With all the political turmoil around the turn of the century, the romantics were intoxicated with the ideas of freedom and idealism. However, they also realized that a sort of social emancipation also came with a sense of responsibility for these new roles, so artists also found grappling between concepts of “art for art’s sake” and “art for the people.”25 Goethe managed to reconcile these tensions when saying  “One cannot escape the world more certainly through art, and one cannot bind oneself to it more certainly than through art.”26 While many artists reverted to fantasy in this time period, others pointed to their current events, expressing their concerns for humanity.


Liberty Leading the People (Figure 7) by Eugène Delacroix is the quintessential image representing the spirit of the time. Our attention is drawn to Liberty, as she motivates the multitude to continue their fight against the Bourbon monarch. As our eyes make their way down from Liberty’s raised arm waving the French republic’s flag, we see that violence of revolution in the middle ground from both the upper classes and lower classes, and the results of this chaos in foreground. This painting is charged with emotionalism created by the colors, action, and smoke enveloping Paris.In the musical repertoire, the obvious example (the one most alluded to) of this idealistic vision of freedom and brotherhood, is the setting of Friedrich Schiller’s (1788-1805) “Ode to Joy” (Figure 9) by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) in his 9th Symphony. In doing so, he stretched the limits of the genre and introduced a choir for the first time, creating one of the most “triumphal and joyful” moments in musical history.27 


In his Slave Ship (Figure 8), William Turner (1775-1851) takes a critical stance on slavery by depicting a dreadful event that occurred 60 years prior, when slaves were thrown overboard for remunerative reasons. Turner’s wild brushstrokes and intense use of color reveals the power of nature, as the hands and shackles of the slaves almost imperceptibly protrude through the waves. Many of the paintings by Turner and other romantic artists turn to the sublime and transcendental in nature. Casper David Friedrich (1774-1840) is one who was known for showing that kind of spirituality in his works. In his painting Monk by the Sea (Figure 5), he places a monk in front of an expansive and almost abstract sea and sky, creating an overwhelming feeling of vastness through nature. Friedrich could have placed any figure at the brink of the sea, but he specifically chose that figure to be a monk, which adds to that sense of mystery and spirituality. Unlike Turner, who painted “sublime dramas of nature as a maelstrom of change,” John Constable (1776-1837) focused on showing the idyllic life in the countryside.28 This was his way of escaping the increasing mechanization and industrialization of society. As seen throughout the chapter, every artist expressed Romanticism in a way that was appropriate for them because of their background and experience. 


























































        25   Goehr, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works, 211.

        26   Ibid., 211.

        27   Geoffrey Hindley, The Larousse Encyclopedia of Music (London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, 1977), 265.

        28   Heath and Boreham, Romanticism: A graphic Guide, 99.

Freude, schöner Götterfunken, 

Tochter aus Elysium,

Wir betreten feuertrunken, 

Himmlische, dein Heiligtum. 

Deine Zauber binden wieder, 

Was die Mode streng geteilt; 

Alle Menschen werden Brüder, 

Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.

Seid umschlungen, Millionen! 

Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt! 

Brüder, überm Sternenzelt 

Muss ein guter Vater wohnen.


Freude trinken alle Wesen

An den Brüsten der Natur,

Alle Guten, alle Bösen

Folgen ihrer Rosenspur.

Küsse gab sie uns und Reben, 

Einen Freund, geprüft im Tod; 

Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben 

Und der Cherub steht vor Gott.

Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen? 

Ahnest du den Schöpfer, Welt? 

Such ihn überm Sternenzelt! 

Über Sternen muss er wohnen.






Friedrich Schiller

Ode to Joy (1815)

Joy, fair divine spark,

daughter of Elysium,

we enter your sanctuary, 

heavenly one, drunk with ardour. 

Your magic will reunite

what custom has harshly severed. 

All men become brothers

where your gentle wings hover.

Be embraced, ye millions!

This kiss is for the whole world! 

Brothers, above the starry vaults 

a good father must dwell.


All creatures drink joy

from nature’s breasts;

all men, good and evil,

follow her rosy trail.

She gave us kisses, and the vine, 

and a friend, tried in death.

Lust was granted to the worm 

and the cherub stands before God.

Ye millions, do you bow down? 

World, do you sense your creator? 

Seek him beyond the starry vaults! 

He must dwell above the stars.






                             The Romantic type of poetry is still becoming; indeed, its peculiar essenceis that it is

                             always becoming and that it can never be completed. It cannot be  exhausted by any

                             theory, and only a divinatory criticism might dare to characterize its ideal. It alone is 

                             infinite  as it alone is free; and as its first law it recognized that the arbitrariness of 

                             the poet endures no law above him.”  



                                                                                                        - Friedrich von Schlegel from “Atheneum Fragment 116”





Eugène Delacroix

Liberty Leading the People (1830)


William Turner

Slave Ship (1840)