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The Romantic Rebellion: Romantic Versus Classic Art [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

Sir Kenneth Clark
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd; illustrated edition edition (29 Nov 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0856670103
  • ISBN-13: 978-0601080298
  • ASIN: 0719528577
  • Product Dimensions: 24.6 x 18 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 917,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

During the second half of the eighteenth century, stormy years in Europe's history when the spirit of revolution was rising throughout the continent, a division appeared in all the arts, deeper and more radical than any that had preceded it. Rivalry between 2 schools of painting arose, the Romantic and the Classic

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still groovy after all these years 1 Feb 2013
By Peasant TOP 500 REVIEWER
Ok, most of the pictures are in black and white. Ok, the author has been dead for years. Why could anyone possibly want to read this book today? Because it's not only totally brilliant, it's gobsmackingly well-written and, indeed, as relevant as ever; that's why.

Instead of a rambling introductory essay full of obscure theoretical terms and ideas cribbed from Derrida, we dive straight into the gist. The preface simply tells us, in a few lines, that this is the book of the TV series. Chapter One is titled "David" (ie Jacques-Louis David, painter of "The Death of Marat" and artistic chronicler of the French Revolution) and, using the painter as his example, Clark plunges us into a vivid yet lucidly theoretical explanation of his subject, setting it in the background of the art of the Enlightenment.

Clark is never dry. Without stooping to silly gimmicks or trivialisation, he makes the subject vibrate with interest. The chapter headings follow the format of the original TV series, and each is centred on a key figure (other artists are brought in for comparison and contrast). The artists featured, for anyone who needs to know, are David, Piranesi, Fuseli, Goya, Ingres, Blake, Gericault, Delacroix, Turner, Constable, Millet, Degas and Rodin. Reported speech, personal opinion and colourful anecdote help his argument roll along but the real strength of this book is Clark's unrivalled ability to get across quite subtle and complex artistic analysis in the clearest, most accessible language. Every student of art history should read this book, and it is entirely suitable for school students and the interested lay reader.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About particular painters, not classicism and Romanticism in the abstract 26 May 2013
By Jordan Bell - Published on Amazon.com
This book displays and talks about the work of Blake, Constable, David, Degas, Delacroix, Fuseli, Géricault, Goya, Ingres, Millet, Piranesi, Rodin, and Turner. On the one hand, about half of the space in the book are paintings and drawings, and you could enjoy flipping through the book, seeing images, and reading some commentary on them. On the other hand, you can read the book for the text with the images as examples that make tangible what Clark has to say about the styles of the artists.

Clark does not write abstractly about classicism and Romanticism, rather he presents representative works of the above artists as case studies and says concrete things about them. He gives in passing a few general descriptions of classicism: when talking about Géricault he writes "The godlike calm, the stasis, the restraint of academic classicism were not in his nature", and at the end of the book he says about Romanticism, "To use the body as a means of expressing the anguish of the human soul is no longer a possible enterprise; we do not know how to represent the body and do not believe in the existence of the soul."

In classic art there are timeless scenes where the participants have settled minds. Clark writes that "The classicists believed, in Winckelmann's words, that 'art should aim at noble simplicity and calm grandeur'; the romantics said that art should excite the emotions, and in particular the emotion of fear, which was the source of the sublime." Winckelmann's phrase "noble simplicity and calm grandeur" ["eine edle Einfalt, und eine stille Größe"] is from his Gendaken. It appears in the following context in Fuseli's translation: "The last and most eminent characteristic of the Greek works is a noble simplicity and sedate grandeur in gesture and expression. As the bottom of the sea lies peaceful beneath a foaming surface, a great soul lies sedate beneath the strife of passions in Greek figures." ["Das allgemeine vorzügliche Kennzeichen der griechischen Meisterstücke ist endlich eine edle Einfalt, und eine stille Größe, sowohl in der Stellung als im Ausdrucke. So wie die Tiefe des Meers allezeit ruhig bleibt, die Oberfläche mag noch so wüten, ebenso zeiget der Ausdruck in den Figuren der Griechen bei allen Leidenschaften eine große und gesetzte Seele."]

Clark makes a perceptive comment about Ingres getting ideas for his paintings from Flaxman that I think applies to other fields: "It is a mistake to say (as is often said) that he [Ingres] had no power of imagination, but the central formal ideas which lay almost out of reach at the back of his mind were so obsessive that they restricted free invention. The exact reverse was true of Flaxman; and precisely because he was devoid of a dominating central idea he could pour out inventions. The fact that they were dliuted and descriptive did not make them less valuable to those greater artists who were in need of a precipitant."
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent portrayal of the romantic period! 8 Sep 2010
By jennie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book accompanies the video "The Romantic Rebellion" by Kenneth Clark. Unfortunately the video is not available anywhere and I don't think it can be found on CD or DVD. But the book includes many pictures of the works that Clark describes. I recommend it!
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