Classicism

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Jacques-Louis David, Oath of the Horatii, 1784, an icon of Neoclassicism in painting David-Oath of the Horatii-1784.jpg
Jacques-Louis David, Oath of the Horatii , 1784, an icon of Neoclassicism in painting

Classicism, in the arts, refers generally to a high regard for a classical period, classical antiquity in the Western tradition, as setting standards for taste which the classicists seek to emulate. In its purest form, classicism is an aesthetic attitude dependent on principles based in the culture, art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, with the emphasis on form, simplicity, proportion, clarity of structure, perfection, restrained emotion, as well as explicit appeal to the intellect. [1] The art of classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained: of the Discobolus Sir Kenneth Clark observed, "if we object to his restraint and compression we are simply objecting to the classicism of classic art. A violent emphasis or a sudden acceleration of rhythmic movement would have destroyed those qualities of balance and completeness through which it retained until the present century its position of authority in the restricted repertoire of visual images." [2] Classicism, as Clark noted, implies a canon of widely accepted ideal forms, whether in the Western canon that he was examining in The Nude (1956), or the literary Chinese classics or Chinese art, where the revival of classic styles is also a recurring feature.

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Classicism is a force which is often present in post-medieval European and European influenced traditions; however, some periods felt themselves more connected to the classical ideals than others, particularly the Age of Enlightenment, [3] when Neoclassicism was an important movement in the visual arts.

General term

Fountain of the Four Rivers, Bernini, 1651. Rome Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi 01.jpg
Fountain of the Four Rivers, Bernini, 1651.
Classicist door in Olomouc, The Czech Republic. Classicism door in Olomouc.jpg
Classicist door in Olomouc, The Czech Republic.

Classicism is a specific genre of philosophy, expressing itself in literature, architecture, art, and music, which has Ancient Greek and Roman sources and an emphasis on society. It was particularly expressed in the Neoclassicism [4] of the Age of Enlightenment.

Classicism is a recurrent tendency in the Late Antique period, and had a major revival in Carolingian and Ottonian art. There was another, more durable revival in the Italian renaissance when the fall of Byzantium and rising trade with the Islamic cultures brought a flood of knowledge about, and from, the antiquity of Europe. Until that time, the identification with antiquity had been seen as a continuous history of Christendom from the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine I. Renaissance classicism introduced a host of elements into European culture, including the application of mathematics and empiricism into art, humanism, literary and depictive realism, and formalism. Importantly it also introduced Polytheism, or "paganism", and the juxtaposition of ancient and modern.

The classicism of the Renaissance led to, and gave way to, a different sense of what was "classical" in the 16th and 17th centuries. In this period, classicism took on more overtly structural overtones of orderliness, predictability, the use of geometry and grids, the importance of rigorous discipline and pedagogy, as well as the formation of schools of art and music. The court of Louis XIV was seen as the center of this form of classicism, with its references to the gods of Olympus as a symbolic prop for absolutism, its adherence to axiomatic and deductive reasoning, and its love of order and predictability.

This period sought the revival of classical art forms, including Greek drama and music. Opera, in its modern European form, had its roots in attempts to recreate the combination of singing and dancing with theatre thought to be the Greek norm. Examples of this appeal to classicism included Dante, Petrarch, and Shakespeare in poetry and theatre. Tudor drama, in particular, modeled itself after classical ideals and divided works into Tragedy [5] and Comedy. Studying Ancient Greek became regarded as essential for a well-rounded education in the liberal arts.

The Renaissance also explicitly returned to architectural models and techniques associated with Greek and Roman antiquity, including the golden rectangle [6] as a key proportion for buildings, the classical orders of columns, as well as a host of ornament and detail associated with Greek and Roman architecture. They also began reviving plastic arts such as bronze casting for sculpture, and used the classical naturalism as the foundation of drawing, painting and sculpture.

The Age of Enlightenment identified itself with a vision of antiquity which, while continuous with the classicism of the previous century, was shaken by the physics of Sir Isaac Newton, the improvements in machinery and measurement, and a sense of liberation which they saw as being present in the Greek civilization, particularly in its struggles against the Persian Empire. The ornate, organic, and complexly integrated forms of the baroque were to give way to a series of movements that regarded themselves expressly as "classical" or "neo-classical", or would rapidly be labelled as such. For example, the painting of Jacques-Louis David was seen as an attempt to return to formal balance, clarity, manliness, and vigor in art. [7]

The 19th century saw the classical age as being the precursor of academicism, including such movements as uniformitarianism in the sciences, and the creation of rigorous categories in artistic fields. Various movements of the Romantic period saw themselves as classical revolts against a prevailing trend of emotionalism and irregularity, for example the Pre-Raphaelites. [8] By this point, classicism was old enough that previous classical movements received revivals; for example, the Renaissance was seen as a means to combine the organic medieval with the orderly classical. The 19th century continued or extended many classical programs in the sciences, most notably the Newtonian program to account for the movement of energy between bodies by means of exchange of mechanical and thermal energy.

The 20th century saw a number of changes in the arts and sciences. Classicism was used both by those who rejected, or saw as temporary, transfigurations in the political, scientific, and social world and by those who embraced the changes as a means to overthrow the perceived weight of the 19th century. Thus, both pre-20th century disciplines were labelled "classical" and modern movements in art which saw themselves as aligned with light, space, sparseness of texture, and formal coherence.

In the present day philosophy classicism is used as a term particularly in relation to Apollonian over Dionysian impulses in society and art; that is a preference for rationality, or at least rationally guided catharsis, over emotionalism.

In the theatre

Moliere in classical dress, by Nicolas Mignard, 1658. Moliere - Nicolas Mignard (1658).jpg
Molière in classical dress, by Nicolas Mignard, 1658.

Classicism in the theatre was developed by 17th century French playwrights from what they judged to be the rules of Greek classical theatre, including the "Classical unities" of time, place and action, found in the Poetics of Aristotle.

Examples of classicist playwrights are Pierre Corneille, Jean Racine and Molière. In the period of Romanticism, Shakespeare, who conformed to none of the classical rules, became the focus of French argument over them, in which the Romantics eventually triumphed; Victor Hugo was among the first French playwrights to break these conventions. [9]

The influence of these French rules on playwrights in other nations is debatable. In the English theatre, Restoration playwrights such as William Wycherly and William Congreve would have been familiar with them. William Shakespeare and his contemporaries did not follow this Classicist philosophy, in particular since they were not French and also because they wrote several decades prior to their establishment. Those of Shakespeare's plays that seem to display the unities, such as The Tempest , [10] probably indicate a familiarity with actual models from classical antiquity.

In architecture

Villa Rotonda, Palladio, 1591 Villa Rotonda front.jpg
Villa Rotonda, Palladio, 1591

Classicism in architecture developed during the Italian Renaissance, notably in the writings and designs of Leon Battista Alberti and the work of Filippo Brunelleschi. [11] It places emphasis on symmetry, proportion, geometry and the regularity of parts as they are demonstrated in the architecture of Classical antiquity and, in particular, the architecture of Ancient Rome, of which many examples remained.

Orderly arrangements of columns, pilasters and lintels, as well as the use of semicircular arches, hemispherical domes, niches and aedicules replaced the more complex proportional systems and irregular profiles of medieval buildings. This style quickly spread to other Italian cities and then to France, Germany, England, Russia and elsewhere.

In the 16th century, Sebastiano Serlio helped codify the classical orders and Andrea Palladio's legacy evolved into the long tradition of Palladian architecture. Building off of these influences, the 17th-century architects Inigo Jones [12] and Christopher Wren firmly established classicism in England.

For the development of classicism from the mid-18th-century onwards, see Neoclassical architecture.

In the fine arts

Italian Renaissance painting [13] and sculpture are marked by their renewal of classical forms, motifs and subjects. In the 15th century Leon Battista Alberti was important in theorizing many of the ideas for painting that came to a fully realised product with Raphael's School of Athens during the High Renaissance. The themes continued largely unbroken into the 17th century, when artists such as Nicolas Poussin and Charles Le Brun represented of the more rigid classicism. Like Italian classicizing ideas in the 15th and 16th centuries, it spread through Europe in the mid to late 17th century.

Later classicism in painting and sculpture from the mid-18th and 19th centuries is generally referred to as Neoclassicism.

Political philosophy

See also

Related Research Articles

A cultural movement is a change in the way a number of different disciplines approach their work. This embodies all art forms, the sciences, and philosophies. Historically, different nations or regions of the world have gone through their own independent sequence of movements in culture, but as world communications have accelerated this geographical distinction has become less distinct. When cultural movements go through revolutions from one to the next, genres tend to get attacked and mixed up, and often new genres are generated and old ones fade. These changes are often reactions against the prior cultural form, which typically has grown stale and repetitive. An obsession emerges among the mainstream with the new movement, and the old one falls into neglect – sometimes it dies out entirely, but often it chugs along favored in a few disciplines and occasionally making reappearances.

Renaissance European cultural period, 14th to 17th century

The Renaissance was a period in European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages to Modernity and covering the 15th and 16th centuries. It occurred after the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages and was associated with great social change. In addition to the standard periodization, proponents of a long Renaissance put its beginning in the 14th century and its end in the 17th century. The traditional view focuses more on the early modern aspects of the Renaissance and argues that it was a break from the past, but many historians today focus more on its medieval aspects and argue that it was an extension of the Middle Ages.

Classical architecture Architectural style

Classical architecture usually denotes architecture which is more or less consciously derived from the principles of Greek and Roman architecture of classical antiquity, or sometimes even more specifically, from the works of the Roman architect Vitruvius. Different styles of classical architecture have arguably existed since the Carolingian Renaissance, and prominently since the Italian Renaissance. Although classical styles of architecture can vary greatly, they can in general all be said to draw on a common "vocabulary" of decorative and constructive elements. In much of the Western world, different classical architectural styles have dominated the history of architecture from the Renaissance until the second world war, though it continues to inform many architects to this day.

Neoclassicism Western cultural movement inspired by ancient Greece and Rome

Neoclassicism was a Western cultural movement in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that drew inspiration from the art and culture of classical antiquity. Neoclassicism was born in Rome largely thanks to the writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, at the time of the rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum, but its popularity spread all over Europe as a generation of European art students finished their Grand Tour and returned from Italy to their home countries with newly rediscovered Greco-Roman ideals. The main Neoclassical movement coincided with the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment, and continued into the early 19th century, laterally competing with Romanticism. In architecture, the style continued throughout the 19th, 20th and up to the 21st century.

Classical antiquity Age of the ancient Greeks and Romans

Classical antiquity is the period of cultural history between the 8th century BC and the 6th century AD centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome known as the Greco-Roman world. It is the period in which both Greek and Roman societies flourished and wielded great influence throughout much of Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia.

Classical may refer to:

Italian Renaissance Cultural movement from the 14th to 17th century

The Italian Renaissance was a period in the Italian history that covered the 15th (Quattrocento) and 16th (Cinquecento) centuries, spreading across Europe and marking the transition from the Middle Ages to Modernity. Proponents of a "long Renaissance" argue that it began in the 14th century (Trecento) and lasted until the 17th century (Seicento). The French word renaissance means "rebirth" and defines the period as one of cultural revival and renewed interest in classical antiquity after the centuries labeled the Dark Ages by Renaissance humanists. The Renaissance author Giorgio Vasari used the term "Rebirth" in his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects in 1550 but the concept became widespread only in the 19th century, after the works of scholars such as Jules Michelet and Jacob Burckhardt.

Art of Europe art created in any of the current or historical locations of the European continent

The art of Europe, or Western art, encompasses the history of visual art in Europe. European prehistoric art started as mobile Upper Paleolithic rock and cave painting and petroglyph art and was characteristic of the period between the Paleolithic and the Iron Age. Written histories of European art often begin with the art of the Ancient Middle East and the Ancient Aegean civilizations, dating from the 3rd millennium BC. Parallel with these significant cultures, art of one form or another existed all over Europe, wherever there were people, leaving signs such as carvings, decorated artifacts and huge standing stones. However a consistent pattern of artistic development within Europe becomes clear only with the art of Ancient Greece, adopted and transformed by Rome and carried; with the Roman Empire, across much of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

High Renaissance art movement

In art history, the High Renaissance is a short period of the most exceptional artistic production in the Italian states, particularly Rome, capital of the Papal States, and in Florence, during the Italian Renaissance. Most art historians state that the High Renaissance started around 1495 or 1500 and ended in 1520 with the death of Raphael, although some say the High Renaissance ended about 1525, or in 1527 with the Sack of Rome by the army of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, or about 1530. The best-known exponents of painting, sculpture and architecture of the High Renaissance include Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Bramante. In recent years, the use of the term has been frequently criticized by some academic art historians for oversimplifying artistic developments, ignoring historical context, and focusing only on a few iconic works.

Neo-Grec Neoclassical revival style of the mid-to-late 19th century that was popularized in architecture, the decorative arts, and in painting during Frances Second Empire (1852–1870)

Néo-Grec was a Neoclassical revival style of the mid-to-late 19th century that was popularized in architecture, the decorative arts, and in painting during France's Second Empire, or the reign of Napoleon III (1852–1870). The Néo-Grec vogue took as its starting point the earlier expressions of the Neoclassical style inspired by 18th-century excavations at Pompeii, which resumed in earnest in 1848, and similar excavations at Herculaneum. The style mixed elements of the Graeco-Roman, Pompeian, Adam and Egyptian Revival styles into "a richly eclectic polychrome mélange." "The style enjoyed a vogue in the USA, and had a short-lived impact on interior design in England and elsewhere."

Outline of classical architecture Overview of and topical guide to classical architecture

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to classical architecture:

Italian art Art traditions and history of Italy

Since ancient times, Greeks, Etruscans and Celts have inhabited the south, centre and north of the Italian peninsula respectively. The very numerous Rock Drawings in Valcamonica go to 8,000 BC, and there are rich remains of Etruscan art from thousands of tombs, as well as rich remains from the Greek colonies at Paestum, Agrigento and elsewhere. Ancient Rome finally emerged as the dominant Italian and European power. The Roman remains in Italy are of extraordinary richness, from the grand Imperial monuments of Rome itself to the survival of exceptionally preserved ordinary buildings in Pompeii and neighbouring sites. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, in the Middle Ages Italy, especially the north, remained an important centre, not only of the Carolingian art and Ottonian art of the Holy Roman Emperors, but for the Byzantine art of Ravenna and other sites.

Culture of Europe pattern of human activity and symbolism associated with Europe and its people

The culture of Europe is rooted in the art, architecture, film, different types of music, economic, literature, and philosophy that originated from the continent of Europe. European culture is largely rooted in what is often referred to as its "common cultural heritage".

Neoclassical architecture Architectural style

Neoclassical architecture is an architectural style produced by the Neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century in Italy and France.

Classical sculpture sculpture from ancient Greece and ancient Rome, as well as the Hellenized and Romanized civilizations under their rule or influence

Classical sculpture refers generally to sculpture from Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, as well as the Hellenized and Romanized civilizations under their rule or influence, from about 500 BC to around 200 AD. It may also refer more precisely a period within Ancient Greek sculpture from around 500 BC to the onset of the Hellenistic style around 323 BC, in this case usually given a capital "C". The term "classical" is also widely used for a stylistic tendency in later sculpture, not restricted to works in a Neoclassical or classical style.

Architecture of Germany

The architecture of Germany has a long, rich and diverse history. Every major European style from Roman to Postmodern is represented, including renowned examples of Carolingian, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Modern and International Style architecture.

Historicism (art) art movement

Historicism or historism comprises artistic styles that draw their inspiration from recreating historic styles or imitating the work of historic artisans. This is especially prevalent in architecture, such as Revival architecture. Through a combination of different styles or implementation of new elements, historicism can create completely different aesthetics than former styles. Thus, it offers a great variety of possible designs.

Italian Neoclassical and 19th-century art

From the second half of the 18th century through the 19th century, Italy went through a great deal of socio-economic changes, several foreign invasions and the turbulent Risorgimento, which resulted in the Italian unification in 1861. Thus, Italian art went through a series of minor and major changes in style.

Italian Neoclassical architecture style of architecture

Italian Neoclassical architecture refers to architecture in Italy during the Neoclassical period (1750s–1850s).

Stripped Classicism Architectural style

Stripped Classicism is primarily a 20th-century classicist architectural style stripped of most or all ornamentation, frequently employed by governments while designing official buildings. It was adapted by both totalitarian and democratic regimes. The style embraces a "simplified but recognizable" classicism in its overall massing and scale while eliminating traditional decorative detailing. The orders of architecture are only hinted at or are indirectly implicated in the form and structure.

References

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  2. Clark, The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form 1956:242
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  9. NASH, SUZANNE (2006). "Casting Hugo into History". Nineteenth-Century French Studies. 35 (1): 189–205. ISSN   0146-7891. JSTOR   23538386.
  10. Pierce, Robert B. (Spring 1999). "Understanding "The Tempest"". New Literary History. 30 (2): 373–388. doi:10.1353/nlh.1999.0028. JSTOR   20057542.
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Further reading