The Info List - Classicism

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Classicism, in the arts, refers generally to a high regard for a classical period, classical antiquity in the Western tradition, as setting standards for taste which the classicists seek to emulate. The art of classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained: of the Discobolus
Sir Kenneth Clark
Sir Kenneth Clark
observed, "if we object to his restraint and compression we are simply objecting to the classicism of classic art. A violent emphasis or a sudden acceleration of rhythmic movement would have destroyed those qualities of balance and completeness through which it retained until the present century its position of authority in the restricted repertoire of visual images."[1] Classicism, as Clark noted, implies a canon of widely accepted ideal forms, whether in the Western canon
Western canon
that he was examining in The Nude (1956), or the literary Chinese classics or Chinese art, where the revival of classic styles is also a recurring feature. Classicism
is a force which is often present in post-medieval European and European influenced traditions; however, some periods felt themselves more connected to the classical ideals than others, particularly the Age of Enlightenment[2], when Neoclassicism
was an important movement in the visual arts.


1 General term 2 In the theatre 3 In architecture 4 In the fine arts 5 Political philosophy 6 See also 7 References 8 Further reading 9 External links

General term[edit]

Fountain of the Four Rivers, Bernini, 1651.

Classicist door in Olomouc, The Czech Republic.

is a specific genre of philosophy, expressing itself in literature, architecture, art, and music, which has Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
and Roman sources and an emphasis on society. It was particularly expressed in the Neoclassicism[3] of the Age of Enlightenment. Classicism
is a recurrent tendency in the Late Antique
Late Antique
period, and had a major revival in Carolingian and Ottonian art. There was another, more durable revival in the Italian renaissance
Italian renaissance
when the fall of Byzantium
and rising trade with the Islamic cultures brought a flood of knowledge about, and from, the antiquity of Europe. Until that time, the identification with antiquity had been seen as a continuous history of Christendom
from the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine I. Renaissance
classicism introduced a host of elements into European culture, including the application of mathematics and empiricism into art, humanism, literary and depictive realism, and formalism. Importantly it also introduced Polytheism, or "paganism", and the juxtaposition of ancient and modern. The classicism of the Renaissance
led to, and gave way to, a different sense of what was "classical" in the 16th and 17th centuries. In this period, classicism took on more overtly structural overtones of orderliness, predictability, the use of geometry and grids, the importance of rigorous discipline and pedagogy, as well as the formation of schools of art and music. The court of Louis XIV was seen as the center of this form of classicism, with its references to the gods of Olympus as a symbolic prop for absolutism, its adherence to axiomatic and deductive reasoning, and its love of order and predictability. This period sought the revival of classical art forms, including Greek drama and music. Opera, in its modern European form, had its roots in attempts to recreate the combination of singing and dancing with theatre thought to be the Greek norm. Examples of this appeal to classicism included Dante, Petrarch, and Shakespeare
in poetry and theatre. Tudor drama, in particular, modeled itself after classical ideals and divided works into Tragedy
[4]and Comedy. Studying Ancient Greek became regarded as essential for a well-rounded education in the liberal arts. The Renaissance
also explicitly returned to architectural models and techniques associated with Greek and Roman antiquity, including the golden rectangle as a key proportion for buildings, the classical orders of columns, as well as a host of ornament and detail associated with Greek and Roman architecture. They also began reviving plastic arts such as bronze casting for sculpture, and used the classical naturalism as the foundation of drawing, painting and sculpture. The Age of Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
identified itself with a vision of antiquity which, while continuous with the classicism of the previous century, was shaken by the physics of Sir Isaac Newton, the improvements in machinery and measurement, and a sense of liberation which they saw as being present in the Greek civilization, particularly in its struggles against the Persian Empire. The ornate, organic, and complexly integrated forms of the baroque were to give way to a series of movements that regarded themselves expressly as "classical" or "neo-classical", or would rapidly be labelled as such. For example, the painting of Jacques-Louis David
Jacques-Louis David
was seen as an attempt to return to formal balance, clarity, manliness, and vigor in art. The 19th century saw the classical age as being the precursor of academicism, including such movements as uniformitarianism in the sciences, and the creation of rigorous categories in artistic fields. Various movements of the romantic period saw themselves as classical revolts against a prevailing trend of emotionalism and irregularity, for example the Pre-Raphaelites.[5] By this point, classicism was old enough that previous classical movements received revivals; for example, the Renaissance
was seen as a means to combine the organic medieval with the orderly classical. The 19th century continued or extended many classical programs in the sciences, most notably the Newtonian program to account for the movement of energy between bodies by means of exchange of mechanical and thermal energy. The 20th century saw a number of changes in the arts and sciences. Classicism
was used both by those who rejected, or saw as temporary, transfigurations in the political, scientific, and social world and by those who embraced the changes as a means to overthrow the perceived weight of the 19th century. Thus, both pre-20th century disciplines were labelled "classical" and modern movements in art which saw themselves as aligned with light, space, sparseness of texture, and formal coherence. In the present day philosophy classicism is used as a term particularly in relation to Apollonian
over Dionysian
impulses in society and art; that is a preference for rationality, or at least rationally guided catharsis, over emotionalism. In the theatre[edit]

in classical dress, by Nicolas Mignard, 1658.

in the theatre was developed by 17th century French playwrights from what they judged to be the rules of Greek classical theatre, including the "Classical unities" of time, place and action, found in the Poetics of Aristotle.

Unity of time referred to the need for the entire action of the play to take place in a fictional 24-hour period Unity of place meant that the action should unfold in a single location Unity of action meant that the play should be constructed around a single 'plot-line', such as a tragic love affair or a conflict between honour and duty.

Examples of classicist playwrights are Pierre Corneille, Jean Racine and Molière. In the period of Romanticism, Shakespeare, who conformed to none of the classical rules, became the focus of French argument over them, in which the Romantics eventually triumphed; Victor Hugo was among the first French playwrights to break these conventions. The influence of these French rules on playwrights in other nations is debatable. In the English theatre, Restoration playwrights such as William Wycherly
William Wycherly
and William Congreve
William Congreve
would have been familiar with them. William Shakespeare
and his contemporaries did not follow this Classicist philosophy, in particular since they were not French and also because they wrote several decades prior to their establishment. Those of Shakespeare's plays that seem to display the unities, such as The Tempest,[6] probably indicate a familiarity with actual models from classical antiquity. In architecture[edit] Main articles: Classical architecture
Classical architecture
and Outline of classical architecture

Villa Rotonda, Palladio, 1591

in architecture developed during the Italian Renaissance, notably in the writings and designs of Leon Battista Alberti
Leon Battista Alberti
and the work of Filippo Brunelleschi. It places emphasis on symmetry, proportion, geometry and the regularity of parts as they are demonstrated in the architecture of Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity
and in particular, the architecture of Ancient Rome, of which many examples remained. Orderly arrangements of columns, pilasters and lintels, as well as the use of semicircular arches, hemispherical domes, niches and aedicules replaced the more complex proportional systems and irregular profiles of medieval buildings. This style quickly spread to other Italian cities and then to France, Germany, England, Russia and elsewhere. In the 16th century, Sebastiano Serlio
Sebastiano Serlio
helped codify the classical orders and Palladio's legacy evolved into the long tradition of Palladian architecture. Building off of these influences, the 17th-century architects Inigo Jones
Inigo Jones
and Christopher Wren
Christopher Wren
firmly established classicism in England. For the development of classicism from the mid-18th-century onwards, see Neoclassical architecture. In the fine arts[edit]

For Greek art of the 5th century B.C.E., see Classical art in ancient Greece and the Severe style

Italian Renaissance
painting[7] and sculpture are marked by their renewal of classical forms, motifs and subjects. In the 15th century Leon Battista Alberti
Leon Battista Alberti
was important in theorizing many of the ideas for painting that came to a fully realised product with Raphael's School of Athens during the High Renaissance. The themes continued largely unbroken into the 17th century, when artists such as Nicolas Poussin and Charles Le Brun
Charles Le Brun
represented of the more rigid classicism. Like Italian classicizing ideas in the 15th and 16th centuries, it spread through Europe
in the mid to late 17th century. Later classicism in painting and sculpture from the mid-18th and 19th centuries is generally referred to as Neoclassicism. Political philosophy[edit] See also: Classical republicanism See also[edit]

Classical tradition Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns Weimar Classicism


^ Clark, The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form 1956:242 ^ Walters, Kerry (September 2011). "JOURNAL ARTICLE Review". Church History. 80: 691–693 – via JSTOR.  ^ Johnson, James William (1969). "What Was Neo-Classicism?". Journal of British Studies. 9: 49–70 – via JSTOR.  ^ Bakogianni, Anastasia (2012). " Theatre
of the Condemned. Classical Tragedy
on Greek Prison Islands by G. VAN STEEN". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. 132: 294–296 – via JSTOR.  ^ "JOURNAL ARTICLE The Pre-Raphaelites". Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum. 10: 62–63. November 1943 – via JSTOR.  ^ Pierce, Robert B. (Spring 1999). "Understanding "The Tempest"". New Literary History. 30: 373–388 – via JSTOR.  ^ Larsen, Michael (March 1978). "Italian Renaissance
by John Hale". Journal of the Royal Society
of Arts. 126: 243–244 – via JSTOR. 

Further reading[edit]

Kallendorf, Craig (2007). A Companion to the Classical Tradition. Blackwell Publishing. Retrieved 2012-05-06.  Essays by various authors on topics related to historical periods, places, and themes. Limited preview online.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Classicist art.

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Abhinavagupta Theodor W. Adorno Leon Battista Alberti Thomas Aquinas Hans Urs von Balthasar Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten Clive Bell Bernard Bosanquet Edward Bullough R. G. Collingwood Ananda Coomaraswamy Arthur Danto John Dewey Denis Diderot Hubert Dreyfus Curt John Ducasse Thierry de Duve Roger Fry Nelson Goodman Clement Greenberg Georg Hegel Martin Heidegger David Hume Immanuel Kant Paul Klee Susanne Langer Theodor Lipps György Lukács Jean-François Lyotard Joseph Margolis Jacques Maritain Thomas Munro Friedrich Nietzsche José Ortega y Gasset Dewitt H. Parker Stephen Pepper David Prall Jacques Rancière Ayn Rand George Lansing Raymond I. A. Richards George Santayana Friedrich Schiller Arthur Schopenhauer Roger Scruton Irving Singer Rabindranath Tagore Giorgio Vasari Morris Weitz Johann Joachim Winckelmann Richard Wollheim more...


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