Neoclassicism Art Movement

Italy 1760 - 1835

Neoclassicism Art Movement, Neoclassical Paintings & Artists.

Neoclassicism or Neoclassical art movement established itself as the predominant style between the last quarter of the eighteenth century and the Napoleonic era of the beginning of the nineteenth century, brought to fulfillment the promise of the Enlightenment. Neoclassicism was aimed at bringing an end to the “irrational” exuberance of Baroque art, by proposing a rerun to the study of antiquity. This cultural movement was supported by vast archaeological campaigns in Italy, Greece, and Egypt, which gave the cultured public confirmation of the greatness of ancient civilizations and noble figurative models to admire.

Invented by a German Artist, made Famous by French Artists.

The greatest scholars and supporters of Neoclassical culture were from German-speaking countries. An archaeologist and art historian Johann Winkelmann, whose writings directed popular taste toward classical art, particularly that of ancient Greece, and influenced not only Western painting but also literature and even philosophy, and a painter Anton Raphael Mengs were among the first and most important champions of a methodical and impassioned revival of ancient art, seen as an indispensable antidote to the excesses of Rococo. During the 18th century, artists expressed two different emotions that the sight of ancient monuments produced in travelers; regret at seeing such magnificence in ruin or a cultural urge to study them at leisure. The academic painting appreciated by travelers during the Grand Tours was dominated by a formal and intellectual control that was sober, elegant, yet not too restrained. These concepts were taken up and developed by Mengs who trained in Dresden but was active in Rome. While Winckelmann handled classical art in a classifying manner, Mengs studied a scheme withing which to fix pictorial references. Thus toward 1770, a very severe norm was adopted in the choice and application of subjects and models: this marked the beginning of the Neoclassical period of oil paintings.

This combination of ancient Rome and Greece opening up to intellectuals and artists from England, France and Germany, inspired “daydreaming” of what it might be like during those ancient times. There were enough stories and legends to fuel the imagination, all that was needed was famous artists to bring it to life with the new paintings glorifying the past, for example Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres painting Homer, or David's Oath of the Horatii, depicting an episode from ancient history from a Roman legend about two warring cities, Rome and Alba Longa, and stresses the importance of political determination and unanimity of intention for one's country. Neoclassicism (meaning New Classicism) its popularity exploded in France, as a generation of French and other European art students finished their training and returned from Rome to their home countries with newly-rediscovered Greco-Roman ideals.

Well received both by the intellectuals and the courts, Neoclassicism spread throughout Europe. In the field of painting, the French artist Jacques-Louis David became the model for at least two generations of European artists. David was also a very fine portraitist, as can be seen from his painting of Napoleon In His Study.

During the Napoleonic era, Neoclassicism reached its height in the Empire style, which became the sole model of taste and decorum. Neoclassical art is sometimes considered cold and intellectual, but it had the great merit of drawing from history and classical poetry eternal figures, themes, and feelings that have always been part of the human experience.

Napoleon, Neoclassicism and the Art of Propaganda.

The transition from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century marked a profound change in cultural and figurative realms with regards to both the artist's profession and the tastes and expectations of the public. During this period the eyes of the world were on Napoleon. Half a century after the Enlightenment and in the precepts of moderation and restraint, Napoleon launched a grandiose and celebratory style of art, of imperial proportions and magnificence. A series of ancient symbols (eagles, laurels, scepters, thrones, monograms, and the allusion to military campaigns from the Roman Empire), repeated, were employed in the emperor's impressive image-boosting campaign. In reviving the splendors and emblems of the past, Napoleon became the first “ modern” dictator. The many painted portraits of him also play a key role in the propaganda and strategy of aggrandizement, that perhaps reached its pinnacle in the equestrian portrait of Napoleon crossing the Alps (one of five versions) by David.

Other Neoclassical artists: François-Hubert Drouais, Antoine-Jean Gros, Angelica Kauffman, Élizabeth Louise, Vigée-Lebrun, John William Waterhouse.

Partly from: TheArtist.me

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