Romanticism was an important artistic and literary movement which was popularized in many parts of the world. Read this article to learn more about this movement and its general characteristics.

Characteristics Of Romanticism

Romanticism, which is alternatively referred to as the romantic era/period, was a literary, artistic and intellectual movement that originated in Europe towards the end of the 18th century.  Romanticism was acclaimed by musicians, poets and other artists in many parts of the world, and it reached in its peak approximately from 1800 to 1840. This movement originated partly as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and partly as a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms of enlightenment. It was also a revolt against scientific rationalization of nature. The concept of romanticism was imbibed in all the major art forms like visual arts, music and literature. It also had an influential effect on historiography, natural sciences and education at the time. Romanticism made spontaneity a desirable quality in art forms and stood for the importance of nature and its influence on humans. Thus, it elevated folk art and ancient customs to something very noble. Radicalism and liberalism were the two major characteristics of this movement. Read the following parts of this article to learn more about romanticism and its characteristics.
General Characteristics Of Romanticism
Basic Characteristics
  • Romanticism validated strong emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience. It emphasized on emotions such as worry, horror, terror etc.
  • Romanticism was influenced by industrialism and realism, which urged people to look at nature and surroundings from a rational and scientific point of view.
  • It permitted a person’s imagination and freedom in art and legitimized imagination as a critical authority. 
  • One of the basic characteristics of romanticism is the importance of free expression of feelings of the poet or artist. For instance, William Wordsworth believed that poetry should be “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”.
  • For an artist or poet to express his feelings truly, the content of the art, whether poem or painting or anything for that matter, should come from the imagination of the artist.
  • Originality was an absolute essentiality of romanticism because the movement suggested that, the influence of the models of other works may impede the artist’s imagination; to be derivative was considered as a sin in romanticism.
  • The ability of a person to produce an original work through the process ‘creation from nothingness’ was considered very important and such people were regarded as genius. This was considered as a key skill to have, to become a romantic artist.
  • Nature was of great importance in romanticism. Strong regards for nature was appreciated. The effect of nature on the artist, especially when he was alone, was very valuable.
  • Romantics believed that close association with nature was healthy, in terms of both mental and moral health.
  • A romantic artist interacted with the audience directly so that he can communicate with the people through his personal voice.
  • Isaiah Berlin said that “romanticism embodied a new and restless spirit, seeking violently to burst through old and cramping forms, a nervous preoccupation with perpetually changing inner states of consciousness, a longing for the unbounded and the indefinable, for perpetual movement and change, an effort to return to the forgotten sources of life, a passionate effort at self-assertion both individual and collective, a search after means of expressing an unappeasable yearning for unattainable goals."
Romanticism In Literature
  • Friedrich Schlegel, a German philosopher, writer and critic, used the term ‘Romantic’ for the first time, to designate a new school of literature which arose in opposition to the ‘Classicism’.
  • Though the concept of Romanticism was identified much earlier, critics believe that Romanticism in English literature dates from the Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth and Coleridge. It was in the preface to the second edition of this work where Wordsworth stated that poetry results from the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”.
  • The romantics were greatly interested in mystery, aspiration and adventure. These interests were evidenced in Gothic romance, a particular form of novel writing that flourished in 18th and 19th century England, and in the historical novels written by Sir Walter Scott. 
Romanticism In Visual Arts
  • In visual art, the term Romanticism refers to a trend that appeared in 19th century, which was characterized by opposition to the classical forms and its rules. Romanticism in visual arts emphasized more on the spiritual and emotional representation of nostalgia, represented the unattainable ideal and tendency towards adopting exotic themes.
  • Romantics used inanimate objects like wild trees, moonlights etc. to convey their ideas and concepts.
  • In England, landscaped garden was used to represent the romantic aesthetic. Landscaped gardens represented picturesque nature.
Romanticism In Music
  • In music, Romanticism was characterized by the freedom of forms and an emphasis on the emotions. It was German composers who used romanticism widely and developed this concept.
  • Elements of romanticism can be seen in the works of famous musicians like Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Wagner, etc.
  • Many famous composers worked in smaller forms of music that had flexible structure; for instance, ballad, nocturne, solo piano music, etc. 
Romanticism influenced the literature and arts of 18th and 19th century. Many intellectuals, artists and poets of that time were impressed by this movement and propagated it through their works. The popularity of this movement declined gradually with passing time but, it has a significant place in the history of literature and art development.

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