The Third of May 1808 (1814) by Francisco Goya

Art History: Romanticism (c. late 18th - mid 19th century)

Romanticism was an influential artistic and intellectual movement that emerged in Europe during the late 18th century and extended until the mid-19th century. It was a response to the rationality and order of the Enlightenment, emphasizing emotions, individualism, and a fascination with nature and the past. Romanticism found expression in various art styles, with artists seeking to evoke powerful feelings and explore the complexities of the human psyche. In this article, we will delve into the art styles of Romanticism and explore the works of three renowned painters who significantly contributed to this evocative period.

Art Styles of Romanticism

Romanticism in art encompassed various styles that aimed to evoke strong emotions and embrace subjectivity. Some of the key characteristics of Romantic art include:

  1. Emotion over Reason: Romantic artists sought to convey powerful emotions through their works, often focusing on the darker and more mysterious aspects of the human experience.
  2. Love for Nature: Nature was a recurring theme in Romantic art, reflecting the fascination with the untamed wilderness and its ability to inspire awe and spiritual connection.
  3. Celebration of Individuality: Romanticism celebrated the individual and unique experiences, often presenting heroes and heroines as solitary figures in their struggle against societal norms.
  4. Nostalgia for the Past: Many Romantic artists were drawn to historical themes, seeking inspiration from myths, legends, and the medieval period.

Famous Romantic Painters and Their Artworks

1. Caspar David Friedrich (1774 - 1840)

Caspar David Friedrich was a German Romantic landscape painter, known for his evocative and contemplative works. His paintings often feature dramatic landscapes, silhouetted figures, and an exploration of the human's relationship with nature and the divine.


  • Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818): This iconic painting depicts a lone figure standing on a rocky outcrop, overlooking a vast and misty landscape. The painting captures the themes of individualism, introspection, and the overpowering force of nature.
  • The Abbey in the Oakwood (1810): In this haunting piece, Friedrich portrays an abandoned Gothic abbey surrounded by leafless oak trees and graves. The painting evokes a sense of melancholy and contemplation on mortality and the passage of time.

2. Eugène Delacroix (1798 - 1863)

Eugène Delacroix was a French Romantic artist known for his use of vivid colors, dynamic compositions, and his fascination with historical and exotic subjects.


  • Liberty Leading the People (1830): This iconic painting commemorates the July Revolution of 1830 in France. Delacroix depicts a powerful female allegorical figure leading a diverse group of revolutionaries, symbolizing the spirit of liberty, equality, and fraternity.
  • The Death of Sardanapalus (1827): Inspired by Lord Byron's play, Delacroix depicts the dramatic moment when the Assyrian king Sardanapalus orders the destruction of his palace and possessions before committing suicide. The painting is filled with chaos, emotion, and a sense of impending doom.

3. Francisco Goya (1746 - 1828)

Francisco Goya was a Spanish Romantic artist who excelled in various mediums, including painting, printmaking, and drawing. His works often addressed political and social issues of his time.


  • The Third of May 1808 (1814): This powerful and emotionally charged painting depicts the execution of Spanish citizens by French soldiers during the Peninsular War. Goya captures the brutality of the event and the stark contrast between the oppressors and the oppressed.
  • Saturn Devouring His Son (1819 - 1823): One of Goya's "Black Paintings," this disturbing and nightmarish work portrays the mythological god Saturn devouring one of his children. The painting is a chilling reflection of the darker aspects of the human psyche.


Romanticism was a transformative period in art history, characterized by a departure from rationality and an embrace of emotions, individuality, and nature. The art styles of Romanticism allowed artists to explore the depths of human experience and present their viewers with evocative and thought-provoking works. Caspar David Friedrich, Eugène Delacroix, and Francisco Goya were just a few of the many brilliant painters who left an indelible mark on the Romantic era, their artworks continuing to inspire and captivate audiences to this day.


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