What is neoclassicism?


Throughout the 18th century there were a wide variety of movements focused on art and literature, many of which managed to survive until the 19th century. One of these movements was neoclassicism , which was based mainly on philosophical values and aesthetic aspects that came from classical antiquity, many of which were taken as foundations of modernity .


What is neoclassicism?


Neoclassicism was a movement that involved painting , sculpture , architecture and literature that was born in Europe and whose main objective was to safeguard the aesthetic and cultural values of the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome.


Characteristics of neoclassicism

Many were the characteristics that represented this artistic movement, the most important are mentioned below.

  • It was a movement that was based on reason , morals and progress .
  • His main objective was to achieve education and convert society from a moral point of view.
  • The works of art had the function of showing the values necessary to be able to form a society that was more rational, cultured and progressive.
  • He fought against ignorance and lack of culture .
  • He put a lot of value on the past and history .
  • It had a great influence from Greco-Roman art .
  • He gave importance to everything related to reason because he also had the influence of the Enlightenment .
  • It was a movement opposed to Baroque and Rococo .
  • His themes were based on mythology but also on aspects related to everyday life .
  • Their forms were simple and very balanced , they always had a good proportion and symmetry.
  • It was a movement that sought to spread the cult of reason in an organized and methodical way.


This movement had its origins during the 19th century in France , where it became known as classicism . Later, it was spreading throughout America and Europe . It was born as a reaction against the excess of forms and sensuality that had been established during the Baroque and Rococo .


Its historical context begins with the ideas that emerged during the Enlightenment in Europe, a movement that defended knowledge, reason and secularization to increase and promote progress. The important discovery of the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii was an event that increased artists’ interest in Greco-Roman culture . Finally, the Industrial Revolution increased its development as well as the Industrial Revolution that sought freedom , equality and fraternity.

The baroque art was the one who dominated the artistic field, however, by the above factors, critics began to emerge that they considered the baroque and rococo movements were too full, confusing and excessive. This is how neoclassicism was born , a style of art that was against the artistic tradition and that promoted a philosophical and aesthetic revolution .


Many were the themes to which importance was given in neoclassicism. Topics moral , the Greco – Roman history , the French Revolution and especially the Roman mythology were of great importance for the movement.

Neoclassicism in painting

In the field of painting, cold colors were mainly used and perspective was highly valued . Neoclassical artists sought to achieve harmony of colors and purity and for this they were inspired by Greco-Roman art, rationalism and realism. They were looking for a way to balance all colors and also looking for an aesthetic ideal focused on justice and civility .

The outlines were always clear and with excellent definition, the works of art did not have secondary scenes and everything decorative and superfluous was removed from the paintings. The characters they represented did not have emotions or gestures and oil painting and fresco were used mainly .

Neoclassicism in sculpture

In sculpture, this movement had an important influence on the part of the Renaissance , especially in its classical forms. The artists mainly used the natural white color that marble had . They tried to achieve harmony in all shapes, dimensions and proportions and gave special importance to heroes and mythology. All body movements as well as positions were respected and faces always sought to show melancholy and thoughts .

Neoclassicism in architecture

In the field of architecture they were based on classical ideals and on many constructions that had been made during the Renaissance . Its Greco-Roman style was used for the creation of religious or civil constructions. They gave importance to geometric shapes, lines , planes and volumes .

Neoclassicism in literature

In literature, many texts were written that were based on synthesis , clarity of ideas and the search for grammatical perfection . The language they used was quite simple and the themes related to nature , daily activities and mythology . Its writers were inspired by Classical Antiquity and honor, duty and passions. It was a very formal type of literature and genres that made criticism as well as didactic ones predominated.

Neoclassicism in music

In the field of music he arose against the extravagant musical style that had been introduced by baroque music. They were trying to achieve greater balance , better proportion, and more symmetry . Melodic tones were important as well as constant harmony. His rhythms focused on consistency and his style was clear , defined and brilliant . It was during this stage that the symphony and the sonata were born .

Neoclassicism by country


The artists dedicated themselves to analyzing classicism , archeology , tradition and rejected Baroque art first and foremost . Its main area was architecture and it was in Spain where the most important architects of this movement were born who focused on improving the lives of citizens. The sculpture was based on the creation of works that were intended to decorate the city.


The current developed during the second half of the 18th century although it had many problems due to the foreign domination that existed in the area. He also had to face the refusal of the Italian neoclassical architects , however, many important works were achieved.


In France, the movement was born as an inspiration after the archaeological excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii that showed the different types of classical designs and paintings.


It was an important movement that generated a great change at the time, in the way of life of human beings and especially in art , literature , architecture and sculpture . All these changes made possible great advances in the field of science and humanity. Thanks to neoclassicism, it was possible to change the feeling of drama and fatality that previously existed, imposing a more realistic one where human beings could reject what was imposed on them thanks to the use of reason .


Among the main representatives of neoclassicism we mention the following:

  • Leandro Fernández de Moratín
  • Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos
  • Nicolás Fernández de Moratín
  • sir alexander pope
  • Franz Anton von Zauner
  • Angelica Kauffmann
  • Tommaso piroli


Some recognized and important works were the following:


  • The Tivoli Falls – Claude Joseph Vernet
  • Peace and Justice – Pompeo Batoni
  • Villa at Caprarola – Claude Joseph Vernet
  • Porta Portrait of Charles Hanbury Williams – Anton Raphael Mengs
  • A Roman Street with Mount Cavo in the Distance – Joseph-Marie Vien


  • Theseus victorious and Minotaur
  • Venus Victrix
  • Voltaire naked
  • Athamas Fury

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