Neo-Classical and Romantic Art

A painting usually expresses the ideologies of the painter and allows the viewers to have an ingrained experience of another world of creativity. Artists have always expressed their emotions, feelings and even their outlook on the world through the concept of painting or drawing. The revolution of painting, just like in any other industry, has resulted into a creation of new and diverse ways of expressing the ideologies and contemporary issues.

This industry has undergone numerous changes and upgrades to have the painters paint the kind of paintings we see hanging on the walls of galleries all over the world. This essay aims at taking a closer look at two different styles of paintings in the history of painting; the neo classicism and the romanticism styles. These two styles, though not much differentiated by time have a lot of differences. These differences will be analyzed by taking a close examination of the two paintings between the two different periods, but both of the same theme. The chosen theme is ‘the storm’ and the paintings are Delacroix's ‘The Sea of Galilee’, painted in the romanticism age and Watteau Louis Joseph’s ‘The Storm’ painted in the neoclassical age (Web Gallery of Art, 1). To understand them, a brief examination of the two different painting eras will be examined in the following discussion.

The Neoclassic Style of Painting

Unlike the romanticism style, the neo classical style of painting emphasizes on the distinctiveness and smoothness of the surface. The painters vigorously opposed the models of painting expressed by the painters in the romanticism period and called for a push into the neoclassic period. The neo classic painters had a preference for the well-delineated forms of painting that had clear drawing and modeling. They considered the drawing to be more significant than painting. The emphasis was placed on the smoothness of the painting where the surface had to retain its perfect look without any evidence of brush strokes that could be made out with the naked eye.

Neo, which is an acronym for new, meant that these artists were born of a new age, the age of reason and enlightenment where many philosophers developed countless theories about how it was possible for human beings to control their destiny by use of the law of nature. The aspect of class was highly regarded and most paintings done in this era reflect on the aristocracy and the philosophies in this grandiose period. The style was developed as a direct opposition to the overbearing and overbred Rococo style and the aspect of too much emotion was done away with.

Paintings in the Neo-classicism period were identifiable by the clarity of their formation, the soberness of the colors used to make the paint and the shallowness of space. Another important factor was the strong use of horizontal and vertical strokes that resulted into the timelessness of the subject matter of the painting, as opposed to the use of temporal. The neo classicism period and paintings were also much classicized. This implies that the information and issues expressed in these paintings by the different painters present in this period were often skewed towards the contemporary aspects.

The Romanticism Style of Painting

The romanticism style of painting was developed as a direct opposition to the style of neo classicism. Though many artists embraced this style, it did not completely displace the neo classical style of painting. Rather, it incorporated this style with other new ways that were completely different from what the artists in the neoclassical era had been used to. During the period in which this style was developed in, around the 1770 to 1950s, the many happenings on war fronts in the world took place and the painters largely reflected their patriotism using these paintings. The style was largely characterized of vigor and a brightness that was not a characteristic of the paintings done in the neoclassical period.

Differences Between the Neoclassic and Romanticism Period from the Storm Paintings

Two paintings of the storm painted in two different eras, that of romanticism and that of the neo classical era have provided in Appendices I and II. Even though the theme is the same a number of differences between the ways painting has been done on the two paintings can be noted. These differences relate to the variances in styles when the paintings were made.

A close look at the painting ‘the Storm’ by Watteau Louis shows that the painting depicts a calmness that is somehow ingrained. There is no rush in the painting even with the looming storm in the background. The characters in the painting seem to be in cohesion with the environment. The style of this painting is sharp. The vivid nature of the painting ensures that brush strokes are not easily identifiable. The use of vertical as well as horizontal strokes has been used to conceal this all so well. The liberal nature which the artist has employed in this painting is evident. The use of brightness and bright shades was a common feature of the neo classic artists as observed in this painting.

On the other hand, ‘The Sea of Galilee’ by the Delacroix is done in a very harsh manner, depicting the new style of the romanticism era artists. These artists were fond of nature as depicted by the sea in the painting and the use of dark and black shades removed any element of emotion into their paintings, a theme upheld by the neo classic era artists.

From this painting, it can be observed that the artists used brush strokes very liberally and in a manner that brought out the distinctiveness of the painting and the theme. The faltered brush strokes, which can almost be felt, are used to show the roughness of the sea. This was a distant call from the emphasis of smoothness that the neo classic artists had.


Grading one form of painting in one era as being better or more advanced than the other is not something I am at total liberty to do. Many people have different tastes and they rate the paintings in these two different eras according to their tastes and preferences.

However, as a conclusion, it is evident that different periods of paintings had different forms of paintings that had to be molded in this format so that they can address the emergent issues in the society at that particular era. It would not be right to state that one era was superior to the other because in one way or another, these eras are all intertwined together by creative artists to bring out that perfect painting.

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