From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The 19th century (1801–1900) was a period in history marked by the collapse of Old World empires and the coming of the Age of Revolutions. This paved the way for the growing influence of the British Empire, the German Empire and the United States, spurring military conflicts but also advances in science and exploration.
After the defeat of the French Empire and its allies in the Napoleonic Wars, the British Empire became the world's leading power, controlling one quarter of the world's population and one fifth of the total land area. It enforced a Pax Britannica, encouraged trade, and battled rampant piracy. The 19th century was an era of invention and discovery, with significant developments in the fields of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, electricity, and metallurgy that lay the groundwork for the technological advances of the 20th century The Industrial Revolution began in Europe. The Victorian era was notorious for the employment of young children in factories and mines.
Advances in medicine and the understanding of human anatomy and disease prevention took place in the 1800s, and were partly responsible for rapidly accelerating population growth in the western world. The introduction of railroads provided the first major advancement in land transportation for centuries, changing the way people lived and obtained goods, and fueling major urbanization movements in countries across the globe.
19th century culture
- Baron Haussmann, civic planner
- Ned Kelly, Australian folk hero, and outlaw
- Fitz Hugh Ludlow, writer and explorer
- Florence Nightingale, nursing pioneer
- Napoleon I, First Consul and Emperor of the French
- Queen Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom
- Karl Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto, promoted change in the labor system of Europe
Show business and theatre
- P. T. Barnum, showman
- Sarah Bernhardt, actress
- Mrs Patrick Campbell, actress
- Anton Chekhov, playwright
- Henrik Ibsen, playwright
- Frédérick Lemaître, actor
- Jenny Lind, opera singer called the Swedish Nightingale
- Céleste Mogador, dancer
- Lola Montez, exotic dancer
- George Bernard Shaw, playwright
Anthropology, archaeology, scholars
Journalists, missionaries, explorers
- Richard Francis Burton, explorer
- Meriwether Lewis, explorer
- Thomas Nast, journalist, caricaturist and editorial cartoonist
- Robert Peary, explorer
- Ottomar Anschütz, chronophotographer
- Mathew Brady, documented the American Civil War
- Edward S. Curtis, documented the American West notably Native Americans
- Louis Daguerre, inventor of daguerreotype process of photography, chemist
- Thomas Eakins, pioneer motion photographer
- George Eastman, inventor of the roll of film
- Hércules Florence, pioneer inventor of photography
- Auguste and Louis Lumière, pioneer filmmakers, inventors
- Étienne-Jules Marey, pioneer motion photographer, chronophotographer
- Eadweard Muybridge, pioneer motion photographer, chronophotographer
- Nadar aka Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, portrait photographer
- Nicéphore Niépce, pioneer inventor of photography
- Louis Le Prince, motion picture inventor and pioneer filmmaker
- William Fox Talbot, inventor of the negative / positive photographic process.
Visual artists, painters, sculptors
After Rococo there arose in the late 18th century, in architecture, and then in painting severe neo-classicism, best represented by such artists as David and his heir Ingres. Ingres' work already contains much of the sensuality, but none of the spontaneity, that was to characterize Romanticism.
This movement turned its attention toward landscape and nature as well as the human figure and the supremacy of natural order above mankind's will. There is a pantheist philosophy (see Spinoza and Hegel) within this conception that opposes Enlightenment ideals by seeing mankind's destiny in a more tragic or pessimistic light. The idea that human beings are not above the forces of Nature is in contradiction to Ancient Greek and Renaissance ideals where mankind was above all things and owned his fate. This thinking led romantic artists to depict the sublime, ruined churches, shipwrecks, massacres and madness.
Romantic painters turned landscape painting into a major genre, considered until then as a minor genre or as a decorative background for figure compositions. Some of the major painters of this period are Eugene Delacroix, Théodore Géricault, J. M. W. Turner, Caspar David Friedrich and John Constable. Francisco de Goya's late work demonstrates the Romantic interest in the irrational, while the work of Arnold Böcklin evokes mystery and the paintings of Aesthetic movement artist James McNeill Whistler evoke both sophistication and decadence. In the United States the Romantic tradition of landscape painting was known as the Hudson River School. Important painters of that school include Thomas Cole.
The leading Barbizon School painter Camille Corot painted in both a romantic and a realistic vein; his work prefigures Impressionism, as does the paintings of Eugène Boudin who was one of the first French landscape painters to paint outdoors. Boudin was also an important influence on the young Claude Monet, whom in 1857 he introduced to Plein air painting. A major force in the turn towards Realism at mid-century was Gustave Courbet. In the latter third of the century Impressionists like Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, and Edgar Degas worked in a more direct approach than had previously been exhibited publicly. They eschewed allegory and narrative in favor of individualized responses to the modern world, sometimes painted with little or no preparatory study, relying on deftness of drawing and a highly chromatic pallette. Manet, Degas, Renoir, Morisot, and Cassatt concentrated primarily on the human subject. Both Manet and Degas reinterpreted classical figurative canons within contemporary situations; in Manet's case the re-imaginings met with hostile public reception. Renoir, Morisot, and Cassatt turned to domestic life for inspiration, with Renoir focusing on the female nude. Monet, Pissarro, and Sisley used the landscape as their primary motif, the transience of light and weather playing a major role in their work. While Sisley most closely adhered to the original principals of the impressionist perception of the landscape, Monet sought challenges in increasingly chromatic and changeable conditions, culminating in series of monumental works, and Pissarro adopted some of the experiments of Post-Impressionism. Slightly younger Post-Impressionists like Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Georges Seurat, along with Paul Cezanne led art to the edge of modernism; for Gauguin impressionism gave way to a personal symbolism; Seurat transformed impressionism's broken color into a scientific optical study, structured on frieze-like compositions; Van Gogh's turbulent method of paint application, coupled with a sonorous use of color, predicted Expressionism and Fauvism, and Cezanne, desiring to unite classical composition with a revolutionary abstraction of natural forms, would come to be seen as a precursor of 20th century art.
The spell of Impressionism was felt throughout the world, and nowhere more profoundly than in the United States, where it became integral to the painting of American Impressionists such as Childe Hassam, John Twachtman, and Theodore Robinson. It also exerted influence on painters who were not primarily impressionistic in theory, like the portrait and landscape painter John Singer Sargent. At the same time in America there existed a native and nearly insular realism, as richly embodied in the figurative work of Thomas Eakins and the landscapes and seascapes of Winslow Homer, both of whose paintings were deeply invested in the solidity of natural forms. The visionary landscape, a motive largely dependent on the ambiguity of the nocturne, found its advocates in Albert Pinkham Ryder and Ralph Blakelock.
Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Academism and Realism
As time passed, many artists were repulsed by the ornate grandeur of these styles and sought to revert to the earlier, simpler art of the Renaissance, creating Neoclassicism. Neoclassicism was the artistic component of the intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment, which was similarly idealistic. Ingres, Canova, and Jacques-Louis David are among the best-known neoclassicists.
Just as Mannerism rejected Classicism, so did Romanticism reject the ideas of the Enlightenment and the aesthetic of the Neoclassicists. Romantic art focused on the use of color and motion in order to portray emotion, but like classicism used Greek and Roman mythology and tradition as an important source of symbolism. Another important aspect of Romanticism was its emphasis on nature and portraying the power and beauty of the natural world. Romanticism was also a large literary movement, especially in poetry. Among the greatest Romantic artists were Eugène Delacroix, Francisco Goya, J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, Caspar David Friedrich, Thomas Cole, and William Blake.
Most artists attempted to take a centrist approach which adopted different features of Neoclassicist and Romanticist styles, in order to synthesize them. The different attempts took place within the French Academy, and collectively are called Academic art. Adolphe William Bouguereau is considered a chief example of this stream of art.
In the early 19th century the face of Europe, however, became radically altered by industrialization. Poverty, squalor, and desperation were to be the fate of the new working class created by the "revolution." In response to these changes going on in society, the movement of Realism emerged. Realism sought to accurately portray the conditions and hardships of the poor in the hopes of changing society. In contrast with Romanticism, which was essentially optimistic about mankind, Realism offered a stark vision of poverty and despair. Similarly, while Romanticism glorified nature, Realism portrayed life in the depths of an urban wasteland. Like Romanticism, Realism was a literary as well as an artistic movement. The great Realist painters include Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin, Gustave Courbet, Jean-François Millet, Camille Corot, Honoré Daumier, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas (both considered as Impressionists), and Thomas Eakins, among others.
The response of architecture to industrialisation, in stark contrast to the other arts, was to veer towards historicism. Although the railway stations built during this period are often considered the truest reflections of its spirit – they are sometimes called "the cathedrals of the age" – the main movements in architecture during the Industrial Age were revivals of styles from the distant past, such as the Gothic Revival. Related movements were the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who attempted to return art to its state of "purity" prior to Raphael, and the Arts and Crafts Movement, which reacted against the impersonality of mass-produced goods and advocated a return to medieval craftsmanship.
Toward the end of the 19th century, painters and critics began to rebel against the many rules of the Académie française, including the preference for history painting. New artistic movements included the Realists and Impressionists, which each sought to depict the present moment and daily life as observed by the eye, and unattatched from historical significance; the Realists often choosing genre painting and still-life, while the Impressionists would most often focus on landscapes. The history painting gained less favor through the vogue in Europe for Japanese culture and art, in the form of Japonism—in Japan significant importance was placed upon items such as laquerware and porcelain.
Sonata form matured during the Classical era to become the primary form of instrumental compositions throughout the 19th century. Much of the music from the nineteenth century was referred to as being in the Romantic style. Many great composers lived through this era such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Frédéric Chopin, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Richard Wagner.
The history of literacy goes back several thousand years, but before the industrial revolution finally made cheap paper and cheap books available to all classes in industrialized countries in the mid-nineteenth century, only a small percentage of the population in these countries were literate. Up until that point, materials associated with literacy were prohibitively expensive for people other than wealthy individuals and institutions.
The new century opens with romanticism, a movement that spread throughout Europe in reaction to 18th-century rationalism, and it develops more or less along the lines of the Industrial Revolution, with a design to react against the dramatic changes wrought on nature by the steam engine and the railway. William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge are considered the initiators of the new school in England, while in the continent the German Sturm und Drang spreads its influence as far as Italy and Spain.
The Goncourts and Emile Zola in France and Giovanni Verga in Italy produce some of the finest naturalist novels. Italian naturalist novels are especially important in that they give a social map of the new unified Italy to a people that until then had been scarcely aware of its ethnic and cultural diversity. On February 21, 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published the Communist Manifesto.
There was a huge literary output during the 19th century. Some of the most famous writers included the Russians Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov and Fyodor Dostoevsky; the English Charles Dickens, John Keats, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Jane Austen; the Scottish Sir Walter Scott; the Irish Oscar Wilde; the Americans Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Mark Twain; and the French Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, Jules Verne and Charles Baudelaire.
The 19th century was perhaps the most literary of all centuries, because not only were the forms of novel, short story and magazine serial all in existence side-by-side with theatre and opera, but since film, radio and television did not yet exist, the popularity of the written word and its direct enactment were at their height. Major trends included Romanticism, the Decadent movement, Naturalism, Realism and Symbolist literature.
On the democratization of literature, Resa L. Dudovitz notes:
- "By the mid-nineteenth century cheaper editions and improved access to reading material through subscriptions and in France, through reading rooms, pushed sales of a popular novel as high as 10,000 copies. Although critics continued to function as the arbiters of taste, the critical elite could no longer claim literature to be their exclusive property."
In Britain, the 19th century is dominated by the Victorian era, characterized by Romanticism, with Romantic poets such as William Wordsworth, Lord Byron or Samuel Taylor Coleridge and genres such as the gothic novel and the fashionable novel.
In the later 19th century, Romanticism is countered by Realism and Naturalism. The late 19th century, known as the Belle Époque, with its Fin de siècle retrospectively appeared as a "golden age" of European culture, cut short by the outbreak of World War I in 1914.
The 19th century saw the birth of science as a profession; the term scientist was coined in 1833. Among the most influential ideas of the 19th century were those of Charles Darwin, who in 1859 published the book The Origin of Species, which introduced the idea of evolution by natural selection. Louis Pasteur made the first vaccine against rabies. Thomas Alva Edison gave the world a practical everyday lightbulb.
The 19th century was scandalized when Naturalist Darwin implied that humans were descendant from primates, much as in the 20th century when Freud would imply that all of human behaviour was motivated by sexual urges.
Philosophy and religion
In the 18th century the philosophies of The Enlightenment began to have a dramatic effect, the landmark works of philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau influencing a new generation of thinkers. In the late 18th century a movement known as Romanticism sought to combine the formal rationality of the past, with a greater and more immediate emotional and organic sense of the world. Key ideas that sparked this change were evolution, as postulated by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Erasmus Darwin, and Charles Darwin and what might now be called emergent order, such as the free market of Adam Smith. Pressures for egalitarianism, and more rapid change culminated in a period of revolution and turbulence that would see philosophy change as well.
Existentialism as a philosophical movement is properly a 20th-century movement, but its major antecedents, Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche wrote long before the rise of existentialism. In the 1840s, academic philosophy in Europe, following Hegel, was almost completely divorced from the concerns of individual human life, in favour of pursuing abstract metaphysical systems. Kierkegaard sought to reintroduce to philosophy, in the spirit of Socrates: subjectivity, commitment, faith, and passion, all of which are a part of the human condition.
Like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche saw the moral values of 19th-century Europe disintegrating into nihilism (Kierkegaard called it the levelling process). Nietzsche attempted to undermine traditional moral values by exposing its foundations. To that end, he distinguished between master and slave moralities, and claimed that man must turn from the meekness and humility of Europe's slave-morality.
Both philosophers are precursors to existentialism, among other ideas, for their importance on the "great man" against the age. Kierkegaard wrote of 19th-century Europe, "Each age has its own characteristic depravity. Ours is perhaps not pleasure or indulgence or sensuality, but rather a dissolute pantheistic contempt for the individual man."
- Industrial revolution
- European Imperialism
- British Regency, Victorian era (UK, British Empire)
- Bourbon Restoration, July Monarchy, French Second Republic, Second French Empire, French Third Republic (France)
- Belle Époque (Europe)
- Edo period, Meiji period (Japan)
- Qing Dynasty (China)
- Tanzimat, First Constitutional Era (Ottoman Empire)
- Russian Empire
- American Manifest Destiny, The Gilded Age
- History of subcultures in the 19th century
- 19th century in literature
- 19th century art
- 19th century erotica
- 19th century in film
- 19th century in games
- 19th-century philosophy
- Belle Époque
- Capitalism in the nineteenth century
- France in the nineteenth century
- Mid-nineteenth century Spain
- Nineteenth century theatre
- Russian history, 1855–1892
- Victorian Era
- Political events of the 19th century