German Romanticism and English Art

William Vaughan

Publicaton Date
May 1979
Standard Number
Yale University Press
308 pages

It has been well known for a long time that the intellectual and artistic influence of the German Romantics in England was far-reaching and profound. The significance of the ‘German Manner’ went beyond questions of taste and style; it involved a confrontation with a whole new attitude toward art, into which not only many English artists but also critics, patrons and art administrators were drawn. 

This original study sets out to investigate and analyse the reactions of English artists in the four decades following the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The period was a critical one; for, despite the brilliant achievements of Turner, Constable and Lawrence, there was a growing uneasiness about the ‘sensuous’ direction taken by the British school as a whole. After years of isolation due to the wars with France, British artists became aware of striking new developments in continental art, culminating in the 1840s when German monumental painting was held up as a model for the competitions for the decoration of the new Houses of Parliament. 

The first part of the book considers the principal areas of artistic contact between the two countries, the radical new developments in the field of aesthetics, and the new range of themes found in German Romanticism. The latter half looks at specific stylistic connections, the impact of German book illustrations and design, the influence of the Munich school on history painting, and the rivalry between English and German artists in the field of religious art.