Romanticism Defines an Age

The first American school of landscape painting was the Hudson River School and although the school was only active for 35 years, (1835-1870), it was attended by some of the most prominent artists of the period, like George Innes, George Caleb Bingham, Thomas Moran and Martin Johnson Heade. But besides being the Alma Mater of such luminaries, the Hudson River School also acted as one of the focal points of a new period in Art: The Romantic period. Romanticism was the perfect choice for an age in which new freedoms were just being discovered. Not only freedoms in politics but also freedom to make many more personal decisions. There are many in the United States that claim that the country is a Christian nation, founded on Christian principles, by Christian leaders. But the fact is that those leaders were almost exclusively secularists who had no problem with religion but distrusted the Church and who made their feelings clear in all of their writings. America was not the first nation to experiment with democracy, the Greeks had practiced it more than 3,000 years ago. They were the first nation in nearly 1,500 years to begin to separate government and religion.

Romanticism gave artists the freedom to speak of matters of the heart in their paintings and sculptures. The art for promoted such unusual ideas as individualism, irrationalism, subjectivism, raw emotion and vivid imagination, emotions that take control and sweet the artist away. The style refused definition for a long time because it favored the blending of many different styles in order to create a completely new style. In much the same way that Renaissance artists were fascinated by nature but in a much more revolutionary. Much like the social movement toward individual freedom, Romanticism was immediately against the established order, both social and religious. Much more interested in human nature than human form, Romantic artists presented images depicting ethnic cultures, remote and mysterious places, even occult subjects were for the first time appearing in Western Art. The life styles of artists changed somewhat however. Previously being a good artist was on of the best jobs to have. But the new age, disappearance of “nobility” and lessening influence of the Church, the first “starving artists” were born. But now, in some of the finer shops, tattoo artists are using styles from both the Romantic and Gothic periods to create some truly beautiful artwork.

The term “Romanticism” was first coined by the poets and critics August Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel, from Germany, They originally used the term to describe the entire social movement sweeping the Western world but it soon became applied exclusively to the new style of art. These two mistakenly believed that his movement was essentially a Christian one, despite its clearly secular nature and the fact that the Church fought each of these social changes. They might have been correct however if they thought that the movement was inspired, not because of a return to Christian principles, but from a flight away from Christian intolerance.