The Romantic period was a mainly European artistic and literary movement that celebrated its peak between 1790 and 1860. The movement can be seen as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightment. Whereas the main point of Enlightment was a rationalistic world view, the main idea of Romantisicism is the complete opposite. Romanticists do not trust in the human ratio as a mighty power above all things, but see themselves subordinated to nature. Romanticists perceive a irrational, mysterious and incomprehensive side of reality. Humans, they believe, do rather follow their emotions instead of reason alone, and thus tend to live by their desires rather than their rational thoughts. Typical romantic book characters, like Byrons Manfred or Goethes Werther, lose themselve in their emotions completely - sense cannot keep their feet on the ground.
For a romanticist, two opposite concepts were in constant incongruity with another: analogy and irony. With analogy a mythical way of thinking is depicted: the conviction that all is connected to everything: words and objects, heaven and earth, people and nature. On the other side, irony is the awareness of our own mortality and of the fact that all things come to an end. The analogy therefore can never be infinite. A romantic author is aware of this incongruity and suffers, in addition, from the feeling that he does not fit into the world. He seeks for a way out in poetry, but there finds that words are not enough to describe his feelings. And again, he must admit that he cannot form the world, but that he is a slave of nature's laws.
In short, Romanticism is thus characterized by strong feelings, melancholy and a strong connection to nature. Many of the literary works written during the romantic era contain (page)long descriptions of landscapes and gardens. The often sad, melancholic emotions of the hero or heroine are being emphasized (1).
What we know as Rembrandts most famous painting, The Night Watch, is actually just not the whole thing. Only seventy-three years after it was finished, the painting was trimmed in order for it to fit into its new location, the Amsterdam town hall. About 60 centimeters were removed from the left side, and smaller strips from the other three sides. Because of that, the composition is now unbalanced, and some of the figures have been removed – just like that.
Also, the popular name is based on a misunderstanding. The Night Watch (whose original title is The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch is not set at night at all! The misleading title was given to the painting in the 18th century, since the varnish had grown so dark over the years. The scene was thus misinterpreted as being nocturnal.
On the 27th of October 2016, an exhibition of Jan Toorop's oeuvre with over 130 works opened in museum Villa Stuck in Munich. I didn't know Toorop's works, to be honest, but a quick look into the internet made me curious to go. And I was overwhelmed with the exhibition: how could one single person paint so excellently in so many different styles?
Johannes Theodorus ('Jan') Toorop was born in 1858 on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies, where he grew up. When he was eleven years old, Jan moved to the Netherlands in order to receive better education, leaving his parents and siblings behind in the Indies.
It was soon clear that Toorop wanted to do something in the arts. He followed courses by Herman Johannes van der Weele, a painter that is counted to the second generation of the Hague School. From 1880 to 1882, Toorop studied at the State Academy of Fine Arts (Rijksacademie) in Amsterdam, and moved to Brussels afterwards. In Belgium, he joined a group of artists around expressionist/surrealist painter James Ensor, 'Les XX', with whom he worked for four years.
Within these early years of his career, Toorop worked with various styles. His early works were Realistic, but he also worked within the areas of Impressionism and Pointillistism. Many of his early paintings show scenes of simple country life: a farmer's family in a dark kitchen, hard-working men on the field, dunes and coastlines.