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The Enlightenment and Romanticism

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1. Define the term "enlightenment." Then explain what this philosophy had to do with the ways artists began to view their world and how to reflect it in their creations. Discuss two of the specific signs of the way "enlightenment" affected the artists' way of looking at life.

2. Was the United States a leader or a follower in respect to artistic movements and styles? Discuss some of the styles that gained followings in the U.S. during the nineteenth century and why artists such as John James Audubon and George Catlan were important.

3. Assume you have been given the ability to travel back in time, and you are about to set off on a trip to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The purpose of your trip is to give you the opportunity to visit artists in their studios and to view firsthand the creation of some specific types of paintings or sculpture.
Since the length of time you can spend on this journey is limited, you must decide beforehand what styles you are most interested in. The job you will have is to collect information concerning three different styles as represented by two artists from each. You may choose from the following:
1. Rococo style
2. Romantic style in painting or sculpture
3. Naturalistic or realistic style in either Europe or North America
4. Impressionistic style
5. Post impressionistic style

Before you set out, you should have decided on the three styles that interest you, have determined specific artists you wish to visit, and come up with questions for which you wish to find answers. When you return, you will need to prepare a report that includes the following for each of the three styles you chose, as represented by two artists from each style:
1. Specific information about the pieces you viewed and found most interesting
2. Images of these pieces
3. Reasons for the style to have gained popularity
4. Specific features of the style
Your answer should provide an explanation about which style you find most interesting. Include comments about whether or not you see anything in modern artistic work - work of the 20th and 21st centuries - that indicates that influences from this style still exist.

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Solution Summary

Various questions dealing with the Enlightenment, Romanticism, the American artists, Realism, and Impressionism.

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1. Define the term "enlightenment."
Enlightenment refers to that 'dawning' of knowledge or learning that occurred during the late 1700's to the mid to late 1800's. This was a near worship of classical thought, a reliance upon the human intellect; not the teachings of the Church and faith that ruled before, and what that intellect could ascertain or discover about the Universe men inhabited through the sciences and mathematics. Learning and knowledge were king, and humankind valued the educated person. To learn more about this movement, check out any Web site you search on the Web, or this one in particular: www.wsu.edu/~brians/hum_303/enlightenment.html

Then explain what this philosophy had to do with the ways artists began to view their world and how to reflect it in their creations.
Before this period, a major portion of artist commissions were those devoted to the Church. Saints and martyrs brought in a lot of money for living expenses for artists of earlier times. Now, though, classical themes were being favored, and individual portraits were much more important than they had ever been before, as the new focus on the intelligence of the person made portraits of people fashionable. These were not stylized, perfected people like the Greeks used to show, in all their physical perfection, these were actual, identifiable people, the way the Romans used to do their portraiture - big noses. flaws and all. For the Enlightenment artist, the individual acquired a new importance, including the heroic man, and the noble savage, or the common man. Formerly, artists painted portraits of wealthy people who could afford to pay the artist's fees. Now, a new interest in individuals, and the life they lived, inspired artists to portray common people about their daily tasks - people who could not pay for the portraits. These were sold to wealthy people who liked to think of themselves as enlightened, and educated, and who thought they valued the common man's labors. Remember, just before this time, at the end of the frivolous Rococo, Marie Antoinette played shepherdess at Versailles.

Discuss two of the specific signs of the way "enlightenment" affected the artists' way of looking at life.
Some of this is discussed in the answer above. Two ways that the Enlightenment changed the view of the artist, was that serious subjects again became fashionable, as the frivolity of Rococo passed away with Revolution and the coming of the Industrial Revolution which changed many people's lives - even the fabric of society. The common, individual man began to garner some respect with the patriotic fervor of Revolution, and the turning away from the respect and ...

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  • BFA, University of Georgia
  • BSEd, University of Georgia
  • MED, University of Georgia
  • EDd (IP), Northcentral University
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