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Loving Classical Art (Before It Was Cool)

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We all miss the old days, and this fact has no exceptions. This longing is the reason we throw 90’s parties. I for one wonder what happened to the music in last 20 years that brought us from perfect music like REM and Pearl Jam to some awkward noise like Justin Bieber. In fact, such confusion and admiration for the past that people experience these days resemble the feelings of the people and the artists in the 18th century, including artists like Jean-Marc Nattier who painted Terpsichore, the Muse of Music and Dance (1739), and Sir Joshua Reynolds who painted Lady Sarah Bunbury Sacrificing to the Graces (1765).

Comparing these two paintings mentioned, one would first notice that the paintings belong to different art periods, namely Rococo and Neoclassicism. Labeling and categorizing things usually end up being disadvantageous, and considering these two paintings independent from each other would be a severe misconception caused by labeling. “Neoclassicism” is the term that describes works of art that draws inspiration from the classical art: Ancient Greek and Roman art , yet by comparing these paintings, it will become clear that neoclassical paintings’ distinctive quality is not being influenced by classical art, but having a moral message. The term of “Neoclassicism” was not the best choice for describing this genre of paintings. We will also see the roots of nostalgic paintings, romantic art and neoclassical art in Rococo period.

Jean-Marc Nattier (March 17, 1685 – November 7, 1766) was a French painter born in Paris. He received his first instructions from his father who was a portrait painter, and from his uncle who was a history painter. Nattier aspired to be a history painter; however, his career in history paintings h...

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...r reference to classical art; however, examples show that this is not the case. What separates so-called neoclassical art from other types of art is its focus in morality. “Virtus” is Latin for virtue and moral excellence , and the word itself summarizes the neoclassical art: moral excellence portrayed through classical elements. In that sense, we should call Neoclassical period as the “Virtus” era, because many other (hipster) artists loved classical art, before it was cool.

Works Cited

1. “Neoclassicism.” Wikipedia. Web. 6 Nov. 2011.

2. Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Nattier, Jean Marc". Encyclopædia Britannica (11thed.).

3. “Therpsicore.” Oxford Dictionary. Web. 6 Nov. 2011.

4. “Joshua Reynold.” Wikipedia. Web. 6 Nov. 2011

5. Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History Third Edition. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008. Print.

6. “Virtue.” Wiktionary. Web. 8 Nov. 2011
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