Representing the objective reality through the lens of a particular culture and the personal vision of its author, art has always provided a plethora of topics for discussion and the methods of developing insight into a particular socio-cultural context. The transition from the Neoclassical period to Romanticism to Realism can be described as the evolution of the artistic tradition from the endeavor at mimicking the Classical art to the revolt against the Classical tradition to the extensive focus on details.
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The observed change in the perception of art can be found in the art pieces such as Marie-Guillemin Benoist’s ”Portrait of a Black Woman” (Neoclassical period, 1800, oil on canvas) Edouard Monet’s “Olympia” (Romanticism, 1863, oil on canvas), and Ingres’s “La Grande Odalisque” (Realism, 1864, oil on canvas).
The shift from Neoclassicism to Realism can also be found in the themes that the art pieces under analysis cover. While Neoclassical art tends to incorporate the traditional topics and themes borrowed from Greek and Roman mythology, as seen in “Olympia,” Realism focuses on the current events and their interpretation. It would be an error to claim that Neoclassical art regurgitated the classical themes.
Instead, it borrowed the form of classical art, introducing the themes of politics and social issues into art pieces. The “Portrait of a Black Woman” is a clear representation of the described phenomenon, with the classical form being juxtaposed to the problems of slavery, gender, and political concerns that were common points of concern in France at the time (“Romanticism in France”).
Thus, the transfer from one mode of interpreting reality to another can be tracked down in the described art pieces quite clearly. It is quite remarkable that the essential aspects of artistic continuity can be located even in the art pieces that belong to different areas of art. For instance, the connection between the picture painted in the era of Romanticism and the sculpture created at the time of the realist movement is evident after brief scrutiny.
One should bear in mind that the transition from one type of art to another does not obscure the line between Realism and Romanticism as artistic movements. Quite the contrary, the comparison between the painting and the sculpture under analysis helps to prove that the transition from the depiction of raw emotions to the portrayal of reality in an uninhibited way that the shift from Romanticism to Realism represented was quite logical.
The lack of change in the types of the medium allows supporting the transformation in the perception of art, in general. For instance, both the “Portrait of a Black Woman” and “La Grande Odalisque” with their staggering Realism were created using oil on canvas. However, despite the similar medium, the two paintings could not be more different from each other. The use of wood instead of a more traditional material allowed emphasizing the frailty of the art piece and, thus, alluding to the source from which the image was borrowed.
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In addition, the difference in the themes used in the painting and the sculpture under analysis allow drawing a line between Realism and Romanticism quite vividly. Specifically, the focus on the plot and the use of the scenarios taken from personal experience rather than fictional narratives can be seen as the essential constituent of the differences between the artistic genres (“Neoclassicism, an Introduction”). Although in “Olympia,” the author portrays ostensibly true events, the fact that liberty is personified indicates that the audience was not ready for the raw depiction of reality without the elements of fantasy or evident symbolism in it.
It could be argued that some of the artworks share certain similarities and can be seen as a blend between several styles. Indeed, the influences of their predecessors, be it Roman Classicism or the movement that occurred several decades prior to the creation of the art piece in question, each of the artworks bears significant resemblance to the other ones due to the similarities instills. The ostensibly coarse depiction of Realism, which “La Grande Odalisque” boasts, can also be found in “Olympia,” which is rooted entirely in the Romanticist movement (“A Beginner’s Guide to Realism”). Similarly, the “Portrait of a Black Woman” also contains the elements of Realism that allow the author to depict slight imperfections in his model to introduce the sense of truthfulness to the image and allow it to remain a genuine artistic expression.
Despite having been created in different eras and influenced by different ideas, as well as placed in entirely different contexts, the artworks under analysis share significant similarities in the essence of their message, as well as a tangible continuity in the progression of their themes.
The characteristics that set the art pieces aside are evident, with the “Portrait of a Black Woman” representing the subversion of the Classicism tradition, while the “Olympia” and “La Grande Odalisque” develop the theme, making it descend from the Biblical allegory to the elements of the mundane life and the struggles of social classes. It could be argued that the transition from the Neoclassical period to the Realism-riven one was not only necessary but also inevitable, with artists focusing on the depiction of social issues and, thus, slowing their artworks to provide an instant emotional connection to their intended audiences.
“A Beginner’s Guide to Realism.” Khan Academy, n.d. Web.
“Neoclassicism, an Introduction.” Khan Academy, n.d. Web.
“Romanticism in France.” Khan Academy, n.d. Web.