Romanticism and Realism

At the end of the Baroque Period in the eighteenth and nineteenth century art was divided into two
distinct categories, Romanticism and Realism. Romanticism, the passion-filled works illustrating
stimulating accounts of specific events with symbolic gestures emerging from the scene, separated itself
from the more politically correct stance taken by Realists.

A fine example of Romanticism is Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa. The brutal scene, set afloat on
the wild seas, is emphasized by the chiaroscuro modeling of the lump of figures in the center of the raft.
The X form of the composition draws your eye all around the composition. The eye starts at the top right
with the Revolutionary figure holding on to a piece of cloth in the colors of the French Revolution and then
is drawn down the diagonal. Géricault then depicts the striving, the dying, and the dead as they overlap
each other in a fierce struggle to survive. The eye is then drawn up and down the dark opposing diagonal.
This whole scene is then placed on the mighty ocean to delineate the fact that the raft is a metaphor for
France being on a hostile ocean of depravity.

The Grande Odalisque also typifies Romanticism. Ingres, using example such as the Mannerist
Parmaganino’s Madonna with a long neck, takes the artistic license to elongate the figure of this Turkish
harem girl. Influenced by the neo-classical revival Ingres draws upon the Greek technique of flat linear
forms and depicts his model in an impossible position allow us the view of both her shoulders and her
breast; the figure is given an extra three vertebrae in order to maintain this position. Ingres endows a feeling
of sensuality into the figure instead of the paint. The chromatic effect of the composition pulls the harem
girl to the front as she is the only warm color in the piece. Ingres also gives her a very exotic feel with her
accessories: the peacock fan, velvet drapes, and other exorbitant furniture. Ingres also uses Raphael’s
typical female head and a gaze that says, “You have just interrupted me,” but you don’t know what you
interrupted further intriguing the voyeur.

In contrast to the almost mystical passion and intrigue of Grande Odalisque is Rue Transnonain.
This lithograph by Daumier is realism in the truest sense. Daumier depict the social injustice of the
innocent killing of all the workers in a housing block. Daumier draws in the viewer with the initial scene of
a man in his pajamas lying dead against his bed. The viewer is then drawn to pay closer attention to the
work. In careful examination of the piece the viewer sees a baby crushed under the man with just its head
and arms coming out from under the weight of this man. There is a pool of blood forming from the baby
which intends to play on the viewers sympathy eliciting violent emotions of hatred towards the butcher
who took the lives of these innocent people who were obviously sleeping as indicated by the attire and
disarray of the bed. The awful scene depicted in Rue Transnonain. elicits emotions and a need for social
reform.

The Third Day of May, by Goya is an example of a transitional piece which reflects both Realism
and Romanticism. In this piece Goya depicts a specific incident in which a number a civilians in Madrid
were rounded up in killed in retaliation for the deaths of French soldiers a few days before. Painted during
Goya’s “Black Period” the tenebroso conflict of the light fighting away at the dark sky is extremely
dramatic and the chromatic effect from this adds to the suspense and drama of the situation at hand. Goya
also puts the victim of this murderous rampage in a white shirt to symbolize innocence, strongly drawing
on the Romantic style. But Goya also uses the harsh reality of the dead body and the pool of blood
accumulating on the ground to make a social commentary on the death of these men, drawing on the school
of Realism.

Courbet, considered by many the father of realism, also uses techniques of both schools. To
illustrate, in Burials of Ornans, Courbet depicts a funeral scene with an intense feel for the emotions felt by
the mourners. “Unlike the superhuman or