser, in Philosophers on Education : Historical Perspectives (1998) by Amélie Rorty, p. 294.
  • The odd generation of Rationalism in politics is by sovereign power out of romanticism.
    • Michael Oakeshott, "Rationalism in Politics" (1947), published in Rationalism in Politics and other essays (1962)
  • Now the basic impulse behind existentialism is optimistic, very much like the impulse behind all science. Existentialism is romanticism, and romanticism is the feeling that man is not the mere he has always taken himself for. Romanticism began as a tremendous surge of optimism about the stature of man. Its aim — like that of science — was to raise man above the muddled feelings and impulses of his everyday humanity, and to make him a god-like observer of human existence.
    • Colin Wilson in Introduction to the New Existentialism, p. 96 (1966)

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