Romantic Vs. Neoclassicism Essay

Main Difference – Neoclassicism vs Romanticism

Neoclassicism and romanticism are often considered to be opposing movements. The main difference between neoclassicism and romanticism is that neoclassicism emphasized on objectivity, order, and restraint whereas romanticism emphasized on imagination and emotion.

This article explores, 

1. What is Neoclassicism?
– Definition, Features, Writers

2. What is Romanticism?
– Definition, Features, Writers

3. What is the difference between Neoclassicism and Romanticism?

What is Neoclassicism

Neoclassicism is a movement in literature that drew inspiration from the classical age. The writers of this period tried to imitate the style of Greeks and Romans. This movement, which was a reaction against the renaissance, lasted from about 1660 and 1798. John Milton, Alexander Pope, Voltaire, John Dryden, Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe are some well-known neoclassic writers. Parody, essays, satire, novels and poetry are some popular genres in this movement.

Neoclassicism was based on classical themes and forms. Structure, restraint, simplicity, decorum, order, logic, and objectivity were the main features of neoclassical literature. These were classical virtues which neoclassical writers admired and attempted to imitate. In his “An Essay on Criticism”, Alexander Pope describes the benefits of order and restraint as follows.

“Tis more to guide than spur the Muse’s Steed;
Restrain his Fury, than provoke his Speed;
The winged Courser, like a gen’rous Horse,
Shows most true Mettle when you check his Course”

This movement can be typically divided into three periods:

  • The Restoration Age (1660 to 1700):  This period marks the British King’s restoration to the throne. It is marked by Classical influence.
  • The Augustan Age (1700 to 1750): The Augustans believed that their period was similar to that of Augustus Ceaser in Rome, which was a period of tranquility and stability. 
  • The Age of Johnson (1750 to 1798): Also called the Age of Transition, this stage was marked by the upcoming Romantic ideals and influence and slow transition from neoclassical ideals to romantic ones. 

Alexander Pope

What is Romanticism

Romanticism is a literary movement that lasted from about 1789 to 1832. This can be described as a reaction against industrial revolution and neo-classicism. The main feature of this movement is its emphasis on imagination, subjectivity, and emotion. William Wordsworth words in his preface to Lyrical ballads describes this emphasis on imagination and emotion as follows:

“For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: and though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man who, being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply.”

William Wordsworth, John Keats, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Walter Scott, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelly, and William Blake are some famous writers in the Romantic Movement. This movement drew inspiration from Medieval and Baroque eras and its main themes were nature, legends, pastoral life, and supernatural elements.

William Wordsworth

Difference Between Neoclassicism and Romanticism


Neoclassicism:Neoclassicism lasted from about 1660 and 1798.

Romanticism: Romanticism lasted from about1789 to 1832.


Neoclassicism:Neoclassicism emphasized on structure, restraint, and objectivity.

Romanticism:Romanticism emphasized on imagination, emotion, and subjectivity.


Neoclassicism:Neoclassicism drew its inspiration from Classical age (Greeks and Romans).

Romanticism:Romanticism drew its inspiration from Medieval and Baroque eras.


Neoclassicism:Greek and Roman history, bravery, restraint, and courage were major themes in neoclassicism.

Romanticism:Nature, legends, and pastoral life were major themes in romanticism.


Neoclassicism:Neoclassical writers used a calm, rational tone.

Romanticism: Romantic writers used a spontaneous, sometimes moody tone.


Neoclassicism:John Milton, Alexander Pope, Voltaire, John Dryden, Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe are some well-known neoclassic writers.

Romanticism:William Wordsworth, John Keats, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Walter Scott, Percy Bysshe Shelley are some well-known writers of this movement.

Image Courtesy:

“Alexander Pope circa 1736″ – Attributed to Jonathan Richardson – Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, online database, Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

“William Wordsworth” – Attributed Margaret Gillies (1803-1887)From en:, uploaded 13:55, 12 October 2002 by Magnus Manske – “Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.” (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

Essay on Neoclassical Art Period vs Romanticism Art Period

1046 WordsSep 9th, 20125 Pages

Neoclassical Art Period Romanticism Art Period RIWT Task 1

Swinford, Beth 8/23/2012

Neoclassical Art Period
The Neoclassical art period overlapped with the 18th century Age of Enlightenment and continued into the early 19th century. Neoclassicism left almost no feature of visual culture untouched. This was regardless of the realistic and hypothetical connections to the classical tradition of Western art. Neoclassicism was viewed as a revolutionary denial of the selfindulgence of the baroque. Neoclassicism’s formal stylistic characteristics had a tendency to copy ancient Greco-Roman art with a prominence on poise, self-control, and grandeur of…show more content…

Artists were known to take public stands, or wrote works with socially or politically influenced subject matter (Melani, 2009). A major Romantic subject was the distinction between artist and middle-class that were regarded as being indifferent to artistic and intellectual achievements and values.

Relationship between the Neoclassical and Romanticism Art Period
The clean and straight lines of the neoclassical style provided a passive palette, chiseled forms, low depth of background and excellent plans or designs. Neoclassical artists strived for the best with meticulously drawn line as well as superbly premeditated plans. They were considered to be a higher-class compared to Romanticisms luring of vivid color and high contrasts. Neoclassical thinking was that better to be solicitous and cautious than to rouse the emotions. Romanticism was quite the opposite by accentuating the emotion, the individual, the illogical, the imaginative, the spontaneous, and even the creative thinking and supernatural in art (Irwin). Romantic artist wanted to define their agendas through logical distinction from the rules of Neoclassicism. The 1800 "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads, the crucial studies of the Schlegel brothers in Germany, the later statements of Victor Hugo in France, and of Hawthorne, Poe, and Whitman in the United States--they self-consciously declared their variances from the previous age declaring freedom from the mechanical "rules" (Melani, 2009). Two major

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