Romanticism & Art History

Romanticism is “a shift in emphasis from reason to feeling, from calculation to intuition, and from objective nature to subjective emotion” (Gardner 784), thus indicating a distinct transition from Neoclassicism. Rousseau’s claim that “‘Man is born free but is everywhere in chains!’—the opening line of his Social Contract (1762)—summarizes a fundamental Romantic premise” (784).

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (image from here)

Romanticism reflected an attitude, desiring “freedom of thought, of feeling, of action, of worship, of speech, and of taste” (784). Romanticism encompasses several concepts, including nostalgia, Gothic, and exotic. Edmund Burke’s discussion celebrates not the mechanical laws of nature but the mystical, spiritual ways of the natural world.

The rhetoric of seeing the artist as a misunderstood genius began during this time. Escapists went back to the medieval past, valuing the primitive and attempting to get to a Golden Age. There were various national schools (German, Spanish, French, and English) that depicted this revolutionary era of Romanticism.

SPAIN

Spanish artist Goya’s The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters comes from a series called Los Caprichos, revealing Goya’s “considerable thought about the Enlightenment and the Neoclassical penchant for rationality order” (786) transitioning into Romantic tendencies. Goya is committed to the Romantic spirit of “the unleashing of imagination, emotions, and even nightmares” (786). This print is an etching and aquatint created in 1789. The bended, sleeping figure is a depiction of Goya, where owls (symbolizing folly) and bats (symbolizing ignorance) flock over him. These creatures are menacing and threatening upon the slumbering dreams of the artist.

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (image from here)

But Goya’s paintings often show tension or troubling images the artist struggled with internally. Saturn Devouring One of His Children is a fresco Goya painted onto the walls of his home, which were for the artist’s eyes alone and not for any paying patron, thus revealing the emotional carnage of the artist. Goya was going through a personal crisis and health issues, and he lacked faith in humanity, which is reflected in the brutality of the fresco. The bulging eyes scream out to the viewer of anguish, and the thickness of the paint is like tare coming out, which emphasizes the blackness surrounding the emaciated Saturn that seems to engulf almost everything it touches—a living world of nightmares.

Saturn Devouring One of His Children (image from here)

FRANCE

French artist Ingres’s Grande Odalisque shows a “rather strange mixture of artistic allegiances – the combination of precise classical form and Romantic themes” (783). Ingres follows the tradition of the reclining nude, yet “by converting the figure to an odalisque (woman in a Turkish harem, the artist made a strong concession to the contemporary Romantic taste for the exotic” (783). Critics complained the way Ingres painted the nude body, which seemed to lack tone and had a strange flatness about her. Her foreshortened leg and elongation of the back makes the Turkish concubine appear odd. The peacock feathers, the animal skin, the beautiful clasp, the turban, the hookah pipes all suggest an exotic space, a favorite subject for Romantics.

Grande Odalisque (image from here)

ENGLAND

English artist Constable’s The Hay Wain depicts nostalgia. The Industrial Revolution enabled hoards of people moved to cities, increasing the flux of people in a concentrated area. Constable’s work celebrates works and the disappearing landscape. The cottage is unassuming, needing some repairs, yet it is warm and cozy with curling smoke. This picturesque painting shows English value of land, showing the artist’s desire to keep some spaces sacred and out of the hands of industrialists.

The Hay Wain (image from here)

GERMANY

German artist Friedrich’s Abbey in the Oak Forest, 1810, reveals “The reverential mood of this winter scene with the ruins of a Gothic church and cemetery demands the silence appropriate to sacred places” (794). Friedrich, “a master of the Romantic transcendental landscape” (794), painted during a dark time that the Germans were experience occupation by Napoleon. In this bleak moment of the grave-like, dead of winter, the fog is just about the lift along with the rising of the sun. It is as if the dark hour of winter is over, and the season of spring, the promise of regeneration and hope, is on its way at last.

The use of the Gothic abbey in ruins harkens back to another age and time. The similitude of the natural world and the man-made engagement is suggested in the paralleling tracery of the windows where the stain glass has gone out in conjunction with the similar branches and smaller limbs coming out to create graceful patterns, suggesting a continuum between man and nature. Rather than political, Friedrich’s art is more contemplative, considering the inner world and our subjectivity.

Abbey in the Oak Forrest (image from here)

Age of Enlightenment and Revolution—Art History

Art produced in seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth century was mobilized for political purposes. Royalty and revolutionaries used art as a means of solidifying their power. Anthony van Dyck specialized in court portraiture. International painters copied the artist’s refined style; other painters reflected his style well into the nineteenth century (Gardner 678-9).

Charles I Dismounted (image from here)

His Charles I Dismounted (c. 1635) depicts “the absolutist monarch Charles I at a sharp angle so that the king, a short man, appears to be looking down at the viewer” (678). The king was in fact five foot, four inches. Because the monarch was rather short, this “forced him to exert his power in ways other than physical” (678-9). Charles I was a Stuart king, whom Parliament did not like because of his absolute reign. Although Charles I was actually a sickly man, he appears here as a man of action as he appears to be moving forward as well as confident with his arm akimbo and in a contrapposto stance. His sword is displayed as he overlooks the ocean, suggesting his rule over the navy and trade, in order to solidify his power as a leader.

Louis XIV, the sun king, “was a master of political strategy and propaganda” (Gardner 696). He sought adherence to the idea of the divine right of kings. Rigaud’s Louis XIV (c. 1701) depicts the king’s direct gaze down on the viewer, even though the king was short. The king was sixty-three years old at the creation of this painting, yet he appears young here, harkening back to Roman traditions of depicting authority. This painting was placed over his throne, so when the king was not present, no one was allowed to turn their back on the painting. This portraiture is carefully crafted to depict absolute authority.

Louis XIV (image from here)

The Age of Enlightenment led men and women to think and experiment. In the philosophical poem “Essay on Man,” Alexander Pope explains, “Far as Creation’s ample range extends, / The scale of sensual mental power ascends,” suggesting the importance of agency and reason in addition to pointing out that humans ought to try to understand man and this world. Additionally, Voltaire’s satirical Candide mocks the aristocracy and the German philosopher who claimed that everything is for the best. Voltaire concludes with the importance of community, ending “we must cultivate our gardens,” which is all that one can do. After all the terrible occurrences, Pangloss and his friends do not continue to try to solve the world’s problems. However, the development of thinking introduced new ideas concerning government, emphasizing a shift from royal absolutism to republicanism.

Overseas, the colonial leaders questioned the idea of absolute authority. Houdon’s George Washington (c. 1788–92) was commissioned by the newly established United States government, which was trying to dismantle the old ideals of absolute monarchy and to move towards republicanism. Washington was not to look too kingly so no crown is present, yet he leans on a walking stick, which has associations with scepters and royalty. Washington, a gentleman farmer, does lean on Roman fasces, “a bundle of rods with an ax attached . . . an emblem of authority” (Gardner 773). This refers back to the Roman Republic and their ideals of government.

George Washington (image from here)

Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon Crossing the St. Bernard (c. 1800) depicts Napoleon in an attempt to appear as a leader. When crossing the Alps to fight the Austrians, Napoleon had followed the soldiers who had gone before him on a donkey, while the painting by David shows the foil of the actual reality. After the coup d’état, staging the overthrow, France needed a strong leader to govern.

Napoleon Crossing the St. Benard (image from here)

The French loved that Napoleon was a military hero, which was seen as a romantic career, leading expeditions to conquer the Italians, settle land, and colonize. While Napoleon acted as first Consul in 1799–1804, Napoleon attempted to show himself as capable, based on meritocracy or through his ability to rise to the top. Napoleon stroked the French ego, suggesting they did the right thing by overthrowing the monarchy and killing the idea of absolutism. He attempted to model himself after Republican leaders. By having his name engraved in stone along with Hannibal and Charlemagne (both had crossed the Alps), Napoleon joins with past authority. His white horse is symbolic of power. His cloak functions as a cloth of honor. His upward hand appears like a gesture of blessing, similar to Christ’s. Thus, he endows himself with associations of the divine and great military rulers. This false illusion makes better propaganda for the French people than what actually occurred.

happiness secret

image from here

“In the story The Little Prince, the fox was wiser than he knew when he said, “Now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, trans. Katherine Woods [1943], 70). The odyssey to happiness lies in the dimension of the heart. Such a journey is made on stepping-stones of selflessness, wisdom, contentment, and faith. The enemies of progress and fulfillment are such things as self-doubt, a poor self-image, self-pity, bitterness, and despair. By substituting simple faith and humility for these enemies, we can move rapidly in our search for happiness.”

~James E. Faust, “Our Search for Happiness”

read here

E n g l i s h

When I’m not cooking curry or eating desserts, I’m usually traveling. I’ve been all over the United States, from California Adventures to Disney World, from Pike’s Peak to Times Square. Last Fall semester, I explored France, Italy, Scotland, and England, enjoying art, food, music, and cultures different from my own.

While I love doing yoga in ancient ruins and being enraptured by nature, I’ve learned that reading—as cliché as this is going to seem—is another way to go on adventures by exploring how a writer expresses what it means to be human.

 

I first decided to be an English major because I had lofty goals: I wanted to be a writer and to change the world and to make people happy. Although these are still my goals, I’ve realized that there are many ways to learn and to feel that I had never before realized were possible.

Learning how to think and learning new perspectives has enabled me to stretch myself—as a scholar, as a citizen, as a friend, as a daughter, as a child of God. Our universal status of all being children of a loving and an all-powerful God does not mean that our existence here on earth is completely and totally universal.

 

Modernist writers Virginia Woolf and James Joyce show me their world of determining who you are in a broken, changing world.

The experiences of Buchi Emecheta and Ama Ata Aidoo show me their world of being African and the trials they endured.

John D. Fitzgerald, just as much as F. Scott Fitzgerald, shows me a world of what it can mean to be American, of struggling in the American West or with the American dream.

And there’s a beauty in that adventure, that universal search of what it means to be human.

Code Name Verity

The Beginning

My dear friend found a book called Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. When I asked her to describe it, she explained that doing so would be a bit difficult. A whole lot happens, including codes, spies, intrigue, friendship, strong female characters, and so on. The setting is World War II. I’m a little obsessed with 1940s and learning about what happened in history then. In my head, a little noise went DING! DING! DING! YOU HAVE A WINNER. I was sold.

What’s It About?

“When ‘Verity’ is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.  They’ll get the truth out of her.  But it won’t be what they expect. As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from a merciless and ruthless enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that reveals just how far true friends will go to save each other. The bondage of war will never be as strong as the bonds forged by the unforgettable friendship in this extraordinary tale of fortitude in the face of the ultimate evil” (http://www.elizabethwein.com/code-name-verity).

Awards

  • UK Literary Association Award Winner
  • Edgar Award Winner
  • Printz Honor Book
  • Boston Globe/Horn Book Award Honor Book
  • Shortlisted for the 2013 CILIP Carnegie Award
  • Golden Kite Award Honor Book
  • Shortlisted for the Scottish Children’s Book Award
  • Catalyst Book Award Winner (East Lanarkshire County Council, Scotland)

Favorite Quotes

There are some pretty amazing quotes in the book. I couldn’t pick just one. These gems listed below include what I found when I googled for quotes from Code Name Verity:

My favoritestiest quote of all

This astonishing tale of friendship and truth will take wing and soar into your heart. ~quoted by Laurie Halse Anderson, New York Times best-selling author

Yay

I don’t even know where to start. There are so many great things about this book, and I don’t want to give away too much. The writing is great. As shown from the quotes above, she has some stellar lines. The author’s allusions and references from history and literature are fun, too (Shakespeare, Peter Pan, French literature, German literature, etc.). Characterization is top notch and would past the Bechdel Test (for more information, see http://www.feministfrequency.com/2009/12/the-bechdel-test-for-women-in-movies/). Let’s just say . . . So. Much. Sass.  🙂 The two main characters have a great relationship that will melt your heart. And I don’t want to give anything else away other than that. You’ll just have to read it to find out. Sometimes it’s hard to find interesting female characters in YA. TANGENT: This book really shouldn’t be labeled as YA because it’s great for adults and older teens, and there are also mature themes (e.g., concentration camps, torture, some language, etc.).

Nay

YOU WILL CRY. Or maybe not . . . if you are a soulless, pathetic, heartless little creature from the black lagoon. And the whole “crying” part doesn’t even have to be a “nay.” But you will have feelings (unless you are  . . . well, what I mentioned above.) But don’t NOT read it if you think that it’s like a super duper depressing book. There is so much humor and witty dialogue. So think of it more as a combination of laughter and tears. Bring some tissues, yet be prepared to stifle your laughter if you happen to be at work, and you need to be quiet, and you read something funny and have to bite your tongue off. Speaking of work, I am allowed to read or to work on projects when I have downtime. My book, which was borrowed from the library, has the cover of two female hands bond together with rope/twine/cords (?). Some of my coworkers asked if I were reading a BDSM novel, and I quickly responded that I was not. So I feel like the cover of this book does not represent the book very accurately. Of course, this cover art has absolutely nothing to do with the content and quality of the writing (and the author probably had no real say in the cover anyways). I guess there are other covers (as shown above in the first picture of all the different books covers).

A few of the topics/ideas covered in Code Name Verity. Originally from bibliophilemystery.blogspot.com

Gray

Also, several of the characters have “real names” and then “code names” or several different code names. It’s not impossible to remember, but it’s important to keep in mind who is who and who is doing what when. Maybe it’s just me; it’s probably just me. But I don’t know a whole lot about planes or types of planes or military jargon. Sometimes I would wonder what they were talking about. So . . . I made list of some of the planes listed and military references made throughout the book. 🙂 Enjoy. It’s pretty cool.

RAF Special Duties Cap Badge

 

Citroen Rosalie

The Bristol Beaufort torpedo bomber used by RAF Coastal Command.

Two Spitfire FVB in flight

This is the Do-217 aircraft manufactured by Dornier for the German Luftwaffe in WWII.

RAF Lysander WWII

De Havilland DH-80A Puss Moth aircraft

Conclusion

Basically, read this book. It will change your life. I hope you have a beautiful day. xoxo, the bbb blogger