Also known as the time of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the "age of sensibility," the second half of the eighteenth century quickened in pace and changed the mood as the course of history swept toward the climax of the revolutions that opened the modern epoch. Disquiet and later impatience with the status quo generated a new and unsettled spirit of criticism that slowly crept toward rebellion against what was thought as gratuitous opulence and grossly self-indulgent expenditure. Moral outrage arose along with receding importance of the Rococo along with reason and the use of one's sensibilities in questioning to gather an enlightened understanding of the self and the world. These approaches were the subjects written about as part of the "enlightened" thinking of Voltaire and Diderot, who taught the significance of understanding gained by systematic gathering and ordering of surrounding physical data. Concurrent with these ideas was a faith in the power of knowledge and education to improve human life. Naturalism in art was renewed with vigor bringing an insurgence of interest in the careful structure of landscapes and cityscapes.
Leading thinkers idealized the values of sincere feeling,natural human sympathy over artful reason and the cold calculations of courtly societies. The slogan of sensibility was Trust your heart rather than your head,"or as Goethe put it:
Feeling is all!
Honest emotion was to banish the falsities and artificial as enemies to society and person. In art, sensibility meshed with the idea of Enlightenment thinkers and paintings took on a moral theme to move the hearts of the viewer toward correct social behavior.
This stylistic change didn't occur neatly at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The many revolutions were met with a large sentiment of turbulence, collective mental revolution-- a society responding to this accelerated change. Romanticism as a view of life, as well as a state of mind, had defined it's period by the turn of the century. It continued to center its concerns around the authorative abolition of institutions, privileges, and traditions that were viewed as impediments to human progress. Subjective in nature Romanticism became truth that could be sought inwardly without the necessity of a specific creed asserting the values of feelings and emotions in private experience. As you read the listed nodes you will see that art was developing along a line that would eventually break with the Romantic styles to lead in a new direction based on the social, political, and technological age.
Pablo Picasso clearly stated this separation between natural appearance and either formal or visionary art.
Nature and art, being two different things, cannot be the same thing. Through art we express our conception of what nature is not.
Jacques Louis David (1748-1825)
Antoine Jean Gros
<Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
Nineteenth Century Realism
Francisco Goya (1746-1828)
Joseph Mallord William Turner