Explore the Louvre’s webpage on The Raft of the Medusa for more context and details.
If one artist could claim to represent romanticism in its purest form it would be Eugène Delacroix.
Delacroix’s subjects range from illustrations of haunting literary works like Goethe’s Faust and Dante’s
Inferno, to politically charged commentaries on current events, to exotic harem scenes. He used vibrant
colors applied in thick, fast strokes—as if his own imagination were producing ideas too quickly for a more
careful technique. Delacroix’s compositions are full of action or detail and are often organized along
diagonals or in spirals. Delacroix hated the work of David and Ingres, and his work represents a clear
instance where neoclassicism and romanticism are sharply divided.
Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830
The sublime is a key concept in romanticism. Edward Burke first popularized the word in his 1756 writings.
He defined the sublime as the sense of awe and terror we feel in the face of nature—the recognition that
we are fragile and small compared to the enormity of creation. This idea is especially important when we
consider the romantic landscape, which emphasizes untamed nature—nature that will eventually
overwhelm even the greatest works of human civilization. There are many variations of romantic
landscapes, but in general, they have small figures that either seem insignificant or seem to be part of
nature—wide vistas, turbulent weather, and plants and rocks that have a wild or craggy appearance. Often
Previous Page Next Page