Patrick Noon

Romanticism is a movement throughout Europe unlike neoclassical painting in which narrative is meant to be virtuous, and technique was meant to be highly skilled and minute and carefully crafted so that the narrative can be clearly understood, all the virtues that the French felt were essential for great art were thrown out of the window by the Romantics. They were interested in violence; they were interested in core emotions. One poet said, truth in nature is actually expressing what people are really about, it’s not about what the ancients were about. We’re not ancients, our culture is modern, our social structures are different, our habits are more resolved, these are not those of the ancients, and the value of imitating the ancients is negligible in this day and age.

What we want to express is the truth of human nature as we see it, as it’s lived today, as it’s lived by the people who are around us. You know you are trying to paint your experience and you are trying to invent ways of doing that, you are not following the standard conventional rules for learning how to paint. The French academy had very, very strict rules how you learned to become an artist, it was still very much a craft mentality. So it’s all about control, all about technical control and expertise and developing it and learning that. It was a very hierarchic system of teaching and a very hierarchic system of rewarding merit that didn’t really allow for a promote or encourage individuality which is what Romanticism is all about, it’s about the individual, it’s not about some cultural construct about how we should behave because the ancients behaved this way.

Delacroix was very much of the opinion as most romantic artists were that you can’t teach art, you can teach the mechanics of art but you are not producing great art. Great art comes from the self. So you have artists who are trying to be individual, trying to create technical means that are so different from what other artists were doing or using in order to be able to express themselves in highly original ways, that is what Modernism is all about. And Modernism begins with Romanticism.

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