Enlightenment Period - Romantic Age Comparisons
Researched and Authored by: Michael J. Spindler
The authors of this paper are going to present to the reader five areas of the humanities, art, music, architecture, philosophy, and literature from the Enlightenment period as well as the Romantic Age. The examples chosen are meant to reflect the developments and forces that affected world events and how these examples molded cultural patterns. This evolution of humankinds views of the world and humans place in the world profoundly affected the following century and the course of the modern people in today's society.
Art has traditionally been a reflection and an artist's interpretation of the world around the artists. During the Age of Enlightenment, there were five major types of art movements; Neoclassicism, Romanticism, French Naturalism, French Realism, and Impressionism. "In part a reaction against baroque and rococo excesses, neoclassicism is associated, in France, with a return to "virtue" and an acceptance of the new ideological demands of the French Revolution."(Boguslawski, 2005) This form of art reinforced society's responsibilities to honor, duty, and more important, patriotism.
Impressionism in the Age of Enlightenment lends to a play on light within common themes. Claude Monet is perhaps the best example. While not politically inspiring, Impressionism allows the viewer to spend time reflecting on the beauty and the play of colors and lighting.
"Romantic artists interpreted things through their own emotions, and these emotions included social and political consciousness--as one would expect in a period of revolution, one that reacted so strongly to oppression and injustice in the world." (English Department, Brooklyn College, 2001) Despite the term Romantic, the period was a time of revolution and social upheavals as society on all levels struggled for a voice and a place in the evolving world. Across all fields of expression, the period was a movement away from rationalism towards an exploration of human nature. Emotion became both the subject and the object of most popular art forms of this period. Rather then just picking a specific work of art, the authors' intention is to enlighten the reader to the influences and motivations of the artists in this period, rather than describing how a portrait may have affected the few.
Music in the Enlightenment period was immortalized in the works of Amadeus Mozart. Though gifted from a young age, it was through diversity and necessity that forced Mozart to achieve his potential. Most musicians of the period were at the employ of churches and royalty. The free lance lifestyle Mozart led, lent to a freedom of expression... "This step in the direction of artistic and intellectual freedom was a central part of the Enlightenment." (Donelan, 1999) Interestingly, Mozart's work may have reinforced his attachment to the ideas of the Enlightenment period, while a feeling of subversion is also equally expressed at times.
Mozart was not easily impressed that was until Ludwig van Beethoven performed for Mozart in 1787. Beethoven had a singular brilliance about him; as a result, he went through a number of instructors, some of histories most memorable composers of the time. Beethoven's hearing loss was a progressive deterioration over a 16 year period beginning in 1801. Around the year 1802, his hearing loss opened new doors in his composition. Compositions were written that challenged the traditional characterizations of music of the time. "Beethoven's influence on following composers has been immeasurable. Aside from his architectonic innovations and expansion of the classical sonata and symphony, he brought to music a new depth and intensity of emotion that was emulated by later romantic composers..." (Angelfire.com, n.d.)
The Romantic era could easily be split between two types of composers. A conservative approach embodying the Romantic periods styling and ideology, yet in close quarters to traditional sounding classical music. Prominent composers of this type of composition include Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms. Representing a more forward thinking expression of music included Berlioz, Strauss, and Wagner. "Berlioz, Strauss, and Wagner were all progressives whose music challenged the audiences of their day." (Schmidt-Jones, 2007) All composers of the Romantic period faced a common problem, taking music in a new direction. The composers mentioned composed memorable works of music, but nothing notable that truly changed the music world. This period was more of a transition that led the world to begin experiencing new innovations that led to modern music.
British architects of the Enlightenment age include Colen Campbell, James Gibbs and Robert Adam whom also happen to be of Scottish descent, "interpreting the first phase of Classicism in the Palladian form." (Boyd-Brent, 2008) Architecture of the period, inspired by the classic forms of Rome and Greece, gave rise to a styling that conveyed influence, power, and wealth. Clients of architects admired and wished to embody the ideology of Roman power and exhibition into their own homes and public buildings, conveying to the observer a sense of virtue, wisdom, and harmony.
In the Romantic Age, America's diversity was celebrated by the diversity of and supported by an explosion in the size of growing population. Architectural stylings of federal buildings are obvious interpretations of Greek and Roman architecture, an attempt by leaders of a young struggling country to convey structure and the power of the government. More important, the use of iconic architectural types fosters the loyalty and faith of the people in the new democracy.
Philosophy in the Renaissance era was greatly influenced by the bubonic plague also known as the Black Death. An example of philosophical change brought on by the plague was the shift in thought that caused people to challenge traditional seats of authority. Because of the lack of skilled labor due to shrinking population, laborers began demanding higher standards of living and a more equitable place in society.
The randomness of the plague, the fact that it afflicted people from all social and economic classes lead to the abandonment of traditional religious practices and changed the way people thought of death. During the enlightenment period intellectuals attempted to understand and explain their environment. This inquisitiveness bore a set of principles which were believed to govern all human interactions. These principles were believed to be part of the universe and mandated by reason as opposed to being ordered or forced on people by kings or the church.
A second example is the political theories that framed the debate of the social contract between rulers and those being ruled. John Locke's view that the ruled possesses ultimate power and have a natural right to life, liberty and estate clearly influenced Thomas Jefferson as he wrote the American Declaration of Independence 100 years later.
Christine De Pisan's Book of the "City of Ladies", which championed women's importance to society, was milestone in society. The work is written as a debate where she interviews three goddesses on moral issues. The authors selected this work because this example is a milestone in women's emergence as equal partners in Western society in that it was one of the first instances of the subject being addressed from a woman's point of view by a woman. Niccolo Machiavelli's book "The Prince" was a practical guide of how to establish political stability through the use of arbitrary power. The author selected this work because Machiavelli ignored morality in his explanations of how rulers imposed their will on friend and foe alike. This ideology gave form and a certain level of legitimacy to the "ends justify the means" mentality common to many autocratic governments thereafter.
The first example is Locke's "Of Civil Government". The author chose this because it serves as the basis of thought behind the ideals set forth in our own Declaration of Independence and Constitution. While reading "Of Civil Government" the author came to understand that our Declaration of Independence was Jefferson's affirmation of Natural Law as applied to the social contract between governments and their citizens.
The second example is Adam Smith's Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. It applied Natural Law to labor and trade and defined free trade.
The authors have explored specific examples, people in history, and how social tides changed the directions taken in of each category that was explored. The world that is known today is a product of generations who were able to express themselves through art, music, architecture, philosophy, and literature. The emotions, ideas, and energy conveyed through time, give humans a better understanding of where they have been and the courage to continue the journey forward.
References - Do Not Strip Article References
AngelFire.com (n.d.). Ludwig van Beethoven. Retrieved January 22, 2008, from http://www.angelfire.com/music6/enlightenment/Beethoven
Boguslawski, A. (2005). 18TH-Century: Intorduction. Retrieved January 22, 2008, from http://www.rollins.edu/Foreign_Lang/Russian/18intro.html
Boyd-Brent, J. (2008). The Architects of The Enlightenment. Retrieved January 22, 2008, from http://www.aboutscotland.co.uk/edin/jane.html
Donelan, J. (1999, September 26;). Mozart and Enlightenment Thought. Retrieved January 22, 2008, from http://www.writing.ucsb.edu/faculty/donelan/Mozart.html
English Department, Brooklyn College (2001, September 23,). Introduction to Romanticism. Retrieved January 22, 2008, from http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/rom.html
Schmidt-Jones, C. (2007, October 31;). The Music of the Romantic Era. Retrieved January 22, 2008, from http://cnx.org/content/m11606/latest/
Researched and Authored by: Michael J. Spindler
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About the Author: Michael J. Spindler; Michael has a multitude of interests, from Local Music Bands, Arts, Psychology, Sociology, Business Techniques/Management, architecture, and construction.. My first love will always be working with my hands in construction.
As time goes by, most of my articles will focus on the world of Local Music and the bands, musicians, and singers that bring such pleasure to our world. But at this time, I would like to share with you my other varied interest.
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