Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rising above Reason:

Romanticism is the expression of man's urge to rise above reason and common sense, just as rationalism is the expression of his urge to rise above theology and emotion.
- Charles Yost


  1. Fundamentally, Romanticism officially started with Johann Wolfgang Goethe's publication of "the sorrows of young Werther". Romanticism was a rebellion against the ostentatious venues of "high art". Some romantics even opined for a earlier medieval age and Gothic renaissance, as in the German idealism of the day. As the movement spread in Europe romantics became the new bohemians of their age. But romanticism died out by the time of the 1848 republican revolutions and realism became the death knell for the "official" romantic movement. But of course if we take poetic and artistic license we might quote Gertrude Steins definition of romanticism: "everyone was the same because they were all different, and because they were all different they were romantics."

  2. "Romanticism is the expression of man's urge to rise above reason [...]" Perhaps yes, in the sense as Jean Paul Sartre said of the 18th century: "they were pitting abstract ideas such as liberty and freedom against reason..." But to the romantics that would be in the sense of escaping the trammels of a cold mechanical rationalism of the time. But we must also consider that for many people it became in vogue to frequent the venues of "high art" and many romantics thought it ostentatious. German idealism centered around religion to a great extent considering that during much of the first half of the 19th century there was a religious revival going on in Germany. Many focused on the splendor of a Gothic revivalism in art as well as in architecture. So what originated in Germany eventually spread to France and England. Therefore I find it hard to suggest that "romanticism is an expression to rise above theology and emotion". Of course, as we know, words change, much like the word ontology which is in use to this day, as much as it had originated in the 11th century with St.Anselm. Indeed, even William Blake is considered a romantic in his writing as especially in his art. And Blake lived and died praising the lord. But specifically, we must consider that for the romantics landscape painting was a new genre. And the key to a great romantic piece is always in the sky. Specifically Thomas Cole was a romantic and one of his most famous pieces was the "new Jerusalem". The skyward apparition is unmistakable as well as the winged angle in the bottom foreground. But, If I may take liberties, I would say that is close to provincialism: Man in nature, regardless of any poltergeists.