When you say paintings of romanticism, it makes you feel all sorts of emotions.
The romantics never narrowed the intent of the word to just love rather the more particular emotion for them was sublime.
The true essence of romanticism emphasized intensified emotions as a source of artistic experience.
The intellectual movement covered broader subjects, including landscapes, religion, nature, revolution, etc.
Besides, it supported the individualism and emotion of artists of the 18th century (European Countries).
During the era, many artists emerged and produced some of the finest romanticism paintings, found in renowned museums today, worth millions of dollars.
The famous paintings of romanticism listed below are set chronologically to take you through how art evolved throughout the romanticism movement.
So let’s get started!
The Nightmare (1781) – Henry Fuseli
The Nightmare still remains one of Henry Fuseli’s most greatest and perplexing masterpieces.
This painting made Fuseli somewhat of a transitional figure who led the progression of art from the Romantic Era.
The woman in the painting is covered in bright light.
Here Fuseli’s composition implies that even the bright source of light is incapable of penetrating the darker realms of the human mind.
Many believed that The Nightmare illustrates Fuseli’s unrequited love for a woman called Anna. Wherein the sleeping woman is considered to be Anna and Fuseli the incubus.
This classic piece is a combination of horror, death, and sexuality that makes it a stark example of Gothic horror.
You will find this painting displayed at the Detroit Institute of Arts in the United States and is worth $3 to $4 million.
The Nude Maja and The Clothed Maja (1800-05) – Francisco Goya
La Maja Desnuda (The Nude Maja) portrays a nude woman laying back on a spread of pillows and was the first life-size female nude painting in the history of western art.
In a period of the next five years, Francisco Goya painted a near identical version of the same painting called La Maja Vestida (The Clothed Maja).
From the setting to the pose everything in both the paintings is identical except for the fact that in “The Clothed Maja” the subject is fully clothed and in “The Naked Maja” the subject is fully naked.
What makes these paintings unique in their time is that Goya painted Maja with a strong and confident gaze where she stares right into the eye of the observer.
The painting was a statement ahead of its time because the woman depicted by Goya is neither weak nor submissive.
On the contrary, she is a determined and opinionated woman who is shown to be proud of her body or even her pubic hair.
The paintings never came to the public eye during Goya’s lifetime because the display of artistic nudes was prohibited at that time.
Today both these paintings of romanticism are displayed together in the Prado Museum.
Also Read: All Faces Of Love that speaks about the romance in painting.
The Monk by the Sea (1810) – Caspar David Friedrich
The Monk by the Sea is a painting by Caspar David Friedrich that gave his career a complete resurrection in the second half of the twentieth century.
The man in the painting was later on identified as a monk enjoying his solitariness in being close to nature.
Friedrich here tries to highlight the existential loneliness of man in the universe.
A man who is staring into the unending ocean without a single ray of hope to shine on him.
On the contrary, there is darkness in the background and underlying emotion tied up with mysticism.
The painting portrays both the vastness of nature and the powerlessness of man.
Today, The Monk by the Sea hangs next to Caspar’s painting in the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin.
The Third of May 1808 – Francisco Goya (1814)
This is yet another timeless painting by Francisco Goya where he has depicted an image of actual historical events.
The painting portrays the execution of Spanish citizens which happened in Madrid during the Peninsular war.
The painting illustrates the horrors of war and the brutality it brings with it.
Goya with the use of different symbols tries to imply the futility that lies in a war which only leads to innocents losing their life.
The Spanish crowd in the painting is shown helpless as they have accepted their defeat and they know that their life has reached the end.
Goya portrays the Spanish crowd as martyrs who died for their nation without any result.
The painting throws light on the stern reality of mass executions.
This masterpiece is on display is the Prado Museum.
Chalk Cliffs on Rugen (1818) – Caspar David Friedrich
Chalk Cliffs on Rugen is representative of Caspar David Friedrich’s recollection of a special memory during his honeymoon with Caroline Bommer.
The painting has perfectly captured the romantic essence with the detailed observation of nature.
The viewer’s attention is directly drawn to the use of a contrast between dark and bright colors.
Despite the extraordinary abilities of nature’s beauty, the focus is not on beauty alone.
Rather the viewer is left in thought, like the figures, to want to look over the edge and know what’s beyond.
The serenity of the endless sea and cliffs contrasts with the activity of the three people in the foreground who find themselves dangerously close to the cliff’s edge.
With this romanticism painting, the viewer feels threatened by the abyss and compelled by the natural beauty.
Chalk Cliffs on Rugen can now be found at the Kunst Museum Winterthur.
The Raft of the Medusa (1819) – Theodore Gericault
In The Raft of the Medusa, Theodore Gericault depicts a scene from the horrifying wreck of the French naval.
The reason behind covering the Frigate Medusa incident was its great audience interest.
Gericault Intended to critique the social and political system by portraying the tragic consequences and suffering of the marginal members of society.
The Raft of the Medusa is a pioneering example of protest art.
Theodore wanted to set an example in record time, that’s why he chose to draw this painting.
Not only it had bagged prominent titles, but it had also influenced other artists as well, including J. M. W. Turner and others.
This painting can be seen on the walls of the Louvre Museum, in Paris.
The Hay Wain (1821) – John Constable
The Hay Wain is one of the best artworks from John Constable’s series called ‘Six-footers’.
It depicts a beautiful village in both: the background and foreground.
However, the horse cart in the center which is heading north, across the river is the eye-catching part of this romantic painting.
This painting captures an image of rural bliss that existed in the days before industrialization.
The Hey Wain represents a world view of nature, land, and family.
As an admirer of nature, the artist showcased different aspects of nature.
Although it is recognized as one of the best paintings of romanticism, it was a colossal failure when it was displayed for the first time.
In the year 2005, this romanticism painting registered its name in the list of popular paintings in the British Gallery.
Saturn Devouring His Son (1823) – Francisco Goya
Saturn Devouring His Son is yet another prominent work by Francisco Goya.
The artist depicts one of the Greek titans in a violent state, aggressively consuming his own son.
The painting tries to depict the imposing figure of Saturn emerging from the darkness.
Some believe that Goya was so disheartened by the political unrest in Spain that he felt the need to express his anguish through his art.
Goya uses symbolism to depict Spain as the son and the oppressor as Saturn.
As a matter of fact, it was later on listed in the ‘Black Painting’ category.
Saturn Devouring His Son was actually made onto his walls. However, after the death of Francisco, it was transferred to canvas and sold to Prado Museum in Spain.
Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds (1823) – John Constable
John Constable was not the first painter to be attracted to the Salisbury Cathedral.
But his oil painting is one of the most successful and well-known images of the building and its surroundings.
The attention to detail in the imagery is phenomenal.
Constable’s exquisite presentation of the windows and the other finer features of the Salisbury cathedral’s architectural masterpiece have been imbibed to perfection.
The vivid presentation of the rich landscapes around the cathedral is what ties it so closely to romanticism.
This painting can be seen on the walls of the National Gallery of Canada.
The Massacre at Chios (1824) – Eugene Delacroix
The Massacre at Chios by Eugene Delacroix, received mixed reactions when it was first displayed publicly.
Ingres, a French Neoclassical painter stated that the painting showcased the pain and despair of Modern art.
In response to his statement, others called it the ‘Massacre of the painting’.
It was evident to label it with negativity as it resembles the scenario of the Chios massacre and shows the deaths of citizens.
The artist has conveyed suffering characters, jewelry, military might, and others through this [painting.
The orange-blue sky in the background is completely contrary to the darkness and destruction in the foreground.
This beautiful painting of Romanticism was first exhibited at the Salon, but it currently hangs at the Louvre in Paris.
View from the Artist’s Window (1825) – Martinus Rorbye
View from the Artist’s Window by Martinus Rorbye depicts the artist’s view from his window at his parents’ house.
The painting has many underlying symbolic meanings like most paintings in the romantic era.
There is a constant longing that the artist is trying to express through the painting.
A longing to see what’s on the other side of the window, to know and explore the world that lies outside.
The bird imprisoned in the cage is also symbolic of his yearning for seeing the world outside and for freedom.
Rorbye has cleverly used open windows and ships on the sea with symbolic undertones that were popular themes during the romantic era.
Today this painting is displayed in the Statens Museum.
The Death of Sardanapalus (1827) – Eugene Delacroix –
The Death of Sardanapalus was painted by Eugene Delacroix in 1827.
Eugene created its replica in 1844 and is currently housed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
This Romanticism painting is based on the tale of Sardanapalus, highly inspired by Lord Bryan’s play Sardanapalus (1821).
The main subject of the painting was the destructive King Sardanapalus which made the painting controversial and polarizing.
Delacroix wanted to throw light on the magnitude of the disaster caused by the King’s deeds.
The painting portrays hate, fierceness, and vengeance at the hands of power.
This painting has been housed by the Louvre Museum, in Paris.
Liberty Leading the People (1830) – Eugene Delacroix
Liberty Leading the People was one of the most renowned works of Eugene Delacroix.
This painting is characterized by its symbolic and political significance.
It turned out to become a universal symbol of liberty and democracy and a voice for the people’s emancipation from oppression.
The artist presents an allegorical depiction of Liberty bare-breasted rather than representing her as an actual woman on the barricade.
It was believed that the female character who is holding the flag is Marianne.
Delacroix mixes in modern symbols as she holds the tricolor flag in one hand, and a bayonet in the other.
Delacroix employs Liberty to convey both the modern struggle and Antiquity’s ideology of freedom.
Today, this romanticism painting can be seen in the rooms of the Louvre Museum, in Paris.
(Suggested Read: painting Liberty Leading the People)
The Rider (1832) – Karl Bryullov
The Rider is a painting by the Russian artist Karl Bryullov.
The painting depicts the pupils of a Russian Countess Julia Pavlovna Samoilova – Giovanina and Amalicia.
What gains the viewer’s attention in this painting is the calmness of the rider which contrasts with the agitated state of the horse.
Many viewers even found it unnatural.
In The Rider, Karl Bryullov demonstrates the perfect posture and calm on the rider’s face which is almost impassive.
What aligns it with the romantic era is the use of symbols like the messy and funny, ominous state of nature in the background of the picture.
The veil of the rider gracefully waves along the passing wind, highlighting the dynamism and motion throughout the painting.
Today this painting is displayed in the Tretyakov Gallery, in Russia.
Women of Algiers (1834) – Eugene Delacroix
Eugene Delacroix’s Women of Algiers depicts four women inside a harem.
This painting still remains a western fantasy, as it depicts a place of leisure, luxury, and indulgence.
It almost feels like time stands still in the painting because there is no action or narrative taking place.
There is just a profound sense of languorousness, but the use of color is what brings life into this painting.
The challenging stare of the women on the left reflects their hostility towards the private space.
Delacroix beautifully translates a fictional image that parallels the European fantasy of the harem which is far from reality.
Today this painting is located in the Louvre Museum, in Paris.
The Oxbow (1836) – Thomas Cole
The Oxbow is an influential landscape painting by Thomas Cole.
When the viewer first sets eye on it the painting may seem to be nothing more than an interesting view of the Connecticut River.
But if you see it through the nineteenth-century ideologies, this painting speaks about the famous westward expansion.
This painting portrays the contrast between the untamed wilderness on the left and the growth of civilization on the right.
This painting is displayed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Fighting Temeraire (1839) – J. M. W. Turner
J.M.W. Turner’s career was at its peak when he was working on The Fighting Temeraire.
The painting might have unusual composition but it won millions of hearts when it was first exhibited.
The artist recreated the scene of the 98-gun HMS Temeraire in a detailed way.
He has described the beauty of the old ship which is contrary to the dirty blackened tugboat with its tall smokestack.
Turner depicts an end of an era with this painting, the setting sun is a symbol of the end while marking the commencement of a new dawn.
It is housed by the Kunst Museum Winterthur in Switzerland.
The Desperate Man (1845) – Gustave Courbet
The desperate Man is a famous self-portrait by Gustave Courbet.
Courbet’s art collection which he curated throughout his journey as an artist features some famous realism paintings and his use of the essence of realism made him a proponent of a new style of art.
Through this self-portrait, Courbet wants to throw light on the inner turmoil of a tortured artist.
An artist who is trying to make a space for himself through his work but is left struggling to gain recognition or money for survival.
The Desperate Man is like the voice of the artists from the Romantic Age.
The voice is trying to call out on all the difficulties the age brought with it, through the revolution, change, and progression.
Courbet wanted to do nothing but convey the ideologies prevalent in those times that made it difficult for humankind to survive.
This painting now belongs to the private collection of the Conseil Investissement Art BNP Paribas.
Suggested Read: Realism Art Movement
Bridal Procession on the Hardangerfjord (1848) – Hans Gude, Adolph Tidemand
Bridal Procession on the Hardangerfjord is one of the most famous paintings by two Norwegian painters: Hans Gude, and Adolph Tideman.
The subjects presented in the foreground portray the real essence of the painting.
The sun-drenched summer backdrop features Western Norwegian nature with its fjords and lush mountains.
The church on a promontory and the bridal procession is symbolic of how the romantics perceived Norwegian nature and folk life.
Bridal Procession on the Hardangerfjord strongly depicts the aesthetic ideals that were prevalent during the nineteenth century.
This painting has been admired as an “icon” by generations of Norwegians.
Moving from one museum to another, the National Gallery of Oslo lastly acquired the painting created in 1884.
This painting marks occurrence of a special moment. As the bridal procession is moving on a boat, every element including the boat becomes equally significant.
For moments like these, make a memoir of every element! Get your boats painted and capture those memories forever.
The Ninth Wave (1850) – Ivan Aivazovsky
Ivan Aivazovsky’s masterpiece ‘Ninth Wave’ is considered to be a true gem of Russian romantic painting.
In the painting, we see a huge, ‘ninth’ wave approaching several people who survived a shipwreck.
Aivazovsky has depicted people facing death in an attempt to save themselves from the dreadful wave.
Contrary to the dramatic name of the painting the color palette used by the artist reflects on being optimistic.
We witness a sunrise that shines over the sea and a sign that the stormy night has finally come to an end.
The sunrise symbolizes a new beginning, a ray of hope for the survivors.
When we closely look at the painting we witness the debris of the ship in the shape of a cross.
The cross symbol appears to be a Christian metaphor for the salvation of mankind from earthly sins.
Today this painting is located in The State Russian Museum.
The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (1852) – John Martin
The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is one of the most renowned works of the English painter John Martin.
The painting portrays the biblical story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Martins depicts how God destructed the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for mankind’s immoral behavior.
If you closely look into the center of the painting you will find Lot’s wife transformed into a pillar of salt as she disobeyed God’s command.
The only people who survived the inferno were Lot and his daughters who were led away by the angels.
The painting has a fiery red palette that conveys the dramatic form of destruction.
Through this painting, Martin throws light on human wickedness and the power of divine retribution.
Today this painting is displayed in the Laing Art Gallery.
Spoliarium (1884) – Juan Luna
Juan Luna’s Spolaiarium is one of the most remarkable romantic paintings depicting dying gladiators.
The color scheme used in the painting naturally helps in enhancing the naturalism and realism of the painting.
The mood and visual effect of the painting evoke emotions like suffering, mourning, pain, and defeat.
Spoliarium portrays the inner political and socio-cultural views of a Filipino master painter.
The picture recreates a voracious scene that happens at a Roman circus where dead gladiators are stripped of weapons and garments.
The painting works as an ironic symbol by portraying the great gladiators now being dragged like slaves.
The National Museum of Fine Arts is where the painting is located today.
Read more: Famous Artists of Mexico That Elevated The Art Community.
We Have Reached The End
These paintings of Romanticism have inspired an entire generation of artists who brought forth a new set of ideas with their paintings.
If this movement has inspired you to some extent, then celebrate it with your favorite romantic masterpiece from the era. Let your life shine through with art.
Hey Art Lovers!
I’ve shared 22 paintings of Romanticism in this read that gained a significant amount of recognition during the period.
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