Art and visual culture: Medieval to modern
Art and visual culture: Medieval to modern

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Art and visual culture: Medieval to modern

Neo-classical ‘style’

What is now known as ‘Neo-classicism’ was conceived of at the time as a return to the true spirit of the antique after what its proponents saw as the aberrations from these standards represented by the Baroque and Rococo. The label itself was not coined until the end of the nineteenth century and only gained its current meaning in the twentieth (Irwin, 1997, p. 9). It is used to distinguish late eighteenth-century classicism from earlier versions, such as the work of Raphael or that of the seventeenth-century French painter Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665). When it was first formulated around 1900, however, ‘Neo-classicism’ could refer to every kind of classical art produced since the Renaissance (Poussin included) or even since antiquity. Like many other style labels, it originally had a pejorative function, serving to characterise the works of art to which it was applied as derivative and inauthentic. Such accusations were bound up with a reaction against academic values; criticising ‘neo-classical’ tendencies in art implied a challenge to the central idea on which academies were based: the belief in universal standards of taste that could be taught. This kind of rejection originated in the late eighteenth century when it began to be claimed that academies constrained ‘original genius’, but became widely accepted only after 1800 when the idea that artists ought to express themselves in a wholly personal style developed. This idea defines Romanticism; it follows from it that there could be no single Romantic style exemplified by one major artist, as Neo-classicism in painting is embodied by David. In the case of sculpture, moreover, classical forms might be infused with a distinctively romantic intensity and inwardness. The word also differs from other style labels in having been current at the time, even if its major figures did not necessarily identify with it (Honour, 1979, p. 22). As a movement inspired by a set of definite principles that challenged those of the Academy, Romanticism prefigures later developments in modern art.

A226_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371