Classicism originated in Italy and was then informed with the pioneering impulses of French painting. There was a deliberate aversion to the turbulent, overbrimming aesthetic idiom of the baroque era and a striving for expressive calm and clarity in silhouette. The Belvedere owns works by the main representatives Jacques Louis David and François Gérard, also by the travellers to Italy Jakob Philipp Hackert and Josef Rebell, and by Angelika Kauffmann, Johann Baptist Lampi the Elder and Friedrich Heinrich Füger.
The Romantic movement of the early ninteteenth century is represented in several key works. Caspar David Friedrich portrays a symbolic, evocative view of nature in his pictures. The Nazarenes oriented themselves on the medieval ideal, they were inspired by Early Renaissance Italian painting and looked to artists like Dürer and Raphael as their models. Josef Anton Koch was a Tyrolean based in Rome with a singular gift of transporting the classical, ideal landscape into heroic mountainous scenery.
Historical and literary themes were very popular in the Classicist era, accordingly historical painting enjoyed great acclaim. But it was also a time when art reflected current events, at first in French painting, which nicely complied with the propagandist ambitions of Napoleon. An example is the equestrian portrait of Napoleon on the Great St Bernhard by Jacques Louis David (1801).
Around the same time, Francois Gérard painted the Portrait of the Fries Family (c. 1804). The large-format painting with its clear, robust colours and tautness of line is in complete contrast to the English painting tradition, where the language of forms is defined in a dynamic application of the paint, with more allusion than directness in execution. Angelika Kauffmann lived in England for many years and conveys this very style in her picture of John Simpson (1773), one of her most consummate portraits.
The most outstanding artist personality in Austria during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was the historical and portrait painter Friedrich Heinrich Füger, director of the Vienna Academy and of the Imperial Painting Gallery. In the portrait of his wife, the actress Hortensia Füger (c. 1797), the French style is ingeniously combined with English influences, which results in a fascinatingly charged relationship between the finely worked face and cursorily executed drapery.
A faithful representation of reality is also evident in late eighteenth-century landscape painting. Jakob Philipp Hackert, who travelled much in Italy, endeavoured early on to capture a recognisable scene from nature, as in the Waterfalls of Tivoli (1790). A few years later, Josef Rebell rendered his views of the area around Naples in bright daylight and drenched in sunlight, thus pointing the way to realism and the so-called Biedermeier era.
The consummately painted landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich capture the terrain with a rare realism, unusual until then, but they are more than mere representations of nature. The towering sandstone columns in the Rocky Landscape of the Elbe Sandstone Heights painted in 1822/23 are sublimated into dramatic scenery. The terrain in the foreground seems inaccessible and menacing. This existential significance infused into the landscape is a special characteristic of the artist, who is renowned as the main exponent of German Romanticism.
During his travels through Switzerland, the German painter Joseph Anton Koch made numerous studies of the Alps. Almost twenty-five years later, he used this anthology to paint Bernese Oberland (1815) and reproduce a "total impression" of the mountainous terrain.
The ideas of the Nazarenes were completely different. Frustrated by their academic studies, in 1809 they had joined up in Vienna to form the "Lukasbund", the Nazarenes. The young artists rejected academic principles and refused to draw after Antique models or comply with baroque colourism. They strove for serenity of composition and expression, and kept colouration to a minimum. New in this context was the emphasis on their own experience and the endeavour to infuse a moral and religious dimension into their art.
The group, among them Franz Pforr and Friedrich Overbeck, set off for Rome already in 1810. Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld followed, also the Viennese Johann Evangelist Scheffer von Leonhardshoff, who died so prematurely. His Death of St Cecilia is a major work of the Austrian Nazarene movement. Josef von Führich forms an interface between religious Romanticism and patriotic historical painting., also Leopold Kupelwieser, Ludwig Ferdinand Schnorr von Carolsfeld and Moritz von Schwind. The genre primarily dealt with the history of the Habsburgs, its favourite subjects the ancestral progenitor Rudolf von Habsburg, and Emperor Maximilian I.
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