Late Romanticism

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The late Romantic period referred chronologically the last phase of romance as art historical and literary period between 1815 and 1848. In painting the late Romantic lasts until the end of the 19th century, in the music until the early 20th century (Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss) . The centers were Berlin , Vienna , Nuremberg , Karlsberg , Heidelberg .


Important authors of late romanticism are:

Important characteristics of late romanticism are:

  • Highlighting the dark side of the human psyche
  • Turning to religion
  • Longing for the old aristocratic order
  • Settlement with the reconnaissance .

Preferred genre of late romanticism are:


Main article: Late Romantic section in the Romantic Music article

Late Romanticism in music must be delimited in terms of time and content from the other arts . Even (highly) romantic music covers a larger and later period. Nowadays, when one speaks of late Romantic music, one means works that were created between 1860 and 1910. At the turn of the century in particular, however, there were already intersections with the first emerging experiments of expressionism and twelve-tone music . There are several characteristics of late romantic music:

Within the late Romantic period there are various currents, for example works that can be assigned to symbolism, which later leads to impressionism ( Gabriel Fauré , Alexander Scriabin ) or also the Italian verismo ( Giacomo Puccini ), in which the trend towards modernity is expressed that, for example, a catharsis or solution to the action no longer takes place, but works end tragically.

Musically, a clear expansion of harmony and counterpoint can be seen in the late Romantic period . Works by Alexander von Zemlinsky or Max Reger, for example, often have more than a dozen independently performed voices within a bar , the orchestral sound is colorful and the progression of the harmony often reaches the limit of tonality . Hugo Wolf's works also show hitherto unknown harmonic sharpness and twists. Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde remains permanently in a floating tonal space due to numerous indeterminable chords. The last consequence, the dissolution of a tonally based system, was finally drawn by Arnold Schönberg . Other composers have retained the late romantic style. During the experimental phase of the 20th century, however, it often became simpler again and led to trends such as neoclassicism , for example in the works of the Dutch composer Rosy Wertheim or in the Antiche danze ed arie by Ottorino Respighi .


"Raftsund, Lofoten mit Dampfer Deutschland III" by Themistokles von Eckenbrecher
"Italian Landscape" by Ludwig Richter
“Ricordo di Tivoli” by Anselm Feuerbach
“Rider and Forest Fairy” by Johann Georg Mohr

In painting, the direction that predominated between 1848 and 1900 is called late romanticism, which rebuilds the achievements of romanticism. The great questions of the divinity of nature and the artistic creative process were no longer emphasized, as they were widely considered to be answered. The topics remained. The artists attached great importance to improving the artistic presentation and painting technique.

Situation in the second half of the 19th century

Late Romantic painting shares realism with historicism . Painters in both styles were also active. In some cases, strict features of classicism are also taken up (Feuerbach, Rethel). There are also overlaps in Biedermeier painting.

The bourgeoisie, who gained influence and money, represented a broad group of buyers who were quite willing and able to buy expensive works of art that had been created with great effort. Thematically and stylistically, this group of buyers was less interested in stylistic breaks than in high-quality traditional works, such as the nobility had previously collected. This should underline the new leadership claim of the bourgeoisie. Hence the efforts of the painter traditional themes of romanticism showed pick up and intensify as far as possible and to improve the presentation, such as in the history painting , portraiture , landscape painting , genre painting , still life and animal painting .

Under new conditions, however, late historicism emerged as a style of its own. The advent of photography had called into question the most lifelike reproduction of reality. Impressionism was able to produce results in a shorter time and at lower costs than traditional painting and did not attach great importance to an elaborate technique.

Landscapes were the preferred subject of late Romantic painting, but are characterized by an exaggerated closeness to nature and outstanding lighting conditions that sometimes appear hallucinative. The forest motif finds mythological echoes and a fairytale atmosphere with mythical creatures and nymphs. Longings are Arcadian life, and a pastoral myth.

Contemporary appreciation

The cult of the artist as a genius, created in the Romantic era, was also intensified and, according to some authors, almost as a substitute for religion. The genius of the artist, together with art itself, in its various stylistic manifestations, was part of the self-portrayal concept of the bourgeoisie. This also affected the way of painting. The meticulous precision of romantic painting was abandoned after 1848. It was replaced by a broader, loose brushwork that gave the impression of virtuosity and spontaneity, even if, unlike in Impressionist plein air painting, it was carefully prepared and planned.

The late romanticism of painting also influenced architecture, especially in Vienna.

Later evaluation

One reproach against the classical and late romantic periods is to regard art as a parallel world untouched by society, which claims to have metaphysical or religious consecration.

The late Romanticism was opposed by the Impressionists as a historically outdated direction because of its lavish academic painting style. This view has been adopted relatively unreflected by art historians. The reasons for the disdain for late romanticists in parts of the art world, however, are less the conflict with the impressionists than the appropriation of late romantic motifs by the producers of cheap kitsch .

The increasing demand for art from ever broader groups of buyers had led to the manufacture of kitsch since the late Romantic period. Motifs which, among the late romanticists, still indicated a religious attitude or literary sophistication, were produced and reproduced on a large scale, not least thanks to improved production methods. Common motifs of kitsch painting such as the sunset, the roaring deer , the tourist vedute and the idyll can clearly be traced back to romanticism.

Leading museums keep their late romantics in their magazines and only show works sporadically and in context with special exhibitions. In view of the increasing importance of the number of visitors, the risk is too great that an inexperienced public will confuse the works of the late romantic era with kitsch and rub it off on a museum.

The situation is different in the art trade, where late romanticists are enjoying increasing popularity, even if they have not yet reached that of the impressionists. The few monographs that appeared on late romanticists are all sold out within a short time. The future task of art history is not to continue to appreciate the work of the late romanticists with the eyes of the following direction, but rather as a further development in relation to the previous period, Romanticism, as well as as an appearance of their own time, which produced something artistically significant.

The following are considered to be painters of the late Romantic period:

Genre painter

History painter

Landscape painter

Portrait painter

Still life painter

Animal painter

The assignment of many history painters to the late Romantic period is limited to only a part of their work, including the painters Anton von Werner , Emil Hünten and Adolph Menzel . Eugen Bracht can only be assigned to the late Romantic period in his early work.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hans Joachim Neidhardt: Caspar David Friedrich and the painting of the Dresden Romanticism: Essays and lectures, p. 53, 2005/2009.
  2. Renate Wagner-Rieger: Die Wiener Ringstrasse, Bild einer Epoche 1981, p. 4.
  3. Jan Rohls: Protestant Theology of Modern Times, p. 422.