Enlightenment Movement Spurred by the American and French Revolutions


Spurred by the American and French Revolutions, enlightenment was an era of new and modern forms of thought and expression. The driving force behind this movement was the ideal that, “human affairs ought to be ruled by reason and the common good, rather than by tradition and established authority.” (Janson & Janson, 2004, p. 672). As a result of adopting this new philosophy, followers of the enlightenment movement rejected styles that exhaulted the ornate and the aristocratic dimensions of the Rococo style. Instead, these elements were replaced by a new focus on nature, reason, and morality. These enlightenment elements were applied not only to the arts, but to society itself, which stands to reason, as this period was a period of settlement of new territories that took much of the people’s time and efforts just to fulfill their basic needs for survival. Art was a secondary luxury that was afforded to few in the early days of settlement, but which took a more prominent role in American and European life as the era proceeded.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½


Chardin was a French still life painter who revitalized this genre in the 1700s. His hierarchical position as the best French still life painter in not vested in only the masterfulness, and beauty of his work, but also in the composition of his pieces that add another dimension to his work, one of morality, social order, and virtues. (Janson & Janson, 2004, p. 629). Back from the Market and Kitchen Still Life, demonstrate the order and values of a middle class life. It uses spatial order, item selection, and simplicity to highlight the beauties that can be found in everyday life. The simplicity of meeting basic needs of food, clothing and shelter are often the subjects to his still life’s, and these basic themes are what gives Chardin’s works their power and popularity among common people of the day.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½


Hogarth was one of the earliest English painters to have a significant impact in the art world since the Middle Ages. His style emerged as original and revolutionary, although it had been partially been developed through his exposure to Venetian and French art. His style was self-proclaimed as “modern moral subjectsâÂ?¦similar to representations o the stage.” (Janson & Janson, 2004, pp. 630-631). His pieces like The Beggar’s Opera, The Orgy, and The Rake’s Progress use a vulgar display of the social, political, and moral corruption of the mid 1700s in England. The intensity and complexity of his works were created by the incorporation of many “players” acting out their personal stories and tales of corruption within one stage setting.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Diderot (1713-1784)

Diderot was originally a philosopher and encyclopedist, however in the mid eighteenth century he expanded his contributions to society by exploring the world of playwrights. His addition to the theatrical world was the culmination of “domestic tragedy and the comedy of virtue” (Janson & Janson, 2004, p. 683) with the already excepted genres of the day. This was accomplished through his “sentimental plays” (p. 683) The Illegitimate Son and The Father of a Family.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½


Voltaire was the French embodiment of the Age of Enlightenment. He not only pursued careers in the liberal arts, he was also an activist for personal freedom from tyrannical rulers and bigotry. (http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/voltaire.htm). His political and literary writing were often used to portray the corruption of the day, especially focusing on the aristocracy and ruling class of Europe. He traveled extensively throughout Europe during his life, speaking with artists and religious people, debating issues, and inspiring motivation for reform and the betterment of society. It was because of his personable and dynamic personality in combination with his amazing skill and talents as a writer that made him an international icon amongst artists and intellectuals.�¯�¿�½


Greuze was a French painter and anti-Rococoian. His works were conceptualized as a staged play. The subjects were arranged in their setting to portray the action of the scene. In his piece The Village Bride (Janson & Janson, 2004, p. 673), Greuze mirrors his symbolic play in both a baby chic leaving the protection of the mother hen and the brood to sit by itself on a saucer, and the bride’s leaving the safety of her family and virgin life to be join another family in wedlock. The importance of Greuze’s work lies in his portrayals of real life, while still maintaining morality and virtuosity above decoration and visual pleasantries.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½


Anonymous. (2004). “Voltaire.” Retrieved 04.18.05 from http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/voltaire.htmÃ?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Janson, H.W. & Janson, Anthony F. (2004). History of Art: The Western Tradition. (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson-Prentice Hall.

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