Neoclassicism in Art and The Classical Era Composers

We call something classic when its old and good. There is a more specific meaning to classic, when this word started to appear as a French word during the 1600’s, classic didn’t just mean something vintage or classy. Classic was a used to described things related to the culture of Greece and Rome.

At various points in Western history, people have looked back to the Ancient Roman and Greek civilization to inspire the art of their own time. One of those times were music’s classical period. This was a part of music history that lasted from the mid-18th century to the early 19th century. During this period music was not the only art form to give inspiration. Neoclassicism which means new classicism came about. Painters, sculptors, and architects were also finding inspiration in the forms and subjects of Greco and Roman culture. There were many similarities between art and music in the classical era. Ancient Greek sculptors depicted mostly nude statues. Did it depict sexuality in the arts. Find out more about your sexual orientation by answering this simple quiz:

Similarities between Neoclassical artists and Classical era composers

Neoclassicism was a reaction against something. During this time, they used a popular style called Rococo. This was first introduced in France then spread to other parts in Europe. Rococo style was all about soft, pastel colors, curving shapes and subjects that were entertaining and sensual rather than serious. In the mid-18th century French artists were getting tired of this style. French artist started to consider it frivolous. This opinion had a lot to do with the enlightenment, a philosophical movement that started in France around the same time. Enlightenment thinkers believe that rationalism could lead to a moral and just society and neoclassicism artist believe in this as well.

Neoclassical painters found inspiration in the Art of Ancient Greece and Rome. They strongly felt that Greek and Roman art supported moral values like courage and patriotism. And they felt it was their duty to communicate these values too. One famous painting during this time was The Oath of the Horatii painted by Jacques-Louis David. It depicts a scene from the Roman history. The three Horatii brothers depicted in the painting are promising to risk their lives in the battle to defend their country while their families weep. These paintings strongly show patriotism, bravery and sacrifice. Realism was valued in the ancient Roman art and neoclassicism artist also borrowed this idea. To neoclassicism artists, realism and symmetry which they adopted in the Roman and Greek culture were rational and accurate ways to communicate moral values in the art.

While Neoclassical artists were busy imitating the values they saw in the Ancient Greek and Roman culture, Classical era composers were also composing rational ideas into their music. Just as realism and symmetry were important to neoclassicism artists, classical era composers organized their music into orderly forms making use of repetition and contrast.  Classical era music also found inspiration in the moral messages in the story of antiquity. One good example of this kind of music is Idomeneo by Wolfgang Mozart.  It was inspired by Greek mythology which talks about sacrifice and national welfare before any other things. This was very familiar to the values of Neoclassical painters.