Il neoclassicismo nella pittura

Neoclassicism in painting

Neoclassicism was a cultural movement in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theater, music, and architecture that drew inspiration from the art and culture of classical antiquity.

Neoclassicism was born in Rome largely thanks to the writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, at the time of the rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum, but its popularity spread throughout Europe as a generation of art students completed their studies.

The main neoclassical movement coincided with the Enlightenment of the 18th century and continued until the early 19th century, competing laterally with Romanticism. In architecture, the style continued throughout the 19th, 20th, and into the 21st centuries.

European neoclassicism in the visual arts began in the 1760s in opposition to the then-dominant Rococo style. Rococo architecture emphasizes grace, ornamentation, and asymmetry. Neoclassical architecture is based on the principles of simplicity and symmetry, which were seen as virtues of the arts of Rome and ancient Greece, and were most immediately drawn from the Renaissance classicism of the 16th century.

Neoclassicism selects some models from the range of possible classics available to it, and ignores others. The Neoclassical writers and orators, patrons and collectors, artists and sculptors of the period 1765–1830 paid homage to an idea of ​​Phidias's generation, but the examples of sculpture they actually embraced were more likely Roman copies of Hellenistic sculptures.

Even Greece was almost unexplored, a backwater of the Ottoman Empire, dangerous to explore, so the neoclassicists' appreciation of Greek architecture was mediated through drawings and engravings, which subtly regularized, "corrected" and "restored" the monuments . of Greece, not always consciously.

The Empire style, the second phase of Neoclassicism in architecture and decorative arts, had its cultural center in Paris in the Napoleonic era. Especially in architecture, but also in other fields, neoclassicism remained a force long after the start of the 19th century, with periodic waves of revivalism in the 20th and even 21st centuries, especially in the United States and Russia.

The path of neoclassicism

Neoclassicism is a revival of the many styles inspired directly by the classical period, which coincided with and reflected developments in philosophy and other areas of the Enlightenment, and was initially a reaction against the excesses of the earlier Rococo style. Although the movement is often described as opposed to Romanticism, this is an oversimplification that tends not to be tenable when considering specific artists or works. The case of the supposed main champion of late neoclassicism, Ingres, demonstrates this particularly well. The revival can be traced back to the establishment of formal archaeology.

The writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann were important in shaping this movement in both architecture and the visual arts. His books were the first to clearly distinguish between ancient Greek and Roman art and to define periods within Greek art. Charting a trajectory from growth to maturity and then to imitation or decay that continues to have influence.

Winckelmann believed that art should aim for "noble simplicity and calm", and praised the idealism of Greek art, in which he said we find " not only nature in its most beautiful form but also something beyond nature , that is, certain ideal forms of its beauty, which, as an ancient interpreter of Plato teaches us, come from images created only by the mind ." The theory was far from new in Western art, but his emphasis on faithfully copying Greek models was: " The only way for us to become great, or, if possible, inimitable, is to imitate the ancients ."

The Industrial Revolution saw the global transition of the human economy towards more efficient and stable production processes. There was enormous material progress and greater prosperity. With the advent of the Grand Tour, a vogue for antiquities collecting began that laid the foundations of many great collections and spread a neoclassical revival throughout Europe.

Neoclassicism was strongest in architecture, sculpture, and the decorative arts, where classical models in the same medium were numerous and accessible. Winckelmann was involved in spreading knowledge of the first large Roman paintings discovered at Pompeii and Herculaneum and, like most of his contemporaries except Gavin Hamilton, was unimpressed, citing Pliny the Younger's comments on the decline of painting in his period.

As for painting , Greek painting was completely lost: neoclassical painters revived it with imagination, partly through bas-relief friezes, mosaics and ceramic painting, and partly through examples of High Renaissance painting and decoration of generation of Raphael, Nero's frescoes Domus Aurea, Pompeii and Herculaneum, and through the renewed admiration of Nicolas Poussin. Much "neoclassical" painting is more classicizing in subject matter than anything else. For decades a fierce, but often ill-informed, dispute raged over the relative merits of Greek and Roman art, with Winckelmann and his Hellenist colleagues generally on the winning side.

Milvian Bridge by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (neoclassical)

Milvian Bridge by Giovanni Piranesi

The drawings, later made into prints, by John Flaxman used very simple linework and mostly profile figures to depict the Odyssey and other subjects, and once "inflamed the artistic youth of Europe" but are now "neglected" , while the history paintings of Angelica Kauffman, primarily a portrait painter, are described as having "an unctuous softness and dullness."

Unlike Carstens' unrealized projects, Giovanni Battista Piranesi 's etchings were numerous and profitable, and taken up by those who made the Grand Tour to all parts of Europe. His main subject was the buildings and ruins of Rome, and he was more stimulated by the ancient than the modern. The slightly disturbing atmosphere of many of his Vedute becomes dominant in the series of 16 prints of the Carceri d'Invenzione whose "oppressive cyclopean architecture" transmits "dreams of fear and frustration".

Neoclassicism in painting acquired new meaning with the sensational success of Jacques-Louis David's Oath of the Horatii at the Paris Salon of 1785. Despite its evocation of republican virtues, it was a royal government commission, which David insisted on painting in Rome. David managed to combine an idealistic style with drama and strength. The central perspective is perpendicular to the picture plane, made more emphatic by the dark portico behind it, against which the heroic figures are arranged as if in a frieze, with a hint of the artificial lighting and the staging of the work, and the coloring classic by Nicolas Poussin. David quickly became the leader of French art, and after the French Revolution, he became a politician with control of much government patronage in art. He managed to maintain his influence in the Napoleonic period, dedicating himself to purely propagandistic works, but had to leave France for exile in Brussels during the Bourbon Restoration.

After the mid-19th century, neoclassicism began to no longer be the main style, replaced by the eclecticism of classical styles. In the 20th century there was an entire artistic movement called neoclassicism. It included at least music, philosophy and literature and developed between the end of the First World War and the end of the Second. There was also in this period a "simplified neoclassicism" in architecture, which opposed rationalism. In Italy this was expressed by the architecture of Marcello Piacentini.

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