Romanticism – Fantasy meets Reality

From the examples we have been provided, we see different genres of art, both in literature and painting. The constant is how each in a sense relates to life. As Victoria stated in her post, there is an appeal to bringing a more realistic element to fantastical tales, even if they are quite dark and frightening in the case of E.T.A. Hoffman’s “The Sandman.” Hoffman states on page 185 that:

After this I formed in my own mind a horrible picture of the cruel

Just like Nathanael’s mind influenced his idea and portrayal of who the Sand-man was without him even seeing him (up to that point), these artists were influenced by their surroundings into writing what they wrote or painting what they painted. These spins on reality don’t stop with merely a tale of a monster, but continue in making reality seem more majestic than in cases it truly is. We know that 19th century England was definitely not the most beautiful place in history, at least the way it was in the cities and how it is most portrayed and remembered through the lenses of writers like Charles Dickens. However, one would never gather this from Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire. The painting portrays a more elegant end to a historic vessel that took part in one of the most famous naval battles in history, the Battle of Trafalgar. A simple photograph would have likely portrayed the ship as derelict, as the ship was relegated to other tasks quite unfitting for a ship of its era and stature before being towed away for scrap as progress made it obsolete (by a steamship, in a sense representing the modern era). Therefore, a question arises. What is Romanticism’s relationship with the nostalgia of artists from the 19th century? Turner was towards the end of his life when he painted the HMS Temeraire. He lived almost through the end of the Age of Sail, and while progress was being ushered in, it should be not lost on us that a good number of these artists might have been recalling their youth and a fondness for elegance which the modern world had seemingly brought to an end.


Hoffman, E.T.A., The Best Tales of Hoffman. New York: Dover Publications. 1967, 185.

Turner, J.M.W. “The Fighting Temeraire.” This is the last journey of the Fighting Temeraire, a celebrated gunship which had fought valiantly in Lord Nelson’s fleet at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Thirty three years later, decaying and no longer in use, she was towed up the Thames to be broken up in a Rotherhithe shipyard., 1838. The National Gallery. London.

One Reply to “Romanticism – Fantasy meets Reality”

  1. I agree that there appears to be a sense of nostalgia for 19th century romanticism artists; this is a unique view I have not considered before but I believe that it is very true of some of these artists. The Romanticism period is unique because it not only looks back on previous history but in many cases also looks forward to advances, even if many are a bit fanciful and supernatural, such as Mary Shelly’s creature in Frankenstein.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *