Romanticism definition/Features of Romanticism/Historical context

Romanticism was an artistic, intellectual and philosophical movement that emerged in Europe (initially in France, Germany and England) after the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century. In most other places, it reached its apex in the mid-19th century. Romanticism definition

Romanticism sought to transmit to the people ideals about love, feeling, God and spirituality, patriotism and the appreciation of the individual.

For this reason, the Romantic period became known for its rejection of rationality, objectivity and the beautiful, characteristics of Classicism, the movement before Romanticism .

The romantics defended subjectivity, where the world view was focused on the idealization of everything, on the emotions and feelings of the individual, never on reality.

Therefore, Romanticism marked the change in thought and behavior of the Western world, initiating modernity .

Features of Romanticism

Whereas Romanticism sought a departure from the values ​​of urbanization, progress and rationality, most of its characteristics are direct oppositions to these standards. Romanticism definition

These aspects belonged to earlier movements such as classicism. Among the main features of the movement are:


Idealization is one of the greatest features of the Romantic period, because Romantic artists often portrayed themselves as rebellious heroes. The aim was to change one’s own life or that of society.

For this reason, it was common for Romantic art to portray the social injustices and political oppressions of the time, presenting the artist’s vision of what would be ideal for the issue.

This hero man also manifested himself as the individual who was looking for a homeland or an ideal, perfect love, out of reality, always prioritizing his own expectations and feelings.

Individualism and subjectivity

Romantic writers, painters, and sculptors valued the individual, their own opinions, and their view of the world.

So originality was very important in the arts. It was she who managed to present the author’s vision of what was produced. Romanticism definition

Through subjectivity, the individual could expose their opinions and idealizations in personal discourse, through feelings and emotions, fleeing reality or what was concrete.

Valuing emotions and feelings

For romanticism, there was no logical, rational or even concrete. Romanticism argued that emotions and senses were also important in shaping the individual’s reasoning.

The presence of the authors’ emotions and feelings in the works is one of the most striking features of the movement. It was common, especially in literary works, to find melancholic, sad and sentimental descriptions.

exaltation of nature

For the Romantics, nature consisted of an uncontrollable and transcendental force that, despite being related, was distinct from physical elements such as trees, leaves, etc.

focus on imagination

Considering that Romanticism represented an escape from the values ​​of the time, Romantic thinkers and artists often resorted to imagination in the production of their works. Romanticism definition

In literature, for example, the aim was not to describe the world as it is, but how it could be.

Historical context of Romanticism

Romanticism emerged during the period known as the Age of Revolutions, between 1774 and 1849. At this time, great political, social and economic transformations took place in the West.

Among the major revolutionary movements of the time are the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution .

Another major political event of this period was the rise of the bourgeoisie to power during the French Revolution.

The bourgeoisie wanted to transmit new ideals to society, regarding feelings and the value of emotions and the individual, which were forgotten by previous movements, such as Classicism.

Driven by the same ideals of change, romantic artists began to change not only the theory and practice of their arts, but also the very way in which they perceived the world. Romanticism definition

This transformation went beyond the artistic field and impacted Western philosophy and culture. These aspects have come to accept emotion and the senses as a valid way of experiencing life.

The influence of the revolutions can be seen in the characteristics of idealism and rebellion, which were striking in the works produced in the period.

Escapism and subjectivism, for example, valued individual feelings more than collective ones. Both are strong aspects of Romanticism.

Romanticism in Literature

Romanticism also became an innovative literary style , because it allowed artists to utilize emotion and spontaneity . Thus, they could more freely explore artistic resources inside and outside literature.

In this period, literary novels were based on romantic sentimentality and escapism (escape from reality), and a constant struggle with forbidden or unrequited love. Romanticism definition

By having a strong nationalist and patriotic appeal, romantic literature also praises the hero man, who fights for love and for his nation. In addition, the characters are clearly vulnerable and melancholy, putting their emotions always in the foreground.

Some of the leading European Romantic authors were:

  • Frenchman Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame;
  • The Englishman Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), author of The Ballad of the Old Sailor;
  • The German August Wilhelm (1767-1845), author of Ramos de Flores;

In Brazil, some of the authors that marked the romantic period were:

  • Aluísio Azevedo (1857-1913), author of O Cortiço;
  • Casimiro de Abreu (1837-1860), author of Primaveras;
  • Gonçalves Dias (1823 – 1864), author of Canção do Exílio.

Romanticism in the Arts

Romantic art was essentially based on individualism, nature and the imagination . These values ​​were manifested in all artistic branches of the time and inspired paintings, sculptures, poems, among others.

Due to the emphasis on imagination, artists placed great importance on intuition, instinct and emotion. Because they are very personal and subjective, these feelings reinforced the notion of individualism, which marked the movement. Romanticism definition

For the Romantics, individualism manifested itself most fully in contexts of solitude.

For this reason, Romantic art tends to be strongly meditative. This focus on the imaginary and subjectivism removed the notion that art was a mirror of the world. In romanticism, art created a parallel world.

“The raft of Medusa”, by Théodore Gericault, representing the emphasis that romantic art gave to the imaginary.

Romanticism brought a new concept of nature that was not limited to forests, trees and animals. For the Romantics, nature was something superior, transcendental and, therefore, incomprehensible to men.

Like all points, nature was also viewed subjectively and its portrayal varied from artist to artist.

Among the most common ways of interpreting nature was the idea that it was a divine place, a refuge from the industrialized world, or even a healing power. Romanticism definition

This appreciation of nature meant that, through Romanticism, landscape painting, previously seen as an inferior form of art, was highly improved.

“The Lonely Tree” by Caspar David Friedrich. The work demonstrates several characteristic features of romantic works, such as the cult of nature, the exaltation of solitude and the escape from the city (escapism).

Main names and works of Romanticism

Check out the main romantic artists below, followed by some of their works:

European Literature

  • William Blake – Seven Illuminated Books, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Jerusalem, etc.
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge – The Ballad of the Old Sailor, Kubla Khan, Cristabel, etc. Romanticism definition
  • William Wordsworth – Lonely as a Cloud I have wandered, The Prelude, Ode to Duty, etc.


  • Francisco de Goya – The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid (or The Firings of the 3rd of May), Saturn devouring a child, The naked maja, The dressed maja, etc.
  • William Turner – The Slave Ship, Rain, Steam and Speed, The Battle of Trafalgar, etc.
  • Caspar David Friedrich – Walker on the Sea of ​​Mist, Monk by the Sea, The Sea of ​​Ice, etc.
  • Eugène Delacroix – Freedom Leading the People, The Massacre of Chios, The Death of Sardanapalus, etc.


  • Antoine-Louis Barye – Theseus and the Minotaur, Lion and Serpent, Eagle and Serpent, etc.
  • Pierre Jean David – Reviving Greece, The Death of Achilles, Louis II, etc. Romanticism definition

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