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Becoming modern

People use the term “modern” in a variety of ways, often very loosely, with a lot of implied associations of new, contemporary, up-to-date, and technological. We know the difference between a modern society and our less advanced past and it usually has less to do with art and more to do with technology and industrial progress, things like indoor plumbing, easy access to consumer goods, freedom of expression, and voting rights. In the nineteenth century, steam-powered machines and unskilled laborers in factories began to replace skilled artisans. London, Paris, and New York led the unprecedented population growth of cities during this period, as people moved from the countryside or emigrated to find a higher standard of living. Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker of Smarthistory together with leading art historians, and our museum partners have created hundreds of short engaging conversational videos and articles, making Khan Academy one of the most accessible and extensive resources for the study of the history of art.
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Romanticism

As is fairly common with stylistic rubrics, the word "Romanticism" was not developed to describe the visual arts but was first used in relation to new literary and musical schools in the beginning of the 19th century. Art came under this heading only later. Think of the poetry of Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and William Wordsworth and the scores of Beethoven, Richard Strauss, and Chopin. Romantic music expressed the powerful drama of human emotion: anger and passion, but also quiet passages of pleasure and joy. So too, the French painter Eugene Delacroix and the Spanish artist Francisco Goya broke with the cool, cerebral idealism of David and Ingres’s Neoclassicism. They sought instead to respond to the cataclysmic upheavals that characterized their era with line, color, and brushwork that was more physically direct, more emotionally expressive.
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Early photography

A thumbnail for: Victorian art and architecture

Victorian art and architecture

Victoria was eighteen years old when she was crowned Queen in 1837. She ruled for nearly 64 yeas over the vast, powerful, British Empire until she died in 1901. Although the monarchy can be seen as a constant of British tradition, her reign witnessed radical change brought about chiefly by industrialization and the want and reform that resulted. The was a period of contradiction when progress often meant idealizing a lost past.
A thumbnail for: The birth of the avant-garde in France

The birth of the avant-garde in France

Throughout the 19th century there were artists who produced pictures that we do not label “modern art” generally because the techniques or subjects were associated with the conservative academic styles, techniques and approaches. On the other hand, modern artists were often called the “avant garde.” This was originally a military term that described the point man (the first soldier out)—the one to take the most risk. The avant garde is also used to identify artists whose painting subjects and techniques were radical, marking them off from the more traditional or academic styles, but not with any particular political ideology in mind. Avant garde became a kind of generic term for a number of art movements centered on the idea of artistic autonomy and independence.
A thumbnail for: Symbolism & Art Nouveau

Symbolism & Art Nouveau

The 1880s saw a shift away from the modern-life focus of Impressionism, as artists turned toward the interior self, to dreams, and myth. There was a sense that Impressionism had been too tied up with the materialism of middle-class culture. In some ways, van Gogh and Gauguin can also be seen as Symbolists. Many Symbolist belonged to groups of artists who broke away (or seceded) from the art establishment in their respective countries, to hold their own exhibitions. For example, Klimt belonged to the Vienna Secession (he was its first president), Khnopff to a similar group in Belgium called Lex XX (The Twenty), and Stuck co-founded the Munich Secession.
A thumbnail for: America: Civil War to the Gilded Age

America: Civil War to the Gilded Age

Find here the art of Winslow Homer, the expat Mary Cassatt, and work by other American artists in the 2nd half of the 19th century.
Romanticism
As is fairly common with stylistic rubrics, the word "Romanticism" was not developed to describe the visual arts but was first used in relation to new literary and musical schools in the beginning of the 19th century. Art came under this heading only later. Think of the poetry of Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and William Wordsworth and the scores of Beethoven, Richard Strauss, and Chopin. Romantic music expressed the powerful drama of human emotion: anger and passion, but also quiet passages of pleasure and joy. So too, the French painter Eugene Delacroix and the Spanish artist Francisco Goya broke with the cool, cerebral idealism of David and Ingres’s Neoclassicism. They sought instead to respond to the cataclysmic upheavals that characterized their era with line, color, and brushwork that was more physically direct, more emotionally expressive.
All content in “Romanticism”

France

Romanticism begins in France with the violent and exotic battle scenes of Gros and the famous shipwreck, the Raft of the Medusa, painted by Gericault. Soon after, two distinct trends emerge in French painting, one—represented by the artist Delacroix—was rebellious, and emphasized emotion, color and loose brushwork. The other—which can be seen in the art of Ingres—upheld tradition, and emphasized line and a highly finished surface. Of course, things were more complicated—but those were battle lines!

Spain

The great artist Francisco Goya is the focus of this tutorial. Goya began his career designing tapestries for the royal residences, and eventually became court painter to the King of Spain. But after Napoleon’s army occupied Spain and deposed the King, Goya documented the horrors he witnessed. His work following the occupation, including the Third of May 1808, remains some of the most powerful anti-war images ever created. His later years were spent largely in a house outside Madrid which he painted with haunting scenes. Saturn Devouring his sons belongs to this late series, known as the “Black Paintings.”

England

As the industrial revolution transformed the British countryside, replacing fields with factories, painters turned to landscape. Constable painted his native suffolk, where he spent his childhood, and imbued it with a sense of affection for rural life. Turner, on the other hand, created dramatic and sublime landscapes with a sense of the heroic or even the tragic. What both of these artists have in common is a desire to make landscape painting—understood as a low subject by the Academy which dictated official views on art—carry serious meaning.

Germany

This tutorial focuses exclusively on the art of Caspar David Friedrich, whose work best exemplifies Romanticism’s interest in the big questions of man’s mortality and place in the universe. The world had changed dramatically since the time of Michelangelo, Bernini and Rembrandt, and as a result, Friedrich approached these big questions without the Christian narratives that dominated the art of the past. And like his English counterparts during this period, he imbues nature and the landscape with symbolic and often spiritual meaning.

United States

The style we call Romanticism in Europe (the work of Delacroix, Goya, Constable, Friedrich and other) had an equivalent in the United States in the early 19th century particularly in the Hudson River School and its focus on the transcendent possibilities of landscape.