Samantha has a Master’s degree in Art History with an emphasis in Museum Studies from the University of Denver. She has seven years of experience working as an academic tutor specializing in Art History and Writing.
19th Century Art Movements
When considering what an art movement is, it is not always clear what defines or constitutes a movement. Generally, the concept of art movements is a westernized notion within art history that is defined by a specific period of time or a certain style or theme that span across a few decades, but some outliers span centuries. Western art history presents a wide variety of art movements, and many significant movements occurred during the 19th century.
Across Europe and North America, the 19th century was a period of profound and rapid change. The century was coined the "age of the machine" due to the birth of modern science and technology, leading to a monumental Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution impacted almost every aspect of life, resulting in swift social changes and hasty urbanization.
Communication and transportation across Europe and North America increased greatly, thus allowing new artistic influences and ideas to spread quickly. The 19th century was a period of notable change in art as styles and preferences. Movements seemingly transitioned from one extreme to another, which reflected the ever-changing attitudes of society.
Art Movements of the 19th Century
Unlike in the previous century, when artists mainly produced works for patrons or institutions, artists began to explore their own interests and creativity and produced art for their own benefit. These artistic freedoms allowed the art movements of the 19th century to transition briskly from one style to another. The bulleted list outlines some of the most prominent art movements of the 19th century in western art history.
- Romanticism (1780-1830) challenged the ideals of the Enlightenment, in order to emphasize emotions (as opposed to order and reason) and individual imagination.
- Realism (1840s-1880s) is often regarded as the first movement of Modernity, rejected traditional art, and extended the conceptions of what constituted as art.
- Impressionism (1862-1892) is one of the most important movements of the century, and artists painted a specific moment in time.
- Symbolism (1880-1910) officially marked the end of traditional representations in art as artists suggested meaning through symbols, form, shape, line, and color.
- Neoclassicism (1750-1850) artists were influenced by the recent archeological discoveries in Rome and aimed to instill Classical Greco-Roman ideals into their work.
- Post-Impressionism (1880s-1914) comprises a wide range of artistic styles but commonly responds to the opticality of the Impressionism movement.
- Art Nouveau (1890-1905) aimed at modernizing design and found popularity amongst the decorative and graphic arts.
No one movement of the 19th century was like the previous. Over the course of roughly 100 years, art shifted with the preferences and attitudes of its time. Thus, resulting in art movements that reflected specific points and tastes of the time.
Romanticism in the 19th Century
The Romanticism movement (1780-1830) truly emphasized the visual conveyance of emotion as an artistic reaction to the ideals of the Enlightenment. It focused on how senses and emotions were equally important as reason and order to experience and understand the world. It also was closely tied to the rise of newly founded nationalism across Europe and the United States and offered visual imagery that incited national pride and identity.
Romanticism celebrated the artist's individual creativity and sensitivity as many artists began to practice "plein air" painting (painting outdoors), turning their attention to subjects of nature, current events, local folklore, and landscapes. Well-known Romantic artists, such as Francisco Goya, Casper David Friedrich, Théodore Géricault, and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, adopted looser and less precise brushstrokes to help evoke emotion, mood, and feeling through widely varied subject matters. Some of the best-known works from the Romanticism movement are The Third of May 1808 (1814) by Francisco Goya, La Grande Odalisque (1814) by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (c. 1818) by Caspar David Friedrich.
Realism: 19th Century Art Movement
The Realism movement (1840s-1880s) is commonly known as the first artistic movement of Modernity. Spreading from Europe to the Americas, Realism rejected traditional forms and notions of art and expanded upon what constituted as art. Working within the wake of the Industrial Revolution, Realist artists moved away from the idealistic imagery of traditional art and emphasized real-life events that often highlighted the "ugly" margins of society.
Artists, such as Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, Jean- François Millet, Pelegrín Clavé, and James Whistler, brought everyday life into their works. Despite variations in style from artist to artist, Realism commonly rejected traditional techniques of perspective and commonly opted for earthy, dark color palettes. Their rejection of traditional ideals and depictions of real life created an early presentation of Modernity. Some of the best-known works of Realism are A Burial at Ornans (1849-50) by Gustave Courbet, Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (1862-1863) by Édouard Manet, and Symphony in White, no. 1 (1861-62) by James Whistler.
The Impressionism movement (1862-1892) is often regarded as one of the most prominent movements of the 19th century. Across Europe and the Americas, Impressionism centered around capturing a fleeting moment in time, often in "plein air" (outdoors). The Impressionists focused on the world as they saw it and shifted art away from depictions of idealizations, history, mythology, and the lives of great leaders. Some of the most famous pieces from the movement are Impression, Sunrise (1872) by Claude Monet, In a Park (1874) by Berthe Morisot, Paris Street, Rainy Day (1877) by Gustave Caillebotte, and Girl with a Hoop (1885) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
There are many well-known Impressionists, such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot, Joaquín Clausell, John Russell, and Édouard Manet. While all vaguely similar in style, these artists sought to capture the effects of light through looser and lighter brushstrokes. The Impressionists truly marked the development of Modern Art and the philosophy associated with the avant-garde (art that is innovative and explorative in nature).
Symbolism in 19th-Century Art
The Symbolism movement (1880-1910) marked a dramatic shift in the art world, essentially "ending" traditional representations and rather a preference for the avant-garde. Emphasis was given to the paint's surface, and artists expressed thoughts, feelings, emotions, and ideas through symbols, forms, colors, lines, and shapes. Symbolism became the forefront of modernity.
Artists of the movement firmly believed that they could create art for "art's sake" and rejected its utilitarian purposes. Paul Gaugin, Edvard Munch, Gustave Moreau, James Whistler, and Odilon Redon were key figures of the movement and promoted the idea that art did not have to reflect or relate to everyday life. Some of the most well-known pieces created in the Symbolism movement were Jupiter and Semele (1895) by Gustave Moreau, Death and the Masks (1897) by James Ensor, and The Dance of Life (1899-1900) by Edvard Munch.
Neoclassicism in the 19th Century
The Neoclassicism movement (1750-1850) aimed to emulate the ideals and standards of Classical Greek and Roman art in Europe and the Americas. Much of the movement's origin sparked as a reaction to the previous Rococo movement (1702-1780) that emphasized vanity, court culture, and exuberance. Neoclassicism rejected many of these ideals and instead returned to the study of reason, order, science, math, anatomy, and history.
Neoclassicist artists firmly believed that art should contain a moral message, instill ideal virtues, and transform and enlighten society. Thus, Neoclassicism incorporated subject matter from Antiquity and can be characterized by symmetry, simplicity, somber colors, and strong lines. Artists, such as Jacques-Louis David, Angelica Kauffman, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Benjamin West, Francesco Boffo, and Benjamin Henry Latrobe, created well-known Neoclassical works during the movement. Some of the most famous Neoclassical pieces of the 19th century are Achilles Receiving the Ambassadors of Agamemnon(1801) by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Monticello (1772-1809) by Thomas Jefferson, and the Arc de Triomphe (1806-1836) by Jean Chalgrin.
The Post-Impressionism movement (1880s-1914) is stylistically varied but revolves around the artist's reaction to the previous Impressionism movement (1862-1892) and their individual vision. Post-Impressionism ushered in the new concept of art being a window into the artist's soul and mind. This avant-garde approach to art had a profound impact on the art world and its future.
Although there was a wide variety of artistic styles during the movement, most Post-Impressionists utilized abstract forms, lines, and patterns within their works. Artists, such as Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat, Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Paul Cézanne, were a few key artists of the movement. Some of the most well-known artworks are Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884-1886) by Georges Seurat, Vision After the Sermon (1888) by Paul Gauguin, and Starry Night (1889) by Vincent van Gogh.
Art Nouveau Movement
The Art Nouveau movement (1890-1905) was a popular movement in Europe and the United States that aimed to modernize design. Gaining popularity within architecture, graphic, and decorative arts, it is sometimes also referred to as the "Jugendstil" or "Glasgow Style." Design reform emerged with the previous Arts and Crafts movement (1850s-1920s) and took off instantaneously as people sought to escape the eclectic, historical styles of the Victorian Era (1837-1901).
Art Nouveau artists, such as Gustav Klimt, Victor Horta, Aubrey Beardsley, Hector Guimard, Ethel Reed, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Alice Russell Glenny, and Alphonse Mucha, found inspiration within organic forms, geometric shapes, botany, and flowing lines. Often, these artists put emphasis on linear contours over color. Some of the most well-known artworks from the movement are La Goulue at the Moulin Rouge (1891) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, The Peacock Skirt (1894) by Aubrey Beardsley, and The Budapest Museum of Applied Arts (1893-1896) by Ödön Lechner and Gyula Pártos.
The Japonism movement (1854-1920) was an aesthetic movement following the introduction of Japanese art to the Western art world. Japonism revolved around the incorporation of both Japanese iconography and artistic concepts in Western art and design. This movement sparked a new approach to artistic representation and concepts.
Artistic trends of the movement were highly influenced by Ukiyo-e Japanese woodblock prints that featured unique perspectives, flattened space, juxtapositions, and muted colors. Some of the most well-known artists working in the aesthetic movement were Vincent Van Gogh, James Whistler, and Edgar Degas. Well-known pieces are Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (1876-1877) by James Whistler, Portrait of Père Tanguy (Father Tanguy) (1887) by Vincent van Gogh, and Maternal Caress (1890-1891) by Mary Cassatt.
Hudson River School Movement
The Hudson River School movement (1826-1870) was an American art movement that sought to create a national art style that highlighted the landscape of the United States. Americans craved a more uniquely nationalistic style of art to help bring identity to the States. The concept of Manifest Destiny thus became the focal point for the Hudson River School movement.
Landscape scenes were common and held subdued symbolism of the West's boundless resources and promised prosperity. Artists, such as Thomas Cole, George Inness, Frederic Edwin Church, and Albert Bierstadt, led the movement from their New York studios within the Hudson River Valley. Some of the most well-known pieces from the movement are The Falls of Kaaterskill (1826) by Thomas Cole, Kindred Spirits (1849) by Asher B. Durand, and The Lackawanna Valley (c. 1856) by George Inness.
The Costumbrismo movement (1820s-1910) gained popularity in both Spain and Latin America, particularly in Mexico. Deriving from the Spanish "costumbre," meaning "custom," it sought to convey the traditions, costumes, and customs of everyday life and people. It marked the emergence of the post-Independence period, and artists strove to create a national identity.
It had an interest in expressing the romance of folklore and humanity while focusing on the realities of the world through satiric and moralizing imagery. Artists, such as Antonio Cabral Bejarano, Eugenio Lucas Velázquez, Francisco "Pancho" Fierro, and Carl Nebel, led the movement across Spain and Latin America. Well-known pieces are Poblanas (1836) by Carl Nebel, Aguador (c. 1850-1860) by Francisco "Pancho" Fierro, and Fruitseller in Rio de Janeiro (c. 1870) by Alberto Henschel.
Heidelberg School Movement
The Heidelberg School movement (1880s-1890s) is often referred to as "Australian Impressionism." Viewed as one of the most prominent movements of Australian Modern Art, the movement focuses on the rural landscape of the country. It quickly became the country's national style of painting.
The movement became well-known for its landscape paintings that highlighted the colors and flora of the rugged landscape. "Plein air" painting was common and works were painted in an informal style. Some of the leading artists were Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton, Arthur Loureiro, and Charles Conder. Well-known works are The Purple Noon's Transparent Might (1896) by Arthur Streeton, Bush Idyll (1893) by Frederick McCubbin, and A break away! (1891) by Tom Roberts.
When considering what an art movement is, most definitions relate to a specific period of time or a certain theme or style of art. The 19th century was a period of rapid change; the Industrial Revolution transformed almost all aspects of life. In response to industrialization, artists began to challenge previous traditional art and created avant-garde art, which was innovative and explorative in nature. A preference for the avant-garde created numerous unique art movements of the 19th century.
One significant development of 19th-century art was the emergence of plein air painting (painting outdoors). The Romanticism (1780-1830) movement was known for "plein air" painting, emotion, and the artist's creativity. The Realism (1840s-1880s ) movement emerged at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution and is often considered the first movement of Modernity. It challenged traditional art, depicted the "ugly" truths of everyday life, and expanded on what art was/could be. Arguably the most well-known, the Impressionism (1862-1892) movement heavily used "plein air" painting to quickly capture the fleeting moments of life through thick and loose brushstrokes. The art movements of the 19th century brought art a major leap forward in the avant-garde of Modernity.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
What type of art was popular in the 19th century?
In the Western art world, the 19th century brought many different styles, attitudes, and preferences toward art. Despite each movement differing visually from one another, one main overarching theme was visually conveying the artist's individual reaction to the changing world around them.
What art movements were in the 19th century?
Many significant art movements across the Western art world existed throughout the 19th century. Some of the most well-known movements include Romanticism, Realism, Symbolism, Neoclassicism, Impressionism, Art Nouveau, and Post-Impressionism.
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack
Resources created by teachers for teachers
I would definitely recommend Study.com to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline.