The Neoclassical art movement began in Europe in the late 1700s and lasted into the early 1800s. The movement was inspired in part by the public interest in ancient artifacts found in the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum a sensational discovery at the time, which galvanized the art world of Europe. Neoclassicism quickly began to challenge and replace the overblown artwork of the baroque and rococo styles. This movement took as canon the classical elements of ancient Greek and Roman art and architecture, building upon this foundation in a controlled manner to create new versions of those aspects and themes. The style included symmetrical lines and proportions in architectural features, flowing robes and draperies on classically posed figures, and incorporated the symbology and meanings of ancient myth and legend. The early neoclassical period, called the Federal period in America, favored rectilinear forms, delicate ornamentation, and showed a fascination with geometry.
[...] He helped to train a generation of artists who would carry on the later Neoclassical and Romantic periods. His style has been typified as generally falling into one of three modes: stately, pathetic, or dread. The stately imagery is that which features elevating ancient themes, grave demeanors and idealized forms, such as the Agrippina. His artwork showing milder sentiments and more relaxed figures, as seen with Christ Healing the Sick, is considered to be within the pathetic mode. Subjects that move the observer to awe or astonishment, like Death on the Pale Horse, are classified as in the dread mode. [...]
[...] Cupid and the goddess make this unmistakably neoclassical; the style of robes, the landscape of a pastoral heavenly domain where deities and cherubs take their leisure, and the story implied in the stung Cupid pose, evoke Greek mythology. Yet there is no specific tale that this painting is a depiction of, and thus it leaves itself open for interpretation. The figures are vibrant and alive, seemingly caught in mid-motion: Cupid, leaping up just after he's stung, the goddess half embracing, half reaching towards him, the cherubs looking on in surprise, their attention just grabbed by the unexpected event, and the dancers, oblivious and lost to their rhythm in the background. [...]
[...] He nevertheless returned frequently to classical tropes, such as his Cupid and Psyche (1821). Ingres, his student, worked in the same vein, but was more engaged with portraiture and neoclassical imagery with oriental as well as classical themes. His work Homer Deified or the Apotheosis of Homer (1827) is typical of this, as is his Odalisque with Slave (1858). Mengs, best known for his influential religious paintings and portraiture, was inspired by the writings of his close personal friend the antiquarian Johann Winckelmann. [...]
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