Neo-classicism was a movement in painting which reflected political changes in Europe. The French Revolution, which began in 1789, stressed the virtues of Roman civilization. These virtues included discipline and high moral principles. Neo-classical artists helped educate the French people in the goals of the new government. They painted inspirational scenes from Roman history to create a feeling of patriotism. They are Jacques Louis David and Jean Auguste Dominique of France.
Romanticism was a reaction against the neo-classical emphasis on balanced, orderly pictures. Romantic paintings expressed the imagination and emotions of the artists. The painters replaced the clean, bright colors and harmonious compositors of neo-classicism with scenes of violent activity dramatized by vigorous brushstrokes, rich colors, and deep shadows.
Two English painters - John Constable and Joseph M. W. Turner -made important contributions to romanticism. Constable was a master of landscape painting. He developed a style of rough brushstrokes, and broken color to catch the effected of lights in the air, trees bent in the wind, and pond surfaces moved by a breeze. In his works he tried to capture in oil paintings the fresh quality of water color sketches.
Turner was increasingly concerned with the effects of color. In his late works color became one dazzling swirl of paint on the canvas. The influence of Constable and Turner appeared during the late 1800"s in the works of the French impressionists.
Realism. As neo-classicism and romanticism declined , a new movement - realism - developed in France. Guctave Courbet became the first great master of realistic painting. Courbet painted landscapes, but his vision of nature was not so idealized as that of other painters. He recorded the world around him so sharply that many of his works were considered social protests. In one painting, for example, he portrayed an old man and a youth inthe agonizing work of breaking rocks with hammers. The artist implied that something is wrong with a society that allows people to spend their lives at such labor. The neo-classicists called Courbet's paintings low and vulgar. But Courbet's works helped change the course of art. The paintings were based on the artist's honest. Unsentimental observations of life around him. From Courbet's time to the present day, many painters have adopted his approach.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was an English art and literary movement founded in 1848. The leading painters of the movement were William Holman Hunt, Sir John Everett, Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The Pre-Raphaelite painters stood apart from the major art movements of their century. They wanted to return to what they believed was the purity and innocence of painting before Raphael. Most Pre-Raphaelite art has a strong moral message through religious paintings.
Edward Manet was a French artist who revolutionized painting in the mid-1800's. He developed a new approach to art. He believed that painting do not have to express messages or portray emotions. Manet was chiefly interested in painting beautiful pictures. To him, beauty resulted from a combination of brushstrokes, colors, patterns, and tones. Since Manet's time, most painters have emphasized the picture itself, rather than its storytelling function. His "Luncheon on the Grass" illustrates lack of concern for story.
Impressionism was developed by a group of French painters who did their major work between about 1870 and 1910. The impressionists included Claude Manet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, and Edgar Degas. Like Manet, the impressionists, they chose to paint scenes from everyday life, including buildings, landscapes, people, and scenes of city traffic. Most of the people in their pictures were ordinary middle-class city dwellers -like the painters themselves.
The impressionists developed a revolutionary painting style. They based it on the fact that nature changes continually. Leaves move in the wind, light transforms the appearance of object, reflections alter color and form. As the viewer moves, the perspective of what is seen changes. The impressionists tried to create painting that capture ever - changing reality at a particular moment - much as a camera does.
Postimpressionism described a group of artists who attempted in various ways to extend the visual language of painting beyond impressionism. The most influential postimpressionists were Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent van Gogh. All were French except van Gogh, who was Dutch . Unlike the impressionists, who emphasized light, Cezanne stressed form and mass. The distortion in his pictures add force to the composition and give the subject an appearance of permanence and strength. Gauguin's pictures are highly decorative. Gauguin's pictures are highly decorative. Gauguin stressed flat color, strong patterns, unshaded shapes, and curved lines. He constantly searched for purity and simplicity in life. His search led him to the South Seas, where he settled on the island of Tahiti. Like Gauguin, van Gogh wanted to express his innermost feelings through his art. He believed he could achieve this goal through the use of brilliant color and violent brushstrokes. He applied his oil colors directly from the tube. without mixing them. The result was an art of passionate intensity. Artists of the 1900's have continued the search for new approaches to painting that characterized the work of the impressionists and postimpressionists. Many art movements appeared during the 1900's. Each lasted only a few years but added to the richness and variety of modern art. They are fauvism, cubism, futurism, expressionism, dadaism, surrealism, etc. As time passed, painters of the 1900's increasingly emphasized purely visual impact rather than recognizable subject matter or storytelling.
Some art critics say that too much of today's painting is concerned only with originality and novelty. These critics agree that artists should discard traditions that no longer meet their needs. But they point out that most great advances in style and technique were achieved because artists believed they needed new methods to express beliefs or ideas. Sometimes artists strive only to create original painting styles. But originality for its own sake becomes boring unless the painting has qualities that help it remain significant and interesting after its novelty has worn off.