The following essay will discuss three different works of art from the Romanticism era. The essay will provide a description of each work art including the style. A summary of each artists’ personal philosophies of art will be discussed along with prevailing trends and school of thought in the art world during this time period. In addition, an explanation will be provided of how the works of art fit into the context of the Romanticism time period. In conclusion, also provided is a discussion of the three works of art in the terms of content, form, and subject matter as well as a discussion of aesthetic qualities and symbolic significance.
The Romanticism Era
During the Romanticism era, emotional expression motivated European artists from about 1820 to 1850. In this era, various artists, such as painters, photographers, musicians, and writers, held the belief that imagination and emotion had more value than reason, civilization was more corrupt than nature, and that ultimately human beings were good (Frank, 2011). As a way to move away from the Neoclassicism fixation classical forms, Romantic artists sought to celebrate nature, rural life, common people and other exotic ideas in their work. Romanticism is demonstrated in such works of art as The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons by Joseph Mallard William Turner (Frank, 2011, p. 328), in The Oxbow by Thomas Cole (Frank, 2011, p. 329), and also in Blue Hole, Little Miami River by Robert S. Duncanson (Frank, 2011, p. 330). These three landscape themed paintings represent the Romanticism era by the celebration of nature through great emotion and imagination.
The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons
The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons was painted in 1834 by Joseph Mallard William Turner using oil on fabric but only after an the initial sketch was created using pencil and paper. The painting shows a landscape setting centered around the Thames River, which is centrally located in the painting. Painted in the background, or rather in the distance, Turner has painted a fireball of flames to represent a fire burning the British Houses of Parliament. In the painting, Turner also painted one of London’s bridges stretching across the River. This, in addition to boats and riverbanks, were where the Londoners gathered to watch the horrifying fire. By using a variation of bright, vivid orange, yellow, and red colors as well as loose, expressive brushwork, Turner gives viewers the idea that his painting was created in a storm of passion (Frank, 2011, p. 328). The images in the painting were also given emotion by the excellent use of distortions and exaggerations. Based on reports, Turner was an actual witness to the fire that took place on October 16, 1834 and burned down most of the Palace of Westminster (www.wikipedia.org, 2012), which housed the Parliament of the United Kingdom. However, it has been stated that the flames from the fire did not leap up into the night as portrayed in Turner’s painting. According to history, the fire started from overheated chimney flues and quickly spread throughout the complex. Lasting for countless hours and drawing massive crowds, the fire was considered the biggest spectacle in London since the Great Fire of 1666. As a way to emphasize feeling over fact as well as the emotion of the event, Turner’s painting exaggerated the factual accuracy. He made the flames into “a surging maelstrom” (www.clevelandart.org, n.d.) by his use of radiant color. It was here that Turner was placing emphasis on “the helplessness of mankind in the face of nature’s mysterious and awesome power” (www.clevelandart.org, n.d.). In order to completely envelope Romanticism’s obsession with emotion and imagination, Turner painted the fire’s terrifying force while dwarfing people, boats, and bridges. In the painting, The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, it was his ideas of strong emotion and exaggeration as well as