The neoclassical artistic movement spanned from the 1760s to the 1850s and incorporated classical Greek themes popular after archeological discoveries like the city of Pompeii.
In 1738, the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum was uncovered; ten years later, the city of Pompeii was discovered. These archeological finds prompted a new interest in Greek and Roman culture. Meanwhile, publications containing printings of ancient Greek monuments were circulated, helping to cultivate this classical interest.
Initially, Neoclassicism was expressed in a similar artistic style as previous movements. Many early neoclassical paintings exhibit the softness and beauty associated with the Rococo style, but portray traditional Greek themes based on historically accurate costumes and settings. Early neoclassical artists include Anton Raphael Mengs, Joseph-Marie Vien, Pompeo Batoni and Angelica Kauffmann.
Later neoclassical paintings feature themes based on traditional Roman values like courage and patriotism. 1789 saw the outbreak of the French Revolution, characterized by those same Roman values. Neoclassical artists expressed those values by depicting classical themes associated with the Roman Empire.
The 1780s saw the rise of a more distinct style of Neoclassicism, which featured a linear style based on Greek and Roman sculpture. The late neoclassical style utilized outlines, rather than lighting effects, to portray the scenes. Although the style was identifiable by the late neoclassical period, elements of other seemingly opposing styles, like Romanticism, sometimes mixed and were often used by the same artist. Late neoclassical artists include Jacques-Louis David, Jean-François Pierre Peyron and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.
Neoclassicism saw the rise of Greek and Roman classical themes as more was learned about their cultures. Later, these elements were furthered in a revolutionary Europe.
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Neoclassicism. (2010). Retrieved April 23, 2010, from ArtLex:http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/n/neoclassicism.html
Neoclassical Art. (2010). Retrieved April 23, 2010, from the Artchive:http://www.artchive.com/artchive/neo_classical.html