Romanticism

Romanticism

Romanticism

Romanticism

Excerpt

After the downfall of Napoleon in 1815, the younger generation everywhere in Europe seemed to be afflicted with a contagious malady, described by a politician who was also a talented writer, Duvergier de Hauranne, as "somnambulism combined with epilepsy." But when and how did this peculiar state of mind originate? For the revolution to which we give the name Romanticism was not effected overnight. It might even be said that in every creation of the human brain, hand and heart, there has always been a touch of the romantic. In painting we find early intimations of it at Rome in the decorations in the House of Livia, wife of Augustus, where the landscapes seem like visions of a fairyland far removed from reality. But it was Claude Lorrain who, after the spectacular extravagances of Salvator Rosa, really initiated romantic painting with his Enchanted Castle . Then, in the 18th century, the romantic sense of life was embodied in the glades and gardens of Watteau and Fragonard, haunts of happy lovers, and in the sensuous figures of Prud'hon, "the French Correggio." Next, Goya came on the scene, and in his Caprichos he was the first to dwell with passionate intensity on the pre-eminently romantic themes of love, insanity and violent death. With the revival of Shakespeare, plays like The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream proved particularly congenial to the romantic imagination, while unsophisticated readers of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre were thrilled by his word-pictures of the tropics, and Chateaubriand's public took the "noble savage" to their hearts.

So little by little the term "romantic," long synonymous with "false," "fictitious" and "unnatural," ceased to be derogatory and acquired its modern shades of meaning. "Nothing," said Klinger, an admirer of Rousseau and inventor of the term Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) as descriptive of the early . . .

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