The Romantic era can be understood as the period which spurred the artistic sensibilities of individuals. By doing away with the established norms of conducting things, people were given a considerable stretch of freedom in expressing their innermost feelings and perceptions of their surrounding world. Not only were individuals granted with full access to their potentials with only their imagination to limit them, the Romantic era also “highlighted a great transformation of the society” (Lenneberg, 1994, p. 619). While individuals exploit the liberty to express their selves to the fullest extent, the various sectors of the society reaped rewarding benefits in various ways. For example, visual artists were not anymore confined by the boundaries set forth by the previous Classical period. Their artistic horizons grew and their artistic boundaries melted down.
In terms of music, it can be said that the virtuosos gained exceptional popularity and social acceptance. Singers, pianists and violinists, for examples, have exceeded the expectations of their audiences during their performances largely because they performed with such great passion and intensity. Part of the reason why the expectations of their audiences were exceeded is the fact that most of the pieces played were challenging, if not extremely difficult to master.
The dawning of the Romantic era spawned a great deal of new art forms which were relatively unknown in earlier times. Symphonic poems and art songs are just some of the new artistic avenues introduced at the height of the Romantic period. It takes little effort to realize that, indeed, the rising of a new period would consequently usher in a new set of artistic forms. On the other hand, the opposite can be also true. That is, the realization of new artistic forms and styles in certain disciplines could also be reasons to the proliferation of the Romantic era.
Experimentation was a key factor in the realization of these new artistic avenues during the Romantic era. It can be said that, as people began to acquire more and more freedom, individuals became more accustomed to the thought and practice of transcending the works of their predecessors. Experimenting with what has already been established during the Classical period could have even been the pastime for most artists. In essence, the relative success of the Romantic era for the artists can be directly linked with the substantial increase in their liberty to practice their craft and master their skills.
With the thought of experimenting, people especially artists of the Romantic era may have been constantly seeking their fantasies and reassuring that these fantasies come to life in their artistic works. Perhaps the artists during the Classical period were strongly delimited by the standards of the society during those times, which is why the manifestation of their fantasies rarely materialized although the waves of artistic fantasies ripple right through the very hearts and minds of these artists.
As an apparent result, artists grew more and more creative in ways unimaginable, at least in the context of the time during the Classical period. The increased abundance of creativity during the Romantic era paved the way for “the self-realization among individuals that not everything can be or should be categorized under the label formal” (Perkins, 1990, p. 131). In many ways, the Romantic period has substantially dissolved the formality of art. As creativity significantly erased the pre-established artistic frames upon which virtuosos showed little to no regard, the following eventually came at a steadily increasing pace, not only popularizing the term ‘Romantic’ but also establishing it as a great movement in the history of mankind.
By the term itself—movement—one is already inclined to assume that the Romantic period is a sort of a period of transition in the development of man. From the formal boundaries to the full realization of humanity’s freedom, the many varied parts of the Romantic period may not have altogether been the end itself during the time. Rather, the Romantic period only served as a time to prepare man for the complete attainment of freedom, at least in terms of artistic freedom.
Prior to the Romantic era, it can be said that the disciplines were formal and constructive of the way in which man should conduct his affairs. Everything was done in a more or less, or even in a precise uniform manner. Perhaps the artists during the Romantic era have found something in the Classical era which they frowned upon. What else could this ‘something’ be than the fact that the Classical era has been predominantly defined by the formal and uniform means of defining what is artistic or socially acceptable from what is not? Of course, the vastness of the Classical period can hardly be altogether defined by a single description precisely because there, too, are many different disciplines during that time. Yet to claim and argue that there is no factual difference between the Classical era and Romantic era is to entirely miss the point.
Nevertheless, it is a hardly debatable thought that the Classical era is an era which can be easily differentiated from the Romantic era and vice versa. Apart from the fact that new art forms were introduced during the Romantic era, there was also the increasing response towards the realization of artistic and intellectual freedom. Lest one becomes confused, one should be reminded that the struggles to break from the coherent and limiting system during the Classical period were not as forceful and widespread as compared to those during the Romantic period. Perhaps there was no existing social stimulus to ignite the sensibilities of people at the height of the Classical period. Perhaps the efforts undertaken during those times were not forceful enough or lacked the momentum to instigate a widespread social change. Nonetheless, the Romantic era has made its significant mark in the history of humanity, and continues to do so even to this day.
Lenneberg, H. (1994). Classic and Romantic: The First Usage of the Terms. The Musical Quarterly, 78(3), 619.
Perkins, D. (1990). The Construction of “The Romantic Movement” as a Literary Classification. Nineteenth-Century Literature, 45(2), 131.