The 18th and 19th Centuries


(Neoclassicism, Romanticism and Art Styles in 19th century - Art Map)


Neoclassicism and Romanticism


Ange-Jacques Gabriel

Robert Adam

Joseph-Marie Vien

Charles Percier

Pierre-Francois-Leonard Fontaine

Colen Campbell

see collection:

Pierre-Narcisse Guerin

Karl Friedrich Schinkel




Inspired by the excavations of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, finds
from which were popularized by lavish publications detailing the treasures, a renewed
interest in the arts of antiquity spread rapidly across Europe and to the New World. This
major movement was fully established by the 1770s and manifested itself throughout the
decorative and applied arts in a direct imitation of Greek and Roman models.



From Rococo to Neoclassicism

The architectural theorist Francesco Milizia documented his views of the Baroque style in 1785 in a savage indictment. He viewed it as already hopelessly old-fashioned. Under his definition of Baroque, much that belonged to High Baroque was mistakenly included. Rococo was already past its peak in central European architecture by the 1780s. In terms of domestic interior decoration and furnishings, best represented in France by the "Louis XV" style. Rococo was going out of favour in Europe by about 1770. In large European cities. Neoclassicism grew in popularity, and where taste was more conservative, there was a return to the academic traditions of the Bolognese and Roman schools. The Louis XVI style in furniture, which became fashionable during the 1770s and 1780s, was characterized by ornately caned wood or stucco decoration. It was tantamount to a variation on the Rococo theme but with a preference for straight lines, a limited range of floral iconography and pattern, a more measured rhythm, and a new. less luxuriant repertoire of decoration. In effect, the gregarious, rich Rococo style gave way to a more austere and serious artistic-sensibility. With gradual and various modifications, Rococo gradually progressed towards Neoclassicism with no discernible, abrupt break. As these stylistic changes took place.

The term "Neoclassicism" is given to a clearly definable taste in Europe that was based on the pursuit of beauty through the imitation of models drawn from antiquity. The instantly recognizable style of this new movement was clear in all aspects of art. With its sources in the Grand Tour, it emerged between the mid-18th and early 19th century through the ideas of scholars such as German painter Anton Rafael Mengs (1728-79) and archaeologist and art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-68). They shared strongly-held beliefs based on classical ideals, which were already being revived elsewhere in Europe. Neoclassicism was probably at its most creative during the short, intense period known as the Empire style. Later, some elements of the movement interlinked with those of Romanticism, a relationship that was to destroy the style from within. Neoclassicism was a comprehensive style that embraced painting and architecture, literature and music. It also made an impression on the applied arts, where it inspired the design of fabrics, jewellery, furniture, and ceramics. As the movement became more established, the characteristics of the Neoclassical style varied from country to country - as did the name. For example, it became the sober Regency style in England and the grandiose Empire style in France. In Germany, it was expressed in the comfortable, relaxed Biedermeier style; in Scandinavia, the light, airy Gustavian style, typified by the use of light-coloured wood. In North America, it resulted in the simple Federal style.


Pierre-Narcisse Guerin
The Return of Marcus Sextus

Oil on canvas, 217 x 243 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris

The heroic theme, inspired by Roman history, and the artist's skilful effects in the definition of the folds
and drapery cannot conceal the first stirrings of the nascent Romantic movement.
The horror aroused by the republican wars prompted many Neoclassical artists to turn to mere bloody themes.



Laocoon, second century BC.
Museo Pio-Clementino Vatican City.
This famous marble sculpture was uncovered
in 1506 during excavations in the Domus Aurea.


Following the discoveries at Herculaneum (1738) and Pompeii (1748), both near Naples, extensive archaeological excavations were carried out in and around Rome during the last quarter of the 18th century. The finds, such as those at the Lateran (1779-80), attracted a steady flow of visitors to the Eternal City, already an essential stop on the Grand Tour — a standard feature in the education of English gentlemen. The cosmopolitan community of Rome swelled as enthusiastic observers came to admire the newly discovered masterpieces. According to Winckelmann, the prime theorist of Neoclassicism, sculptures such as the Apollo Belvedere and the Laocoon epitomized the antique qualities of calm, simplicity, and noble grandeur that were so desirable.

The Apotheosis of Homer, from Antiquites etrusques, grecques
et romaines, vol. III, by Pierre-Francois Hugues, 1766-67.
This work is based on classical Greek vase painting.



Origins of the Style

As symmetry was gradually introduced into the lavish ornamental motifs of the Rococo style, so the Neoclassicist ideas slowly began to spread. Work from this transitional period retained some delicate grace while displaying some
distinctly Grecian traits. The new aesthetic revealed a reaction against the excesses of Rococo ornamentation and the frivolity of the prevailing fashion for curved lines, in favour of what was seen as the noble simplicity of antiquity. This weariness with Rococo style was evident from the 1730s onwards in the writings of Voltaire (Le Temple dugout, 1730), the architect Jacques-Francois Blondel (De la distribution des maisons de plaisance, 1737), and the abbot Le Blanc (Letters to the Count de Caylus, 1737-44). Many Neoclassical ideas were founded in the scientific ideals of the French Encyclopaedists, who believed in the enhancement and promotion of public morality through art. French philosopher Denis Diderot sought to make virtue appealing and render vice ridiculous and unattractive, linking the concept of beauty to goodness. He advocated the social responsibility of the creative artist, whose work would be destined for the collective well-being and education of the community.



see also:

Gabriel Ange-Jacques

Ange-Jacques Gabriel

(b. Paris, France 1698; d. Paris 1782)
Ange-Jacques Gabriel was born in Paris in 1698. Trained by his father, Jacques Gabriel V, and by Robert de Cotte, he became a member of the Academie Royal de l'Architecturein 1728 and he became the principal assistant to his father as Premier Architecte at Versaille in 1735. He succeeded his father as Premier Architecte in 1742. Gabriel's work reflects the academic ideal of emulation that existed during the eighteenth century. With his designs he assimilated the lessons of the past and adapted its models to more sophisticated purposes. Much of his work is based on an academic principle of classical proportioning. Throughout his career he followed the fundamental belief that progress depends upon reason and discipline. The principal royal architect for most of the reign of Louis XV, Gabriel promoted the transition from Rococo to Neoclassicism through the evolution of the Style Louis XVI. On the premise that the role of ornament is essentially the articulation of structure, the sumptuous embellishment of his work in the 1740s gave way to the noble simplicity of his latter works.
Gabriel died in Paris in 1782.
Dennis Sharp


Ange-Jacques Gabriel,
the Petit Trianon, Verailles,


Ange-Jacques Gabriel, the Petit Trianon, Verailles, 1762-68

In 1762, architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel (1698-1782) started work on his great masterpiece, the Petit Trianon, set in a garden on the estate at Versailles. It was a perfectly balanced building of simple uniformity, with a facade that was symmetrically articulated at right angles to form a closed, independent rectangle.
It demonstrates many typical traits of Neoclassical architecture, not least in its clarity of structure. The building contrasts with the Neo-Gothic architecture found along the winding roads of the English landscape.

Ange-Jacques Gabriel, Palacio de Versalles,
the Petit Trianon, Verailles, 1762-68

Robert Adam

(b Kirkcaldy, Fife, 3 July 1728; d London, 3 March 1792).

Architect and designer, son of William Adam. He and his rival William Chambers were the leading British architects in the second half of the 18th century. After training under his father, he embarked on a Grand Tour in 1754; this ended early in 1758 when he settled in London rather than Edinburgh. There he established a practice that was transformed into a partnership with his younger brother James after the latter’s return in 1763 from his own Grand Tour. By then, however, the Adam style was formed, and Robert remained the partnership’s driving force and principal designer until his death. He not only developed a distinctive and highly influential style but further refined it through his large number of commissions, earning fame and a certain amount of fortune along the way. Eminently successful, he left an indelible stamp on British architecture and interior decoration and on international Neoclassicism.


Motifs from the frescos of Herculaneum were incorporated into interior decoration schemes across northern Europe. Divided into small octagonals and squares edged with red. the designs featured nymphs, putti (infant boys), dancers, spirits, birds, and small mythological scenes. The decoration stood out against a pale blue background, with delicate grotesques, garlands, capitals, little columns, and perspectives that lead to infinity. Copies of paintings uncovered at Pompeii and Herculaneum soon became very fashionable in England, not least in the form of Wedgwood's exquisite white china figurines. The first "Etruscan" interiors, known then as "Pompeiian"', appeared in the villas designed by the Scottish architect Robert Adam (1728-92). The light, graceful rooms were the most intimate and relaxed of the period, their interiors created by artists such as Angelica Kauffmann (who was in England between 1766 and 1781).

Robert Adam

During time spent in France and Italy, the young Robert Adam (1728-92), the best-known member of a family of Scottish architects, became a pupil of the architectural draughtsman C.L. Clerisseau and a friend of the etcher Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-78). He returned home in 1758 and, with his colleague and rival William Chambers, was made architect to George III. Adam's interiors were exquisitely delicate, drawing from a repertory of classical motifs. His style strongly influenced decorative art. With his brother James (1732-94), he set out their theories in The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam (1773-78), published in 1822. Together, they planned the ambitious Adelphi project for a residential area along the River Thames.

Robert Adam, the library at Kenwood House, Hampstead, London, 1767-69.
Here, Adam blended an imitation of the ancient with a taste for comfort and intimacy.


Italian Sources

Academic interest in the past was animated by a deep longing for renewal during the 18th century. It was appropriate, therefore, that the new art style evolved in Rome, among the ruins of a dead civilization and its treasures, including the stuccowork of the tombs in the Via Latina, the ruins of the imperial palace at Spoleto, in the Albani and Borghese villas, and the setting up of the Pio-Clementino Museum in the Vatican City. These were joined by the excavations at Herculaneum in 1738 and at Pompeii a decade later. Rome was renowned as the international capital of artistic excellence, but Naples, too, now became an obligatory stop for cultured Europeans on the Grand Tour. The ruins at Herculaneum aroused a great deal of interest and excitement. King Charles III of Spain founded the Herculaneum Academy to spread the knowledge of the new discoveries, publishing eight large volumes on the
finds between 1757 and 1792. In Antiquity and Herculaneum, all the bronzes and frescos that had been uncovered were reproduced. Prints and illustrations faithful to the originals facilitated the rapid dissemination of the newly discovered decorative motifs. By the end of the century, the kind of ornament derived from ancient Roman decoration by Raphael and his school had been superseded by new forms such as cherubs and winged cupids, which adorned bedrooms and studies. Meanwhile, the famous tripod with sphinxes from Pompeii, had a considerable influence on Empire furnishings. Joseph-Marie Vien (1716-1809), a former teacher of Jacques-Louis David, was the first to introduce the so-called "Pompeiian style" in his painting The Cupid Seller (1763) by setting a scene with Greek details in a Neoclassical interior. Excavations were also undertaken in Tuscany in the first half of the 18th century, from which collections were established. In his seven-volume Recueil d'Antiquites (1752-67), Count de Caylus mistakenly expounded a theory that the Etruscan civilization was older than that of the Greeks. A new interest in Egypt also arose in Rome, inspired by the obelisks and ancient sculptures discovered at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli. After Napoleon's Egyptian campaign in 1798, a new fashion sprang up - Egyptian Neoclassicism.


Joseph-Marie Vien

(b Montpellier, 18 June 1716; d Paris, 27 March 1809).

French painter, draughtsman and engraver. He was one of the earliest French painters to work in the Neo-classical style, and although his own work veered uncertainly between that style and the Baroque, Vien was a decisive influence on some of the foremost artists of the heroic phase of Neo-classicism, notably Jacques-Louis David, Jean-François-Pierre Peyron, Joseph-Benoît Suvée and Jean-Baptiste Regnault, all of whom he taught. Both his wife, Marie-Thérèse Reboul (1738–1805), and Joseph-Marie Vien fils (1762–1848) were artists: Marie-Thérèse exhibited at the Salon in 1757–67; Joseph-Marie fils earned his living as a portrait painter and engraver.


Joseph-Marie Vien
The Cupid Seller
Musee du Chateau Fontainebleau.

The artist's antiquarian leanings are here used to portray a vision of idle Parisian society
in the declining years of Madame de Pompadour's ascendancy.



Joseph-Marie Vien
Marcus Aurelius Distributing Bread to the People

Oil on canvas, 300 x 301 cm
Musée de Picardie, Amiens



Joseph-Marie Vien
Venus Showing Mars her Doves Making a Nest in his Helmet

Oil on canvas
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg



Joseph-Marie Vien
Young Greek Maidens Decking the Sleeping Cupid with Flowers



Joseph-Marie Vien
Sweet Melancoly



Joseph-Marie Vien
L'amour fuyant L'esclavage



Joseph-Marie Vien
Psyche looking at Sleeping Cupid


Joseph-Marie Vien
Sultane Reine

Joseph-Marie Vien
Der Sultan




Francois Gerard
Portrait of Juliette Recamier
Musee Carnavalet, Paris

 During the Napoleonic era, wives, mistresses,
and sisters imposed their taste on high society.

Charles Percier and
Pierre-Francois-Leonard Fontaine.

 View of the Arc De Triomphe Du Carrousel, Built 1806-08 

The wife of a wealthy banker, Madame Juliette Recamier, "whose beauty and whose grace make one think of Venus," as Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte reportedly said to Joseph Bonaparte, was captured on canvas in several different guises. In a painting by David, she is pictured reclining barefoot on a sofa; Dejuinne painted her dressed in white as an innocent reader in a room of the Abbaye-aux-Bois; and Chinard portrayed her as a nymph with partly exposed breasts. In Francois Gerard's portrait, commissioned by Prince Augustus of Paissia, both her dress and the chair on which she poses are inspired by the Greek style.
The Recamier home, Hotel Recamier, was lavishly decorated by Charles Percier and Pierre-Francois-Leonard Fontaine, with clear references to Greek and Egyptian style. Far from leading the life of an idealized classical goddess. Madame Recamier suffered her fair share of hardships, including an unconsummated marriage and unhappy love affairs.




Johann Joachim WINCKELMANN

The influential German Johann Joachim Winckelmann was the key theorist of Neoclassicism. In his widely read volumes Reflections on the Imitation of Greek Art (1755) and History of Ancient Art (1764), he proposed the study of ancient art by means of a reasoned method. Winckelmann recommended that one should take a fresh look not only at the statues and vases of antiquity but also at the whole of the ancient Greek civilization. An enthusiastic and near-fanatical scholar, he perceived an ideal beauty in the cool elegance of Greek art, the perfection of which seemed to him to transcend nature. It epitomized the "noble simplicity and calm grandeur", whereby harmony of line determines form and is more important than colour. While Winckelmann recommended the adoption of ancient forms, he disapproved of cold copying, emphasizing the importance of recreating the true Greek spirit. Standing before the Apollo Belvedere Winckelmann warned, "At first glance you may see no more than a lump of marble, but if you know how to penetrate the secrets of art you will see a marvel.''


Anton Mengs and Francesco Milizia

Winckelmann's beliefs influenced many artists including Anton Rafael Mengs, who met the great theorist in 1755. His treatise on "Beauty in Painting'1 was paraphrased by Daniel Webb in his book Inquiry into the Beauties of Painting (1760): beauty was the perfect expression of an idea, since art was above nature. The ultimate aim of painting lay, therefore, in selecting beautiful subjects found in nature, purified of all imperfection. Mengs drew on the works of many past masters: from the ancient Greeks he learned an appreciation of beauty; from Raphael, expression, composition and the treatment of drapery; from Correggio, the skill of chiaroscuro and a sense of beauty; and from Titian , the use of colour. His best-known work, the ceiling painting Parnassus (1760-61) in the Villa Albini (now Villa Torlonia) in Rome, was significant for breaking with the illusionism of the Baroque style, and became the visual manifesto of his theories. According to his fellow theorist Francesco Milizia (1725-98), an artist should choose the most perfect individual elements in nature and combine these to form an ideal whole. This would achieve a true representation, based on the artist's own personal vision.





Andrea Pailadio, Villa Cornaro, Piomblno Dese, Padua, 1551-53.
 This villa features on its facade a rare example of a loggia and a double layer of columns.
 This design would be taken up, with many variations,
in the plantation houses of the American Deep South.


The most loyal disciples of architect Andrea Palladio (1508-80) were the English architects who regarded the work of the Italian master as a bridge between the extremes of classicism in the l6th century and the Neoclassicism that had emerged. Palladio was a model architect to follow, not only for those in search of Renaissance concepts of form but also because the simplicity and grandeur of his buildings were strong examples on which to build classical architectural prototypes. Palladian-style architecture spread rapidly and was favoured by wealthy patrons as an expression of their rank and power. Known as Neo-Palladianism, the style suffered a setback after the death of Scottish architect Colen Campbell in 1729, but was revived by the traditionalist Sir William Chambers. It later gave way to the innovations of Robert Adam. The style reappeared in the US with the work of Thomas Jefferson.


Karl Friedrich Schinkel

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born March 13, 1781, Brandenburg
died Oct. 9, 1841, Berlin

German architect and painter whose Romantic–Classical creations in other related arts made him the leading arbiter of national aesthetic taste in his lifetime.
The son of an archdeacon, Schinkel studied architecture with the brilliant Friedrich Gilly (1798–1800) and at Berlin's Academy of Architecture (1800–02), followed by several years in Italy. Returning to Berlin via Paris (1805), he became a painter. He designed furniture for Queen Louise in 1809 that, with its rich, light-coloured pearwood, play of matched grains, and romantic simplification of form in a classical milieu, anticipated the forthcoming Biedermeier period.
Becoming state architect of Prussia in 1815, Schinkel executed many commissions for King Frederick William III and other members of the royal family. His designs were based on the revival of various historical styles of architecture; e.g., Greek Revival buildings such as the Königschauspelhaus, Berlin (1818), and the Altes Museum, Berlin (1822–30). His designs for a mausoleum for Louise (1810) and the brick and terra-cotta Werdersche Kirche, Berlin (1821–30), are among the earliest Gothic Revival designs in Europe.
In 1824 Schinkel visited Italy again and in 1826 travelled through Scotland and England. Appointed director (1830) of the Prussian Office of Public Works, he decorated apartmentsfor Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm and Prince August. His work as a city planner resulted in new boulevards and squares in Berlin. Also remembered for his stage and ironwork designs, he designed scenery for Goethe's plays, bathing the whole stage in an atmosphere of picturesque illusion.

Solen Campbell, Mereworth Castle, Kent, 1722-25.
Here, Campbell, author of Vitruvius Britannicus, applies great elegance to the design of a country house.
The large, central structure is derived directly from Palladio's Villa Rotonda
(later known as Capra), Vicenza.



When studying works of art from antiquity, artists could only feel disheartened by the awe-inspiring examples of the grandeur to which they aspired. This despair was felt keenly, recalling the dark frustrations of 17th-century irrationalism: the fear of that which was yearned for and yet considered to be unattainable. The artist Piranesi Giovanni Battista , who moved from Venice to Rome, engraved dramatic views of the ancient city, inspiring a new attitude towards antiquity, in which Roman architecture was considered superior to Greek. Elsewhere, the mark of Romantic sensibility was already appearing: Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841), a leading German architect of the 19th century, produced idealized visions of imaginary Gothic cathedrals and Greek landscapes. One of his projects left on the drawing-board was for a grandiose palace on the Acropolis in Athens designed for Otto of Wittelsbach.

Karl Friedrich Schinkel


Karl Friedrich Schinkel
New Guard House (Neue Wache), Berlin


see collection:

Pierre-Narcisse Guerin

Karl Friedrich Schinkel



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