The 18th century introduced us to the Classical Era. This century created changes and advances to the arts. From The American and French Revolution, The Enlightenment, and the Evolution of Humanism, these movements all had an effect on the arts. While many of these movements had an impact on the arts, there is one element that had a unique effect on more than just the visual arts, morality.
Virtual exhibit of Morality in the Arts of the Classical Era
Presented in this virtual exhibit are two works of visual art, and one work of theater displayed. All the works presented in the exhibit showcase the connection between morality and the arts. An element that supports the connection can be seen in the different art styles that had developed in the 18th century, such as Neoclassicism and Rococo. Another element that is present is a well-known work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that displays morality in an art/literature form.
Oath of the Horatii
The Oath of the Horatii was created by the artist Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) in Rome, the painting now resides in the Louvre Museum, Paris. The painting is considered a history painting which portrays two rival cities, Rome and Alba Longa. An artistic style called “Neoclassicism”, is present in the painting. Neoclassicism contains characteristics such as unemotional, heroic, and serious. I appreciate the context of heroism that is displayed in the painting, as well as the contrast in the light and dark shadows. Another element that I enjoyed is the red cloak that the hero is wearing, as it reminds me of a modern day super-hero. These characteristics helped convey moral narrative, which supports the connection between morality and the arts during the Classical Era.
The artist Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806) created the painting The Swing in 1767, which now resides in the Wallace Collection in London, United Kingdom. The painting was commissioned by French Baron de St. Julien as a portrait of his mistress on a swing, from this information an educated guess as to where this painting originated from would be France. This painting contains the art style “Rococo”. Rococo was an art movement that was present in the 18th century. While the art style used may not reflect an aspect of morals, the context of the painting contains traces of morality. The painting depicts the story of the mistress on the swing being pushed by her husband while her lover is hiding in the bushes. The Swing displays the lack of morality of the aristocracy that is depicted in the painting. I enjoyed exploring the background of the painting, as it is appears dream-like on the canvas. I appreciated the use of color by the artist, as it makes the painting reflect the feel of luxury and passion. From these characteristics, they represent the morality in the art in the 18th century.
Faust is one of the best-known works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) “a literary leader of Germany” which extended over a period of 57 years. Due to Goethe’s connection to Germany, and educated guess as to where this work originated from would be Germany. Faust is rather a dramatic poem than a piece to be performed on a stage. Within Faust, there is a moral doctrine that Goethe presents that can be considered a theme in Faust. This moral doctrine can be examined in the poem when the old scholar Faust had sinned greatly and agreed to become the Devil’s slave. In the end, Faust had died and the Devil had claimed his soul, but the angels brought his soul to heaven because he had traveled toward the light. This displayed the morality context in Faust. I found the work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe entertaining yet, the story is complex in its meaning and context. I found Faust influential in its meaning, as each audience member can take away a different moral lesson every time. This aspect of the Faust allows an individual to draw conclusions to the connection between morality and the arts.
The three presented works of art allow an individual to visualize the connection that morality had toward the arts. Morality had an influence over the arts, as it is displayed in the examples given.