These are the 12 most famous Romantic paintings from art history.
The Fighting Téméraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up by J. M. W. Turner (1839)
JMW Turner was an English painter and watercolorist, best known for imaginative landscapes and marine paintings. This oil on canvas painting, often shortened in title to simple The Fighting Téméraire, is one of the most famous romantic paintings and depicts one of the ships that played a role in the Battle of Trafalgar, which was a naval engagement between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the Spanish and French navies. The beauty of the old ship is depicted in contrast with the dirty blackened tugboat with its smokestack.
Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich (1818)
This painting, by Caspar David Friedrich, is today one of his most famous paintings. He was a German romantic painter of landscapes who is considered to be one of the most important painters of his generation. He depicted mid-period allegorical landscapes that feature contemporary silhouette figures, such as in this painting. It depicts a man standing upon a rock with his back turned to the viewer. He is gazing out on a foggy landscape through which trees and ridges pierce.
The Morning by Philipp Otto Runge (1808)
Philipp Otto Runge was a German artist and color theorist who is regarded as a leading painter of the German romantic movement. Due to his fascination with colors, and his deeply Christian way of thought, he considered blue, yellow, and red to be symbolic of the Christian trinity. The Morning is one of four paintings in the series called Tageszaiten (Times of Day). This painting corresponded with the season of spring and rebirth.
A Lion Attacking a Horse by George Stubbs (1770)
George Stubbs was an English painter whose main interest was horses, which he depicted most often. The scene in this painting seems unusual, but its origin was explained after the artist’s death. It became known to the public that while Stubbs was on a visit to North Africa, he had witnessed a horse being attacked and killed by a lion. That moment haunted his imagination, and therefore, he developed a new style of animal picture full of Romantic feelings for the violence of nature.
The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse (1888)
John William Waterhouse was an English painter who first worked in the academic, and later worked in the pre-Raphaelite. His works are best known for depicting ancient Greek mythology and Arthurian legend. Therefore, this painting The Lady of Shalott illustrates the lines from the fourth part of Tennyson’s poem bearing the same name. The poem tells of a woman who is suffering under an undisclosed curse and living in an isolated tower on the island of Shallot.
The Death of Chatterton by Henry Wallis (1856)
This painting depicts the 17-year-old English early romantic poet named Thomas Chatterton, who was considered a romantic hero in his time. He is depicted lying dead after he had poisoned himself with arsenic. The artist, Henry Wallis, used a bold color scheme, and the chiaroscuro painting technique, contrasting darker and lighter colors. He was a British pre-Raphaelite painter and collector, whose art was influential.
Decatur Boarding the Tripolitan Gunboat by Dennis Malone Carter (1878)
Dennis Malone Carter was a painter of Irish descent, but he worked in New York until his passing. He painted portraits and historical settings, such as this painting, which depicts a historical scene of confrontation and capture of a boat from Tripoli by the Turks. Stephen Decatur was an American naval officer, who was commissioned by the US government to combat pirate activities in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Course of Empire: The Savage State by Thomas Cole (1836)
Thomas Cole was a true inspiration to the generation of American landscape painters of the Hudson River School which was America’s first artistic fraternity of New York City landscape painters. The Course of Empire is a series of Cole’s five paintings that reflect popular American sentiments of the times when many people say pastoralism (the lifestyle of shepherds) is the ideal phase of human civilization. The Savage State or The Commencement of the Empire is the first painting, depicting a valley from the shore opposite the craig, in the dim light of a stormy day. As the artist stated himself “The scene is supposed to be viewed a few hours after sunrise, and in the early Summer”.
Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix (1830)
Eugène Delacroix was a romantic artist, and the leader of the French Romantic school. He was given to neither sentimentality nor bombast, and his romanticism was of an individualist. Liberty Leading the People, or La Liberté guidant le people in French, commemorates the July revolution of 1830. The woman depicted holding the French flag and a bayonetted musket, is wearing a Phrygian cap, and she is personifying the concept of Liberty. The French flag became a tricolor (blue, white, and red) after these events. Delacroix depicted her, Liberty, as an allegorical goddess-figure and a robust woman of the people.
The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault (1819)
This painting is Théodore Géricault’s most famous work, and it was an icon of French romanticism. It is an over-life-size painting, measuring in 491 by 716 cm (16 ft 1 in by 23 ft 6 in) and it depicts the aftermath of the wreck of the French naval frigate Méduse, which was an armed ship with over 400 passengers. The captain of this ship Hugues Duroy de Chaumareys hadn’t sailed for 20 years and was unequipped. Therefore, Méduse struck a bay in Mauritania, and it all went downhill.
Most of the passengers evacuated with 146 men and 1 woman being forced to take refuge on an improvised raft, but the raft was unfit, and passengers were left in the open ocean. Dozens were washed into the sea by a storm, and others were drunk or killed by officers for rebelling. After 13 days, the destroyed raft was found with only 15 people alive.
The Third of May 1808 by Francisco Goya (1814)
Francisco Goya was a Spanish painter considered to be the most important Spanish artist of the 18th and 19th centuries. El tres de mayo de 1808 is a painting inspired by Spanish resistance to Napoleon’s armies during the 1808 occupation and the Peninsular War (a conflict between Spain, Portugal, and UK, against the First French Empire forces). As this painting has a high political connotation, it was commissioned by the provisional government of Spain, but at Goya’s suggestion.
The Hay Wain by John Constable (1821)
Originally named Landscape: Noon, this landscape painting shows a rural scene in the English countryside. The exact location is the river Stour, between the counties Suffolk and Essex. The painter of The Hay Wain John Constable was of English descent and he was himself born in Suffolk. He is best known for revolutionizing the genre of landscape, and he said, “I should paint my own places best”. Therefore, Constable’s most famous paintings are Wivenhoe Park, Dedham Vale and The Hay Wain. This painting is one of the series of “six-footer” paintings, which were large-scale canvasses that he painted for the exhibitions of the Royal Academy.
What famous Romantic paintings do you think we should add to this list? Comment below.