Romanticism and Realism

In the 19th century, for the first time, it was the bourgeoisie who determined the content and form of art throughout Europe. Major works by the French artists Géricault, Delacroix and Courbet were no longer dedicated to the glory of religious or secular power, but to heroic renderings of the nation and its people, workers, peasants or even artists.

The longstanding rivalry between idealism and realism was finally settled in favour of artistic subjectivity. Abandoning the stringent rules of the state academies, painters- whether they still regarded themselves as Neoclassicists, as Ingres did, or as romanticists and realists- now began claiming their own genius and nature as their sole sources of inspiration. Following the breakthrough of plein-air painting, such a claim could best be realized in landscape painting: in the work of Friedrich and Koch in Germany, Rousseau and Corot in France, Constable, Bonington and Turner in England, and Church and Cole in the USA.

The exploration of the Impressionists, completely changed the handling of colour in paintings and may be regarded as the single most important innovation in painting during this period.