06-Neo-Classicism - READINGS: NEO-CLASSICISM Background:...

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1 READINGS: NEO-CLASSICISM Background: Neo-classicism. Term coined in the 1880s to denote the last stage of the Classical tradition in architecture, sculpture, painting and the decorative arts. Neo-classicism was the successor to Rococo in the second half of the 18th century and was itself superseded by various historicist styles in the first half of the 19th century. It formed an integral part of THE ENLIGHTENMENT in its radical questioning of received notions of human endeavour. It was also deeply involved with the emergence of new historical attitudes towards the past -- non-Classical as well as Classical -- that were stimulated by an unprecedented range of archaeological discoveries, extending from southern Italy and the eastern Mediterranean to Egypt and the Near East, during the second half of the 18th century. The new awareness of the plurality of historical styles prompted the search for consciously new and contemporary forms of expression. This concept of modernity set Neo-classicism apart from past revivals of antiquity, to which it was, nevertheless, closely related. Almost paradoxically, the quest for a timeless mode of expression (the 'true style', as it was then called) involved strongly divergent approaches towards design that were strikingly focused on the Greco- Roman debate. On the one hand, there was a commitment to a radical severity of expression, associated with the Platonic Ideal, as well as to such criteria as the functional and the primitive, which were particularly identified with early Greek art and architecture. On the other hand, there were highly innovative exercises in eclecticism, inspired by late Imperial Rome, as well as subsequent periods of stylistic experiment with Mannerism and the Italian Baroque. [www.grovereference.com/TDA/Samples/Neo.htm] Background: The French Revolution began in 1789, when citizens stormed the Bastille prison in Paris. Within a few years, France had adopted and overthrown several constitutions and executed its former king. It found itself at war with most of the Continent and endured horrible violence at home during the Reign of Terror. Finally, in 1799, the successful young general Napoleon Bonaparte seized control and, in 1804, proclaimed himself emperor. Though he made important administrative reforms, he was preoccupied by constant warfare and his heroic but failed attempt to unite all of Europe by conquest. After being defeated at Waterloo in 1815, Napoleon was exiled and the Bourbon monarchy was restored in the person of Louis XVIII. With the revolution, French painting resumed its moral and political purpose and embraced the style known as neoclassicism. Even before 1789, popular taste had begun to turn away from the disarming, lighthearted subjects of rococo; as revolution neared, artists increasingly sought noble themes of public virtue and personal sacrifice from the history of ancient Greece or Rome. They painted with restraint and discipline, using the austere clarity of the neoclassical style to stamp their subjects with
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This note was uploaded on 02/15/2011 for the course HISTORY 106 taught by Professor Dennis during the Spring '11 term at Loyola Chicago.

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06-Neo-Classicism - READINGS: NEO-CLASSICISM Background:...

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