Visual Art in Jane Austen's Time
For my portion of the presentation on art I will focus on paintings and painters. Much like literature during Jane Austen's lifetime, the visual arts' world is caught in transition between two stylistic periods. The periods explored during Austen's life time are Neoclassicism, the Age of Sensibility, and Romanticism.
The Age of Sensibility lasted from about 1750-1780. As with literature there are no specific dates for the beginning or the end of periods, only general time frames. The motto of this age is "Trust your heart rather than your head" (Tansey 905). Paintings with moral themes were thought to be the key to bringing society back on track.
Also exhibited in the paintings of this time is a strain of Neoclassicism. The Neoclassic take on art is brought on by the revolutions of this era, specifically, the American and French revolutions. All things heroic made their way onto the canvas.
The Romantic notion of strength in emotions influences artists from about 1750- 1850. "Everything that moved the emotions of artists," explains the Gardner's Art Through the Ages text, "and the audience -the sentimental, the heroic, the sublime, the 'Gothick,' or combinations of them -was marked by a shift in emphasis from reason to feeling, from calculation to intuition, from objective nature to subjective emotion" (906) The Gothick vein of Romanticism brings to life elements of the Dark Ages: supersition, mystery, and the grotesque. [The spelling of Gothick is in the manner used in the 18th century]
George Stubbs (1724-1806) Stubbs is known for scenes of natural struggle and horro. He focused on the nobility of nature and the connection between life and death.
Angelica Kauffmann (1741-1807) Kauffmann spent many of her productive years in England although she was Swiss by birth. Her work is called sentimental Neoclassicism.
Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) Fuseli was an instructor and member of the Royal Academy. His paintings included images of horror and examples of violent emotion.
William Blake (1757-1827) Blake combined neoclassicism with Gothick Romanticism. He used religious emotions. His paintings can be used to show how the Romantic imagination blends with Gothick fantasy.
Tansey, Richard G. and Fred S. Kleiner, eds. Gardner's Art Through the Ages, 10th edition. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1996.
www.tate.org.uk (wonderful gallery images)