Canova was Napoleon's favorite sculptor. Here, the artist depicted the emperor's sister nude-- at her request--as the Roman goddess of love in a marble statue inspired by classical models. The reclining Pauline Bonaparte in the center of the room holds an apple in her hand evoking the Venus Victrix in the judgement of Paris, who was chosen to settle a dispute between Juno (power), Minerva (arts and science) and Venus (love). This marble statue of Pauline in a highly refined pose is considered a supreme example of the Neoclassical style. Antonio Canova executed this portrait between 1805 and 1808 without the customary drapery of a person of high rank, an exception at the time, thus transforming this historical figure into a goddess of antiquity in a pose of classical tranquillity and noble simplicity.
Canova, Pauline Borghese as Venus, 1808 -Neoclassicism
The reclining female nude was a Greco-Roman subject, but ingres converted his Neoclassical figure into an odalisque in a Turkish harem, consistent with the new Romantic taste for the exotic. Ingres drew upon works such as Dresden Venus by Giorgione, and Titian's Venus of Urbino as inspiration for his reclining nude figure, though the actual pose of a reclining figure looking back over her shoulder is directly drawn from the 1809 Portrait of Madame Récamier by Jacques-Louis David. He portrays a concubine in languid pose as seen from behind with distorted proportions. The small head, elongated limbs, and cool color scheme all reveal influences from Mannerists such as Parmigianino, whose Madonna with the Long Neck was also famous for anatomical distortion. This eclectic mix of styles, combining classical form with Romantic themes, prompted harsh criticism when it was first shown in 1814.
Ingres, Grande Odalisque, 1814 - Neoclassicism
In emotional fashion, Goya depicted the anonymous murderous wall of French soldiers ruthlessly executing the unarmed and terrified Spanish peasants. Goya encouraged empathy for the massacred Spanish peasants by portraying horrified expressions and anguish on their faces, endowing them with a humanity lacking in the French firing squad. The painting's content, presentation, and emotional force secure its status as a groundbreaking, archetypal image of the horrors of war. Although it draws on many sources from both high and popular art, The Third of May 1808 marks a clear break from convention. Diverging from the traditions of Christian art and traditional depictions of war, it has no distinct precedent, and is acknowledged as one of the first paintings of the modern era. According to the art historian Kenneth Clark, The Third of May 1808 is "the first great picture which can be called revolutionary in every sense of the word, in style, in subject, and in intention". Goya enhanced the emotional drama of this tragic event through his stark use of darks and lights and by extending the time frame depicted. Although Goya captured the specific moment when one man is about to be executed, he also depicted the bloody bodies of others already lying dead on the ground.
Goya, Third of May, 1808 - Romanticism
Balancing contemporaneous historical fact with poetic allegory Delacroix captured the passion and energy of the 1830 revolution in this painting of Liberty leading the Persian uprising against Charles X. A woman personifying Liberty leads the people forward over the bodies of the fallen, holding the tricolore flag of the French Revolution in one hand and brandishing a bayonetted musket with the other. The painting is perhaps Delacroix's best-known work. Delacroix depicted Liberty, as both an allegorical goddess-figure and a robust woman of the people, an approach that contemporary critics denounced as "ignoble". The mound of corpses acts as a kind of pedestal from which Liberty strides, barefoot and bare-breasted, out of the canvas and into the space of the viewer. The Phrygian cap she wears had come to symbolize liberty during the first French Revolution, of 1789-94. The painting has been seen as a marker to the end of the Age of Enlightenment, as many scholars see the end of the French Revolution as the start of the romantic era.
The fighters are from a mixture of social classes, ranging from the upper classes represented by the young man in a top hat, to the revolutionary middle class or (bourgeoisie), as exemplified by the boy holding pistols (who may have been the inspiration for the character Gavroche in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables). What they have in common is the fierceness and determination in their eyes. Aside from the flag held by Liberty, a second, minute tricolore can be discerned in the distance flying from the towers of Notre Dame. The identity of the man in the top hat has been widely debated. The suggestion that it was a self-portrait by Delacroix has been discounted by modern art historians. In the late 19th century, it was suggested the model was the theatre director Etienne Arago; others have suggested the future curator of the Louvre, Frédéric Villot; but there is no firm consensus on this point.
Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830 - Romanticism
Cole divided his canvas into dark wilderness on the left and sunlit civilization on the right. The minuscule painter at the bottom venter seems to be asking for advice about America's future course. The painting moves from a dark wilderness with shattered tree trunks on rugged cliffs in the foreground covered with violent rainclouds on the left to a light-filled and peaceful, cultivated landscape on the right, which borders the tranquility of the bending Connecticut River. In returning to painting landscapes, Cole was faced with the dichotomy of the untamed wilderness and land cultivated by man. While other painters of the Hudson River School would merge the two peacefully, Cole did not shy away from portraying the two as opposites and showing how the cultivation would destroy the natural wilderness, and as a result never meet in the painting. On the hill in the far background, logging scars in the forest can be observed, which appear to form Hebrew letters. This was first noticed by Matthew Baigell long after the landscape was painted. If viewed upside down, as if from God's perspective, the word shaddai is formed, "The Almighty." Cole gives himself a tiny self-portrait sitting on the rocks in the foreground with his easel.
Cole, The Oxbow, 1836 - Romanticism
Although as monumental in scale as a traditional history painting, Burial at ornans horrified critics because of the ordinary nature of the subject and Courbet's starkly antiheroic composition. Arranged in a wavering line extending across the broad horizontal width of the canvas are three groups--the somberly clad women at the back right, a semicircle of similarly clad men by the open grave, and assorted churchmen at the left. This wall of figures, seen at eye level in parson, blocks any view into deep space. The faces are portraits. The dark pit of the grace opens into the viewer's space in the center foreground. Courbet controlled composition in a masterful way by sparing use of bright color. Realism captured the ordinary rhythms of daily existence. Realism also involved a reconsideration of the painter's primary goals and departed from the established priority on illusionism. Courbet's intentionally simple and direct methods of expression in composition and technique seemed unbearably crude to many of his more traditional contemporaries, who called him a primitive.
Courbet, Burial at Ornans, 1849 - Realism
Manet was widely criticized for both his shocking subject matter and his manner of painting. Moving away from illusionism, he used colors to flatten from and to draw attention to the painting surface. Manet's composition reveals his study of the old masters, as the disposition of the main figures is derived from Marcantonio Raimondi's engraving The Judgement of Paris (c. 1515) after a drawing by Raphael. The Luncheon on the Grass is the greatest work of Édouard Manet, one in which he realizes the dream of all painters: to place figures of natural grandeur in a landscape. We know the power with which he vanquished this difficulty. There are some leaves, some tree trunks, and, in the background, a river in which a chemise-wearing woman bathes; in the foreground, two young men are seated across from a second woman who has just exited the water and who dries her naked skin in the open air. This nude woman has scandalized the public, who see only her in the canvas. My God! What indecency: a woman without the slightest covering between two clothed men! That has never been seen. And this belief is a gross error, for in the Louvre there are more than fifty paintings in which are found mixes of persons clothed and nude. But no one goes to the Louvre to be scandalized. The crowd has kept itself moreover from judging The Luncheon on the Grass like a veritable work of art should be judged; they see in it only some people who are having a picnic, finishing bathing, and they believed that the artist had placed an obscene intent in the disposition of the subject, while the artist had simply sought to obtain vibrant oppositions and a straightforward audience. Painters, especially Édouard Manet, who is an analytic painter, do not have this preoccupation with the subject which torments the crowd above all; the subject, for them, is merely a pretext to paint, while for the crowd, the subject alone exists. Thus, assuredly, the nude woman of The Luncheon on the Grass is only there to furnish the artist the occasion to paint a bit of flesh. That which must be seen in the painting is not a luncheon on the grass; it is the entire landscape, with its vigors and its finesses, with its foregrounds so large, so solid, and its backgrounds of a light delicateness; it is this firm modeled flesh under great spots of light, these tissues supple and strong, and particularly this delicious silhouette of a woman wearing a chemise who makes, in the background, an adorable dapple of white in the milieu of green leaves. It is, in short, this vast ensemble, full of atmosphere, this corner of nature rendered with a simplicity so just, all of this admirable page in which an artist has placed all the particular and rare elements which are in him.[
Manet, The Luncheon on the Grass, 1863 - Realism
Millais was a founder of the Pre-Rapahaelite brotherhood, whose members refused to be limited to the contemporary scenes strict Realists portrayed. These artists chose instead to represent fictional, historical, and fanciful subjects but with a significant degree of convincing illusion. The drowning of ophelia is a Shakespearean subject. The painting depicts Ophelia, a character from Shakespeare's play Hamlet, singing while floating in a river just before she drowns. The scene is described in Act IV, Scene VII of the play in a speech by Queen Gertrude.
Millais, Ophelia, 1852 - Pre-Raphaelites
The tensile strength of iron permitted Paxton to experiment with a new system of glass-and-metal roof construction. Built with prefabricated parts, the vast Crystal Palace required only six months to erect. The plan borrowed much from ancient Roman and Christian basilicas, with a central flat-roofed "nave" and a barrel-vaulted crossing "transept" The design provided ample interior space to contain displays of huge machines as well as to accommodate decorative touches in the from of large working fountains and giant trees.
Paxton, Crystal Palace, London, 1850-51 - Early Modern Architecture
Wet-plate technology enabled photographers to record historical events on the spot and comment on the high price of war, as in this photograph of dead Union soldiers at Gettysburg. Photographers covered the Civil War, following the Union Army in wagons that served as traveling darkrooms. Their equipment was bulky and the exposures had to be long, so they could not take action photographs during battle. But photography was graphic; this picture taken on the morning of July 4th, 1863 after three days of heavy fighting during the Battle of Gettysburg, showed the northern public that dying in battle lacked the gallantry often represented in paintings and prints.Photographers were quick to realize the documentary power of their new medium. The photographs taken of the Crimean War and of the American Civil War remain unsurpassed as incisive accounts of military life, unsparing in their truthful detail and poignant as expressions of human experience.
O'Sullivan, A Harvest of Death, 1863 - Early Modern Photography