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Romantic Art Characteristics

An interest in the supernatural and exotic is just one of the characteristics of Romantic art. Here, we tell you more about the period of art that is known as Romanticism.
Tulika Nair
"Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor in exact truth, but in a way of feeling." - Charles Baudelaire, 1846.
The term Romanticism was first used by German poets, Friedrich Schlegel and August Wilhelm, to describe a movement that affected not only art but also philosophy and literature. This way of art developed in the latter part of the eighteenth century, and the earlier half of the nineteenth century.
Before this era, the artistic movement that was prevalent was Neoclassicism, and because Romanticism as an art technique was a rebellion against the prevalent technique and philosophy, it is also referred to as anti-classicism. During its earlier days, the techniques of artwork were such that, artists used both forms together.
You can see a huge influence of Romantic art on the artwork of today, and also on the impressionist artists of the 20th century. Impressionism as a style of painting is hugely influenced by Romanticism.
Some places that became foremost centers of this art were England and France, which is where this style garnered attention initially. It retained its popularity in these countries for long, extending well into the latter half of the nineteenth century. Here, we discuss some quintessential features of this art that set it apart from other styles of art.


Any expert on different periods of art will tell you, that Romanticism is probably one of the most emotional schools of art. Any example of romantic art will come across as a beautiful painting and also in certain ways exotic.  For someone well-versed in art, the painting will also be an insight into passion demonstrated by most artists in their paintings.
Artists who worked with this style used techniques that were borrowed from the Neoclassicism period, and infused this ordered piece with originality in such a manner, that it seemed corrupted. One of the characteristics that is widely known is the blending of styles that the school adopts.
Romantic art, in many ways, is a dark style showing a preference for the mysterious and diseased. Some artists also used the occult, and the satanic as a regular feature in their works. Calmness, harmony, order, balance were the ideals that were rejected by the school or art.
One of the Romantic art styles that was showcased in many of the works was an increase in showcasing national identities. Many artists painted pieces of art that were portraits of royalty or moments that captured the spirits of nationality.
One of the most famous paintings that showcases this characteristic is The Third of May, 1808 by Francisco Goya. Jacques-Louis David, who was the official artist for Napoleon and Thomas Gainsborough were other artists whose works are examples of this feature.
Another important characteristic was an interest in displaying things that were exotic to the painter. Many famous pieces of art showcased objects alien to the artist.
Nature was another recurring theme in paintings of this period. Carrying on from the nationalistic trend, many landscapes were a symbol of national identity. Unlike earlier schools of art though, in many paintings, landscapes were painted in a manner that showed nature as the source of mysterious and dark occurrences.
Many mythical and supernatural subjects were the base of artworks. A study of the different features tells us about the constant occurrence of themes like horror in art work. Francisco Goya used these themes to a great deal, especially in his work Los Caprichos that dealt with themes like the inquisition, witchcraft, the many abusive ways of the church, etc.
One of the important characteristics of Romanticism was that it was very individualistic in nature. It was subjective and about giving up on any sort of formal structure in art work. It was fluid and indefinite without balance. While most artists used their own techniques, developed from a melting pot of different artistic styles, one painter stood out.
Francisco Goya, with his new styles and tendencies was a pioneer who changed the way art was created and understood. Other leading artists who developed different styles, and are credited with defining the different characteristics of Romanticism art form were Joseph Turner, Caspar David Friedrich, and John Constable.
This art is difficult to define completely, because of the varied techniques that were used. Symbolism, a fascination for mythology, and the supernatural were just some of the viewpoints held close by Romantic artists.
There was an attention to detail, that could be missed in a superficial glance. Capturing the sensuality of nature was important. Romanticism developed as a reaction to the ordered work of the period of Enlightenment, and questioned everything that stood as a symbol for its predecessor.