15 characteristics of romanticism

Romanticism was a cultural, artistic and literary movement that took place in Europe during the passage from the 18th to the 19th century. Preceded by the German movement Sturm und Drang (storm and momentum), its impact was of such order that it modified the concept and the role of art in modernity. This was made possible by the particularly innovative features of the movement. Let's see.

1. Rejection of neoclassicism and the Enlightenment

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes: Fragment The dream of the reason produces monsters. 1799. Etching and aquatint on paper. Original measurements: 213 mm high x 151 mm wide.

Romanticism initially emerged in England, France and Germany as a contrast to the intellectual movement of the Enlightenment and its neoclassical artistic expression, where logic, reason and objectivity were valued, which quickly resulted in the standardization of forms and contents.

2. Exaltation of feelings and subjectivity

Consequently, the center of romanticism revolved around the exaltation of feelings and subjectivity, which allowed the liberation of artists and art.

3. Rebellion against the rules of art and literature

The artists of Romanticism opposed the rigidity of academicism and freed art from the rules, which favored the explosion of artistic creativity.

4. Cult of the self and individualism

Caspar David Friedrich: Excerpt from The walker above the sea of ​​clouds. 1818. Oil on canvas. Original measurements 95 cm high x 75 cm wide.

If before the artist had to create according to the commission and limit himself to the intentions of the patron, with the freedom acquired the artist could focus on individuality.

5. Assessment of originality

Therefore, during romanticism, originality becomes an artistic evaluation criterion, which is why the idea that art should respond to tradition, continue it or perfect it is left behind.

6. Sublimity

Faced with the idea of ​​classical, austere, orderly and balanced beauty, romanticism puts the idea of ​​sublimity before it, according to which beauty can be found in what is terrible and uncomfortable, in that which, although not placid, disturbs and moves.

7. Exaltation of fantasy

The romantic movement is characterized by giving free rein to fantasies, dreams, the supernatural and provocation both in artistic expressions and in literature.

8. Nostalgia for the past

Being a critical movement with its sociocultural context and its contemporary, neoclassicism, romanticism developed a nostalgia for the past, which they saw as a better time.

9. Interest in the Middle Ages and the Baroque

The Middle Ages, especially the one that coincided with Gothic art, was for the romantics the symbol of spirituality and mysticism, which is why they frequently resorted to it as an inspiration or as a theme.

The Baroque, for its part, represented compositional freedom, the release of emotions, effects and exuberance, which was closely related to the creative and expressive purposes of romanticism.

10. Interest in the exotic

Romanticism seeks to break with the western tradition in the exotic, that is, in the foreign cultures that they idealized, often under the paradigm of the good savage. For example, Orientalism and the idealized figure of the American Aboriginal.

11. Interest in popular themes and cultures

Another source of nostalgia for the past was expressed in the interest in rescuing popular wisdom, folklore and legends, which gave romanticism a strong emphasis on nationalist sentiment.

12. Nationalism

Eugene Delacroix: Freedom guiding the people. 1830. Oil on canvas. 2.6 x 3.25 m.

Nationalism was for the romantics the expression of the collective self, and was closely related to the proliferation of nation states in the passage from the 18th to the 19th century. His emphasis, however, was not on the institutionality as such, but on the identity of the town.

13. Assessment of vernacular languages

In romanticism, the vernacular leagues gained great importance, since they became a weapon of nationalist expression. National literatures enjoyed an extraordinary diffusion, as did music. And in the latter, the operas in the national language stood out precisely, which defied the tradition that forced them to be written in Italian.

14. Romantic themes

Among the most frequent topics, they focused on the following:

  • Love, passion and emotion.
  • The nation, the history and the people.
  • Religion, Norse mythologies and spirituality.
  • The medieval fantasy imaginary.
  • Orientalism and the aboriginal world.
  • Death, with an emphasis on suicide.
  • The landscape as a metaphor for the inner world of the subject.

15. Strong idealism

This movement was extremely idealistic, not only on an artistic level but also on a political and social level. It was not uncommon for the artists of Romanticism to be involved with various political causes or spiritual movements.

Works and representatives of Romanticism


  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). Plays: The misadventures of young Werther.
  • Lord Byron (1788-1824). Plays: Cain Y Childe Harold's Pilgrimages.
  • Victor Hugo (1802 - 1885). Plays: The Miserables.

Plastic artists

  • Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840). Plays: Monk on the seashore.
  • Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863). Plays: Freedom guiding the people.
  • Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, transitional painter (1746-1828). Plays: The dreams of reason produce monsters.


  • Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). Plays: Symphony No. 9.
  • Franz Schubert (1797-1828). Plays: Ave Maria.
  • Robert Schumann (1810-1856). Plays: Dichterliebe (Love and life of a poet).

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