Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Romantic Era (pt. 10)

Another big part of the Romantic Period in art (and actually, probably the biggest part) was its focus on Nature.  You will recall the ideals of nature's purity and goodness as expressed during the Enlightenment by philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (as well as others).  The ideas of the natural sanctity of pastoral landscapes, untainted by the establishment of the rich and industrious landowning class, became especially popular after the French Revolution, when the aristocracy was overthrown and the common man took to power (ha, but not really).  The common man, thought to be closer to nature and, consequently, more innocent of the corruptive influence of society, began to be pictured more—again, in hindsight of the Revolution.  But one of the most common phenomena of Romanticism is an extolment of nature and the beauty of its unpolluted holiness.  Romantic landscape paintings are beautiful and seek to praise the pastoral setting they depict.  These subjects also took inspiration from a period in history when the continent of North America was still being explored, settled, and established.  Explorers like Lewis and Clark and John Muir were discovering beautiful landscapes that, once painted, could inspire more people to move out West.  The "New World," as it had been termed so long ago, was still largely "new" at this point; much of the land was still to be domesticated.  As settlers learned to find a living for themselves in pioneer territory, news spread not just through America but all across the Western world that man was again connecting to nature in a new and fresh way.  The enticing, pastoral beauty of the American frontier certainly sparked the interest and imagination of the world, and when gold was discovered in California in 1848, interest (as you can imagine) only increased.  Nature was seen as an altogether glorious thing; and the idea of tabula rasa, a clean slate, attracted many people to "go West" and start afresh with a new life in nature.  This, too, was held to be a very Romantic ideal.

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