The Romantic Period saw the rise of an artistic and intellectual movement characterized by powerful emotions, including horror, love and awe. The period came as a reaction to the Enlightenment, or "Age of Reason," and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Contrary to 18th-century ideals, the Romantic Period rejected excessive rationalism and objectivity and instead embraced dreams, personal experience of nature, exoticism and a visionary mode of expression. As such, it is a dramatic period rife with both nostalgia for the past and passionate artistry.
Elements of the Romantic Period were defined by a feeling of being above rational contemplation. Imagination and sensual escapism were held in high regard as artists and philosophers sought to think beyond their daily lives and connect with deep emotions and higher powers. The proponents of Romantic thought, such as William Blake, idealized artistic expression as a form of protest against the constraints of reason.
Artists seeking to capture the strong feelings of the period began painting and writing about both nature and the supernatural. Some artists depicted hellscapes, capturing the imagination of their audiences through supernatural abominations like demons and witches, as in the works of Goya. Nationalism was also prominently featured. National spirit and identity became more defined through portraits of royalty and majestic paintings of warfare and victory; likewise, composers turned to nationalist forms, such as Chopin's mazurkas and polonaises and Liszt's Hungarian rhapsodies.
The Romantic Period witnessed a paradigm shift within music. Whereas the Classical Era maintained laws of balance and restraint, Romantic music was more experimental and fragmentary, with increasingly chromatic language that distended traditional form and created new emotional effects. The composer-pianist Liszt was said to perform with such raw passion and virtuosity that women in the audience would faint.
Literature aimed to engage and stimulate people's imagination through narratives and verse. One Romantic poem by John Keats titled "La belle dame sans merci" posed a dream world of imagination and Romantic splendor against the reality presented by more mundane realism. The resulting contrast serves as a metaphor for conflicting aesthetic aims. Nature and myths became recurring motifs of famous Romantic Era literature, such as the poems of Wordsworth, Byron and Shelley.
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