Neoclassicism In Art

Neoclassicism In Art

So what is Neoclassicism?

The aesthetic art movement of "Neoclassicism" which is also called "New classicism" was the dominant driving force in European art and architecture throughout the late 18th and beginning 19th centuries. The Italian Neoclassicism was the initial indication of the period known as Neoclassicism, which lasted longer than any other national forms of neoclassicism. It formed in resistance to the Baroque style around c.1750 and lasted until c.1850. Neoclassicism was a period when high standards of naturalness were demanded out of professional artists. Architecturally, it was defined by comparisons to classical structures as well as the Renaissance, including order and harmony, and artistically, it was also represented on works from the classical period, often bearing political motifs including valor and conflict. Although Neoclassicism included painting, sculpture, and architecture it's often perceived as the most prominent display of the interest and fascination of Greek and Roman culture. Furthermore, the neoclassical art style was internationally embraced and popularized by French artists since France was the capital of art in Europe at that time.

Neoclassical Painting

Neoclassical painting entailed an emphasis on ascetic direct design in the depiction of classic events, figures, and motifs, using historically fit frames and attire. Neoclassical painting development was hugely stimulated by the current scientific curiosity in ancient artifacts that emerged during the 18th century.

Famous Neoclassical Painting Examples

La Grande Odalisque by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres


There was a general culture of female nude paintings during the Neoclassical Period. Ingres's composition exhibits both his educational training and his affinity for experimentation. The depiction of a naked woman stretches back to classical depictions of Aphrodite in ancient Greece. The reclining woman had been a traditional theme since the Renaissance. Ingres maintains this tradition style by drawing the figure in a series of curved lines that accentuate the soft curves of her body, as well as by locating the woman in a rich space, decorated with bright cloth and elaborate ornaments. Ingres executes her body with the sculptural style and sharp lines associated with Neoclassicism movement, Ingres's painting also divulged the expectations of pictorial illusionism by misrepresenting the body. The woman would need two or three extra vertebrae to achieve such a climactic, twisting pose. So too do the figure's legs seem out of symmetry, the left improbably elongated and incoherent at the hip. The effect is paradoxical: she is at once strikingly gorgeous and eerily unnatural.

Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David


David's oil painting seizes the defining time when the sons swear an oath to battle to the end for their family and Rome. The masterpiece portrays a Roman story conveyed by the Roman historian Livy. The legend talks of a partisan battle amidst a rivaling group near Alba and the Romans. The fighters were chosen to resolve the conflict. The Albans chose the Curatii as their representatives while the Romans chose the Horatii. This painting emphasizes the selection of Horatii. The women mourn within the composition as the two families are intertwined by marriage. One of the women is the child of Curatii while the other, Camilla, is betrothed to one of the Curatii brothers. At the end of the story, the single surviving Horatii brother kills Camilla, who sentenced his killing of her beloved, blaming Camilla of placing her sentiment over her duty to Rome. Even though the painting represents sadness and grief, it also supports values such as courage, atonement, righteousness, integrity, and strength in service.

"The moment which must have preceded the battle, when the elder Horatius, gathering his sons in their family home, makes them swear to conquer or die.” — Jacques-Louis David

The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David


In 399 BCE, the Athenian courts condemned the philosopher, Socrates of impiety, stating he was ruining the youth and had abandoned to worship the city's gods. Socrates was convicted to execution by hemlock poisoning. His protégé Plato described in the Phaedo that Socrates did not run from nor cry over his imminent death. Instead, he handled his execution as his ultimate lesson. Taking the poison before his students, he did so while speaking about how he believed in the immortality of the soul, and so did not fear death. Nevertheless, his colleagues and students wept around him. This painting was a tremendous symbol of what was going on in the world in 1787. This was the time of the French Revolution and the American Revolution. When people were fighting for their rights and protesting against monarchies. The story of Socrates and his death was a representation of the period.

The Young Shepherdess by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


Bouguereau represents a young woman looking to her herd of sheep as she glances back at the observer with some wonder. An eccentric composition made beautiful with indirect attention to detail and features that serve to bring the painting to life. This pastoral artwork is conceived with subdued tones that carry a faint peacefulness in the picture. It evokes a sentimental feeling in the onlooker. It summons to mind a simplistic life, much more modest, free from the concerns of modern urban life. Bouguereau command of naturalistic figure painting cannot be disputed. The painting's subject is on one of the Italian foreigner girls whom Bouguereau selected as models during family summers in La Rochelle.

The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West


“The Death of General Wolfe” is West’s most notable and famous painting. Typically, history compositions adhered to stories from the Bible or tales from ancient history. Instead, in “The Death of General Wolfe”, West represents a well-known event, one from the Seven Years’ War, also known as the French and Indian War. The event depicts the moment when Major-General James Wolfe was killed on the Plains of Abraham outside of Quebec. In the composition, West clothes Wolfe and the soldiers in stylish attire, which was completely urged against by patrons. During this period, dressing characters in modern outfits were considered to withdraw from the spirit of the moment. He was recommended to paint the people wearing togas, however West disregarded the demand. Wolfe is lying down, almost dead, wearing the red uniform of a British officer. Laying in face of him are his musket and bayonet. Surrounding Wolfe is a group of other British men. He is being supported by three men, all of whom seem very concerned for General Wolfe. The most significant aspect of the composition is the way Wolfe is presented. General Wolfe, has a ray of light cast on him. This is an effort to represent General Wolfe as a Christ-like figure.

Neoclassical Artists, Writers, And Sculptors

Johann Joachim Winckelmann


Winckelmann operated a preeminent role in ascertaining the artistic principles of Neoclassicism. Winckelmann resided in Rome where various well-known Catholic leaders became his supporters. He fought that art should endeavor "noble simplicity and calm grandeur," he defended the classical artists by saying, "the one way for us to become great, perhaps inimitable, is by imitating the ancients." His works, frequently identified by a unique investment in emotional responses to art, as well as essential attention to the design of natural beauty, also introduced a distinct style of art criticism that has established the inquiry of emotional or aestheticizing answers within the discipline of connoisseurship and criticism. Johann Joachim Winckelmann was the most prominent early archaeologist and a pioneer in the field of art history.

Anton Raphael Mengs


Mengs learned under his father in Dresden, Saxony, and then in Rome. He became an artist to the Saxon court in Dresden in 1745 and produced a considerable amount of portraits, regularly in brightly colored pastels. Mengs was generally thought in his day as Europe’s most prominent living painter. Mengs avoided the climactic illusionism and dynamism of the Baroque style in his character masterpieces, favoring to combine references from classical models with stylistic details of Raphael, Correggio, and Titian. Mengs’s prominence as an artist has diminished since the 18th century.

Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun


Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun was born in Paris. She gained early success as a painter due to her talent to portray her subjects in a favorable, and luxurious style. Which made her one of the most sought-after portraitists in France. Her patrons involved aristocracy and royalty, including Marie Antoinette, whose portrait she designed 30 times. Vigée Le Brun quickly became a successful portraitist among the French aristocracy, who recognized her artistic style. Which involved using free brushwork and clean, bright colors, she always represented her subjects in a flattering manner, modeled gracefully and wearing their most fashionable clothing. After the French Revolution, Vigée Le Brun went overseas for 12 years. She returned to Paris after the revolution where she continued to enjoy a degree of fame and fortune which was very rare for a female artist.

Jacques-Louis David


A Precise style of Neoclassical paintings emerged in France in the 1780s under the influence of Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825). He and his concurrent artist, Jean-Francois Peyronwere were inspired by fictional painting than the perfect designs that influenced Mengs. When David was in Paris he immediately became known for his anti-Rococo neoclassical painting. His traditional style was very much in agreement with the preferred style of the French Academy, and the hardness of the time. The themes of his artwork revealed benevolence, loyalty to duty and self-discipline.

Antonio Canova


Canova was a preeminent supporter of the neoclassic style, he was perceived as the most gifted sculptor in Europe. In 1783, he was selected to build the tomb of Pope Clement XIV in Rome. Popes' tombs were significant deals at the time and favored to generate awareness for the artists. When built-in 1787, Canova's work drew crowds from all of Europe. In 1802, he moved to Paris to build a statue of Napoleon. A several years later he was again hired to do a huge bronze equestrian sculpture of the French leader. Canova's residence and work in Paris had a great influence on French art. Canova's enthusiasm for classical art and his knowledge of it, coupled with his special skills drove him to the heights of accomplishment as a champion of neoclassicism in sculpture art.

Neoclassical Architecture

Neoclassical Architecture

Neoclassical architects were inspired by the drawings and projects of Étienne-Louis Boullée and Claude Nicolas Ledoux. In its simplest design, neoclassical architecture is a style generally acquired from the architecture of classical Greece and the architecture of Italian architects like Andrea Palladio. The various graphite drawings of Boullée which portray spare multilateral architecture was highly influential in neoclassical design.

Romanticism Artists And Their Works

Neoclassical Art Facts

What was the purpose of neoclassical art?

Neoclassical art emerged in defiance to the overly florid and showy forms of Rococo and Baroque that were imbuing aristocracy with a futile culture based on individual vanities and fancy. It produced a broad return in traditional thought that echoed what was going on in federal and social stages of the time, commencing the French Revolution. Ever since the collapse of the Roman Empire, thirteen centuries beforehand, Europeans had been intrigued by the majesty and brilliance of ancient Rome. It was constantly in the education model, hence numerous traditional styles developed over the centuries, such as the Italian Renaissance art movement. Nevertheless, it effectively reignited in the Age of Enlightenment of the 18th century, due to the philosophical restoration to classical thought, and invigorated recognition of Greek and Roman cultures. One of the leading advocates of Neoclassicism, German art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann whose influential book of the History of Ancient Art (1764) gave the art movement momentum it needed to spread throughout Europe.

The revival was also spurred by the unearthing of the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii. Both were Roman sites, concealed under volcanic ash and mud in the explosion of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Such archaeological findings were influential news during that time. Old lost cities, preserved in time, filled for centuries presented an authentic representation of life in ancient times. The unearthed artifacts sparked the enthusiasm of people and artists.

What are the characteristics of neoclassicism art?

The characteristics of Neoclassical art focused on Greek and Roman mythology and account for its subjects. Neoclassicism personified classical art supremacy. Neoclassical compositions (paintings and sculptures) were very detailed, apathetic, and heroic. Neoclassical painters portrayed subjects from Latin literature and records, as practiced in initial Greek art and Democratic Roman art, using melancholy colors with special bright highlights, to communicate moralistic accounts of sacrifice and benevolence entirely in balance with the assumed moral preponderance of Antiquity.

Influences Of Neoclassicism

Neoclassicism may be a renewal of the various styles and essence of classic art impressed directly from the classical period, that matched and mirrored the developments in philosophy and various areas of the Age of Enlightenment, and was at first resistance towards the excesses of the previous Rococo style. Whereas the movement is commonly delineated because the opposed counterpart of Romanticism, this can be a good over-simplification that tends not to be sustainable once specific artists or works are thought-about.

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