Written by One Kriviciute
In the second half of 18th century Europe a huge discovery, of ancient Greek and Roman archaeological sites, were found. It was one of the most influential phenomena that led people to turn to classical art again, and thus a new style of art was born. When the renaissance and classical Greek and Roman art got mixed up – it was the birth of Neoclassical art. Neoclassical artists would look back to the classical style of art, architecture, and culture. Neoclassicism artists sought the simplicity, symmetry, and idealism of works from the Greek and Roman era.
However, the emergence of Neoclassicism was not only stimulated by archaeological discoveries, one of the influencers was German art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann. Winckelmann wrote about the ancient art of the Greek and Roman era. Winkelmann’s writings encouraged popular taste toward classical art, which has influenced not only painting and sculpture but also literature and even philosophy. One of his most important achievements was the classification of the periods of art, therefore many calls him the father of the discipline of art history.
Johann Joachim Winckelmann was a huge influence on the rise of the Neoclassical movement during the late 18th century. His written works made him a European celebrity. He returned society to the thinking of primitive art as Classicism and made it the source of the basis of art. Winckelmann as well-turned art into a scientific resource to study the Ancient Greeks and other civilizations. He took advantage of the finest Classical sculptures and fragments that he believed were representative objects to study ancient civilizations. Winckelmann’s written books awakened public interest in ancient philosophers, their theories, thoughts, to their knowledge of everyday life through their eyes. Fascinated by such a life, the public adopted Classicism’s core principles and expanded them in their work. It influenced writers, artists, architects, and philosophers, and people turned back to their original nature, to the beauty of Classicism.
Neoclassicism swept across Europe, confusing cultural life. By changing the perception of beauty, Neoclassicism has brought new winds to the art world, not only works of art began to change, but also literature, music, and architecture. People’s environment was changing.
During that time one of the main cultural centres became Vienna. It became the artistic and cultural epicentre of Europe. At the beginning of the 20th century, Vienna was a blooming centre of arts, where such artists as Mozart, and Beethoven gathered.
The music created by the great composers has become a symbol of Vienna and what has now made Classical music and Vienna synonymous. Vienna was the center of attraction for the creation of Neoclassicism, therefore, even now when walking in Vienna, one’s head keeps turning to the impressive masterpieces of Neoclassical architecture.
One of the most outstanding works of that era, which perfectly represents Neoclassicism in Vienna, is the funeral monument for Maria Christina of Saxony located in the Augustine Church, which was the Imperial Church attached to the Hofburg Palace. The marble monument is dedicated to Archduchess Maria Christina. It was requested by her husband, Prince Albert of Saxony. This marble masterpiece was created by Antonio Canova, an Italian sculptor, and pioneer of classicism in European sculpture, one of the most prominent representatives of classicist sculptures. During his lifetime he was named the most famous European sculptor. He created sculptures based on antique themes, the style was inspired by the discovery of ancient remains in Pompeii and other archaeological sites. He, like Winckelmann, was interested in ancient art, and its depiction of beauty. Antonio Canova’s work is dominated by the influence of antique sculpture: naked figures covered with draperies, well- defined muscles. The men in the sculpture are depicted with strength and heroism, while the women are represented graceful with gentle movements.
In the funeral monument for Maria Christina of Saxony, the slow movement of a funeral can be seen, the weight of the pain of loss is placed on those walking toward the rock. Full-size mourners slowly climb the three stairs to the darkened entrance into the unknown, it’s their farewell before they part into the unknown. Construction work on the monument was carried out in several stages over seven years. A great white pyramid opens in the centre by a dark opening, it’s like a gate between this world and another. Antonio Canova created a great masterpiece, interweaving themes of both pain and beauty, you can look at this work in two ways, you can admire it, but at the same time, you can see the sad side. This artwork is filled with simplicity, majesty, harmony, clear proportions of the body, and complete harmony, which perfectly reflects the charm of Neoclassicism, and therefore be considered a reflection of that era.
Born at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, Neoclassicism became the new creative trend of European culture based on antiquity and classicism. Turning to our past as humanity, to its fascinating history, changed the way humanity thought about what they lived at that moment. Neoclassicism changed not only the world of art, architecture, and music; it changed people’s way of thinking.