Nineteenth Century Romanticism Research Paper

October 14, 2020 by Essay Writer


The nineteenth century begun with a unique intellectual life and a spirit of aestheticism and creativity that enriched it. The works of early composers, writers, painters, and poets evolved from the onset, and in the increased quest for perfection, a spirit of romanticism was born (Schmidt, 2000). The classical romantic mindset stemmed from the early modern culture, although, between 1800 and 1850, this spirit played significantly in championing the political landscape of the time. Many issues fall within the study of romanticism itself, though as a process of intellectual want, observers reckon that romanticism was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution (19th Century Romanticism in Europe, 2013).

Moreover, it is possible to identify this period with its embodiment to a new aesthetics in which literary themes thrived. This spirit was further preoccupied with the moral concepts as well as the epistemological significance of the thinking, imagination, and feeling of the time. The spirit of romanticism advanced a distinctive notion of place and individual while stressing on the ideals of community and commonality of purpose.

The geographical setting and timeline of romanticism

Romanticism first gained footing in the early decades of 1800s as an artistic expression in Europe. France and Britain particularly flourished within this spirit until mid-century when romanticism begun to spread to other parts of the world. Contextually, it is from the scholars and historians of German and English literature that the 21st generation of scholars extracts the convenient timeline of the Romantic epoch, beginning somewhere in the 18th century and ending in mid-19th century (Greenblatt, 2011).

Virtually, the Romantic era run from 1798 to 1850, though, as a universal movement in its quest to transform popular culture, Romanticism dates back to 1770s, and spilled over to the second half of the 19th century. This means that America embraced it much later in its literature as compared to the continental Europe. The same observation also applies to the inception of some of the art genre within the American context like painting, music, and literature. In sum, Romanticism offers a most extended chronological timeline that runs between 1770 and 1870 (19th Century Romanticism in Europe, 2013).

With its emphasis on the ideals of community and commonality of purpose, Romanticism grew out as a rejection to the prevailing Enlightenment values that caused great disillusionment. The aftermath of the 1789 French Revolution further increased the agitation of this spirit with many populations in Europe seeking to expunge the myth of their generations’ apathy.

Individuals’ contribution in the spirit of romanticism

Though often attributed to a movement against Neoclassicism, the spirit of Romanticism stemmed from the early works by artists, composers, and poets most. Special tributes go to Jacques Louis David’s studio that guaranteed training to early compatriots including Baron Antoine, Thomas Cole, Anne-Louis, and Jean Ingres (Romanticism, 2013).

The individual contribution of these compatriots was immense and limitless in nature. Their blurring stylistic ambience and plenty perhaps best articulated in Ingres’ work, the Apotheosis of Homer in Paris. Particular recognition usually goes to some scholars of the time whose poetic contribution endeared them to the tides of this epoch. The artistry of English scholars such as William Blake and Robert Burns as well as their German counterparts Schiller and Goethe significantly swayed the foundation and shaped the trajectory of the Romantic Movement. Throughout Europe, Rousseau’s writings were equally remarkable and such classical works of art made romanticism to spread in America with preferential ease (Kreis, 2009).

Such archetypical artistic expression polarized the American public alongside the quest for change. While the work of most of these contemporaries embodied the systematics of the quest for community appeal and commonality of purpose, much of their works draw from the spirit of artistic intellectualism.

Romanticism in America

In America, romanticism stimulated a shift from the ordinary ideals in democracy, civil liberties, opportunities, and a conviction in the limitless of the unyielding possibilities in the change progression. Romanticism as Kreis (2009 notes, was in itself part of the American change progression that marked a shift in cultural shrewdness that trickled over to early 21st century. In America, romanticism begun in 1830, ending only after the American Civil War, many celebrate this epoch for its enormous energy of passion, creativity, cultural expression, and an aspect in character development. The vigorous forms of classical and highlife music dissolved into greater expression of human artistic capabilities. Music essentially grew and dissolved into artistic forms of playwrights and theatre that transformed literature of the time (Greenblatt, 2011).

Recognizing the fact that there was a delay in the modulation of Romanticism in America, much of the influence holds to the arts of 1830 until the Civil War period in America. Contrary to the European type romanticism, the American romanticism championed exposition more than anything it did in its genius of romanticism

Literary themes

Ideally, romanticism had greater attribution to the individual more than it held to society. Consciousness, imagination, and emotion were particularly fascinating ideals of Romanticism. Romantic poets attribute the significance of melancholy for its creative potential in inspiring the epoch. Romantic period also witnessed a coincidental relegation that whitewashed the significance and supremacy of reason. According to Greenblatt (2011) romanticism was more of a reaction to the unpopular Enlightenment thinking of the time. The investment of artistic skill and intellect by many writers, artists, and composers was as causes for forward mobility.

The Industrial Revolution gained increased momentum and the English society was undergoing great paradigm shifts that made this epoch a historic phenomenon. With more challenges to humanity, the response of most early Romantics was geared towards the agitation for a more idealized society. According to Kreis (2009), romantics passed as an intersection between international enthusiasm for art and the popular philosophical movement inherent in change and the fervor for progress (Realism in Nineteenth-Century European Art, 2013). Typically, this movement culminated into a redefinition of the fundamental classical lifestyles in which literary themes, mysticism, individualism, artistic isolationism, the search for truth in beauty, and idealism formed the means and impetus for artistic expression of the western culture and the worldviews of the time.


The relationship between religion and politics in the 19th century Romanticism has been the quintessential of a more complex yet conventional theory that drove the instinct of this epoch (Rosenthal, 2008). More than anything, the seeming religious conflicts recorded from the 19th century establishment to the current times could be interpreted in terms of conflicts of interests that romanticism sought to address. These conflicts have been influenced by religious prejudice whose main interpretation of the religious ethics has been to inspire a greater passion through sacrifice and offertory from the masses. This point of view often suggests that the archetypical balance drift towards this new wave of change was not necessarily the direct opposite of a Christian dominion.

Rather, the most candid expression to it would be the religious conflicts that heralded it into a full-blown war (Rosenthal, 2008). The lineage and the consequences of the apparent conflicts in these developments were by extension a farce and an instigation of religious embodiment.

Romanticists embraced those writers that Voltaire had earmarked as barbaric Shakespeareans (Schmidt, 2000). However, the influence of religion, and the prowess of the faith were equally characteristic of the period. Moreover, romanticism largely rejected the myth of the 19th generation’s apathy, which supported absolute systems. Such systems and beliefs were rejected under Romanticism regardless of their philosophical or religious backing. In essence, the supporters of Romanticism favored the notion that individuals and humanity in general must shape the religious system in which they subsist. Romanticism believed in the power in a society and the possibilities of the impetus for artistic expression and character.

Essentially, truth and beauty were the preserve of Romanticism era. Nature and humanity stemmed from the literary themes, the search for truth in beauty and idealism (Campbell, 2009). Romanticism did not simply suggest that there were illogical ways of perceiving religion. Materialism was rejected while utilitarianism was seen as a farce in the forward mobility of humanity to explore mysticism for the greater common good of humanity.


Romanticism marked the rebirth of the classical art, which made knowledge to expand greatly as art flourished. Romanticism was typically a period that saw drastic shift in the development of several elements of empowerment that built humanity, and art being no exception, developed to serve humanity in many ways (Campbell, 2009). Amid the invention and development of the printing press, the rate of literacy equally progressed due to what art brought into the ancient forms of education. With increased art literacy, populations living at the time had great flair in learning how to read and write, thereby increasing the need to build new schools while expanding the existing ones.

As people became more knowledgeable, they began to push for more freedoms and rights, thus inspiring popular revolts against the ancient administrations. Therefore, Art in the Romantic era opened up the society, and generally changed the way people viewed and conceptualized things within their midst. For example, some of the paintings of images of Kings and Queens depicted them in ways that criticized them or their acts (Art of Renaissance and Baroque Europe (1400–1750), 2001).

Such paintings were dynamic in making the population discover and appreciate the power that art had in the society. Art, therefore, was a great tool of empowerment that had great influence and impact in developing humanity and the society. For instance, in America, the highly celebrated landscape printers, especially those from the prestigious Hudson River Seminary as well as the Utopian societal groups, which flourished in 19th century, were expressions of the spirit that informed Romanticism.

Artistic isolationism

The Romantic era or Romanticism is a celebrated period in the memory of many for its gigantic energy, passion, and character. The robust forms of classical and highlife music dissolved into greater expression of human artistic capabilities. Music essentially grew and dissolved into artistic forms of playwrights and theatre that transformed literature of the time (Greenblatt, 2001). The romantic period is relatively short as compared to other artistic literary timelines, yet it is quiet complex to date. According to Schmidt (2000), various scholars identify the beginnings and endings of this epoch in very different lifespans, though these dates often coincide with great literary, socio-political, economic, and cultural events. While Romanticism as a period literally focused on a few celebrated artists of the time, scholars of the 21st century have expanded their scope to embrace many diverse playwrights, authors, and composers as well as genres of writings within this enigmatic period.

Romanticism in essence has very little to do with romance as the popular thinking of the 21st century suggests, although love may have featured substantially in the manifestations of Romantic artefacts (Schmidt, 2000). Rather, according to Kreis (2009), it was the intersection between international zest for art and the popular philosophical movement. This archetypical movement culminated into a redefinition of the fundamental classical lifestyles of the western culture and the thinking of the world of the time. The revolutionary zest that informed the Revolutionary Movement ended up affecting not only literature, but also all forms of art, ranging from music to painting, and from ordinary sculpture to ancient architecture.

The search for truth in beauty

As classical art flourished, the ancient artefacts became a source in the search for truth in beauty, developing artists in their creativity, inspiring the populations while introducing sufficient curiosity in people. Art Romanticism created in the people the desire to seek for truth and reach out to great achievements of the past while seeking to make the future more profound (Campbell, 2009). For example, in the souvenir of the ancient Italy, the indigenous population found great stimulation in the images and ideas of art Romanticism that spurred fresh thinking and inspired great innovations. The elevated status of art Romanticism often reflects the status of the 19th century as a society that was enlighten much early in history. Through these informal art practices, the 19th century culture became devoted to the supremacy of its innovation. In ancient Rome, scholars of art were highly respected and most, in fact, came to position themselves in highly respected ranks in government and other public positions.

Apart from the traditional role played by art in Europe, what made art Romanticism so distinct from other informal art was its visual luster and stimulating mystics. Art, according to Campbell (2009), embraced every clime of the society and had deep roots in religious expression. Traditionally, Romanticism saw these developments as expressions of ethical government doubled with religious tolerance. Consequently, artistry became synonymous with people in appreciation of their culture that were also elements of trade at the time. Art idealized the way of thinking and developed the indigenous people, most of whom became painters, poets, philosophers, and potters. Romanticism took pride in these individuals for their immense knowledge and contributions to the society.


While Romanticism as a period literally focused on a few celebrated artists of the time, scholars of the 19th century have expanded their scope to embrace many diverse playwrights, authors, and composers as well as genres of writings within this enigmatic period. Most features of Romanticism were entwined within the concept of Romanticism itself though some aspects of it seemed to have strayed from a specific idea of Romanticism. Those literary themes that asserted and supported the importance of individualism, the unique, and perhaps the odd, represented these set of ideologies. In time, they opposed the appeal of the model of neoclassical drama that was taking root in most parts of Europe (Schmidt, 2000). While the critics of Romanticism created their own literary types, Romanticism as a concept seemed unwaveringly unstoppable. It was typically an idea whose time had come, and it had to be explored to its full potential of its mystery.

Much of the literary themes inherent in romanticism were regarded largely as the heaven storming types whose thematic concepts loomed large generally from Prometheus over to Captain Ahab. Many individuals around whom Romanticism revolved brought profound relevance to literature. Others such as Cain, Hester Prynne, and the Ancient Mariner brought meaningful contribution to this singularity (Schmidt, 2000). Faust particularly made a forceful twist in the Romanticism vendetta, his typical determination for the unattainable that transcends the bounds of morality, were viewed as the aspects of his enigmatic attempt at the era. Thomas Cole remains an incredible celebrity for his realistic and in depth works of art that portrayed the American commitment to Romanticism through his artistic themes (Rosenthal, 2008).

He also founded the Hudson River School that flourished during Romanticism. As the wind of Romanticism broadened across Europe, cultures were rapidly changing to conform to the wave of the new era. Chronicles offer that art Romanticism revived the European intellectual history leading the European society to the rebirth of the classical sphere on which humanism developed (Rosenthal, 2008). The humanist philosophy sought to reclaim the dignity of humanity, which aimed at pursuing the gains made by man. Arguably, the limitation of conceptualizing art Romanticism was both its vitality and rigidity.

In celebrating the classical art Romanticism, these stimulating images suggest that art played multiple roles ranging from basic education of the masses to the concept of governance and society. Drawings, sculptures, and paintings did not only signify specific meanings, but also revealed moral motifs in their unique forms, exploring the vitality of the manifestation of humanity, the energy and the resolve to explore the beauty of nature that it sought to reveal. Through these developments, Campbell (2009) observes that the humanist consciousness shifted from the initial emphasis of logic and theological thinking to championing the course of humanity. In pursuit of these endeavors, it is clear that art Romanticism has revealed the classical human consciousness that put the contemporary secular world into motion through its stimulating images.


Essentially, Romanticism as a concept of literary sensibility and an embodiment to a new aesthetics never absolutely disappeared from the face of the earth. Probably many other aesthetic paradigm shifts such as Realism, Modernism, and Postmodernism overtook it. During these paradigms, Romanticism was mutely taking place underneath the paradigms. Great poets, philosophers, novelists, and artists of the 19th century attribute the Romantics for its inspirational ambience. Perhaps the major cause for the redundancy of Romanticism was that many contributors felt the increased need to convey themselves with greater rapidity. As modernization took shape, robust forms of literature dominated the arena and displaced romanticism simply because Romantics fell below the threshold in the changing tides of time.


19th Century Romanticism in Europe. (2013). Web.

Art of Renaissance and Baroque Europe (1400–1750). (2001). Web.

Campbell, G. (2009). The Grove Encyclopedia of Northern Renaissance Art. New York: Oxford University Press. Web.

Greenblatt, S. (2011). The Romantic Period: The Norton anthology of literature. Web.

Kreis, S. (2009). The Romantic era: Lectures on modern European intellectual history. Web.

Realism in Nineteenth-Century European Art. (2013). Web.

Romanticism. (2013). Web.

Rosenthal, L. (2008). Romanticism. New York: Parkstone Press International. Web.

Schmidt, J. (2000). The Roots of Romanticism. Journal of the History of Philosophy, 38(3), 451-452. Web.

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