The term Romanticism refers to a humanist movement in Europe that was at first found in literature and philosophy and was later also observable in arts. In order to distinguish themselves from rational enlightenment and as a reaction to the failed French Revolution, artists and writers turned to their own sensitivity and emotions, thus discovering and using a new source of inspiration as of the second half of the 19th century, following writings by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and Denis Diderot.
In fine arts, Classicism, Romanticism, Biedermeier and also Historicism temporally overlap, and it is also difficult to classify the epoch into an early, high and late period, as it is the case in literature, neither is there a consistent romantic style. The period between 1790 and 1830 is usually referred to as Romanticism, but it is already difficult to define an early period: the beginning of early Romanticism in arts somehow coincides with the appearance of Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder's and Ludwig Tieck's "Herzensergießungen eines kunstliebenden Klosterbruders" in fall of 1796. But the two most important early Romanticists Philipp Otto Runge and Caspar David Friedrich worked up until their deaths in 1810 and in 1840 respectively.
It is not a program that unites the different tendencies of Romanticism, but the common rejection of classicist principles. Classicist art with its academic style, the focus on contour and the theoretic approach differs a great deal from the atmospheric and emotional subjects with a focus on light and color, a main characteristic of Romanticist art. Romanticists do not orient themselves on ancient models, as it was predominant in Classicism, but have discovered new sources of inspiration, such as emotionality, mysticism, poetry and the national past.
Romanticist ideas were most obvious in painting, especially in landscapes, as the encounter with nature, the experience of the sublime, caused strong emotions in the observer. Caspar David Friedrich, Friedrich Overbeck and Carl Gustav Carus in German and Joseph Mallord William Turner in England are regarded as the most important landscape painters of Romanticism. The French romanticists on the contrary favored historical images and more dramatic subjects, as works by Théodore Géricault or Eugène Delacroix clearly show. Oriental subjects were also an important source of inspiration for Delacroix.
Other important artists of Romanticism are William Blake, Johann Heinrich Füssli, Franz Pforr and Moritz von Schwind.