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Romanticism in the Arts

Romanticism dominated the arts in Europe from the late eighteenth century through the first decade of the twentieth century. The Romantic cult of sensibility prevailed throughout the continent but its influence and effects varied from one art to the next and from nation to nation. German Romanticism may have been the most unified movement in that, while it had many variant strains, it was provided with an intellectual base in philosophy and criticism that, in turn, promoted intensive cross-fertilization among the arts--especially between literature and music. The connections between these two arts were unusually close in nineteenth-century Germany. The early Romantic writers, many of whom were musicians, inspired composers with thematic material, provided poems that were adapted in songs, offered examples of adventurous approaches to structure, and, above all, revered music as the highest form of human expression. Although the connections between Romantic writers and composers are well known, researchers have only begun the investigation of the complex subject of how literature and ideas influenced music.

The word Romantic derives from Romance, the French vernacular that produced the various poems and stories whose type became known as the Roman in German and the romaunt in English. The characteristic emphasis on adventure and imagination in such works led to the adjective "Romantic," meaning "adventurous both in subject matter and in the invention and manner of description." The word "romanticism," however, was not needed until the nineteenth century when the Romantic movement in art and thought took hold. It is difficult to identify the precise moment when the word was first used or when it was first used in reference to music. But it is certain that it "gained universal currency" in Germany with the appearance of E. T. A. Hoffmann's 1813 essay on Beethoven, in which he discussed the composer's Romanticism.


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Romanticism in the Arts. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 03:14, May 28, 2020, from