Romanticism was an intellectual, artistic, and literary movement, beginning in the late 18th and maturing in the 19th century. In many ways Romanticism was a counter-attack to the cold formality of Classicism; the Romantics fought rationality and calculated self-expression by glorifying intense emotions such as passion, awe, and fear. Romanticism also prized traditions and customs, and was the beginning of the revival of medievalism.
Romanticism valued everything exotic and unusual, choosing to escape to lands unknown instead of accepting the industrialism and urbanization that was becoming more and more common in Europe. The movement valued nature and solitude, especially the poetry, which often addressed the reader directly to allow them to be swept away into the world and the story that the writer had woven for that purpose. The Romantic hero was different from the layman in both mental and physical aspects, and was often meant to serve as an example to raise the quality of society.
In England, the golden age of Romanticism started waning in the 1820s after the deaths of four Six Great Romantic Poets and the lack of any new work from the surviving two. Overall, Romanticism continued as the prevalent movement until the 1850s when it was largely replaced by Realism. In Eastern Europe, however, Romanticism was closely tied to the several national awakenings within Imperial Russia and thus the movement didn’t often begin until the second half of the 19th century.
Notable Romantics include Alexander Pushkin, William Wordsworth, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Alexandre Dumas, Jane Austen, José de Espronceda, Sir Walter Scott, Camilo Castelo Branco, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, John Keats, Mary Shelley, and the Brontë siblings.
John William Waterhouse, After the Dance. 1876, oil on canvas. Private collection.