In 1800, most of present-day Italy is united as the Cisalpine Republic under French rule, while the Iberian Peninsula, also under the yoke of Napoleon, is torn by war with its occupying forces. After Napoleon’s fall in 1814, earlier political boundaries are largely restored. This results in a wave of Italian nationalism that culminates in the country’s unification in 1861. Various movements in the arts—including revivalist styles that celebrate the Italian artistic legacy and, later, schools of realism—reflect an interest in national identity. The Iberian Peninsula remains a seat of political unrest throughout the period. At the century’s end, however, the Catalan region of Spain emerges as a major center of modernism in literature, the visual arts, and, above all, architecture.
Meanwhile, Russia’s influence in various parts of the Ottoman empire extends to the Balkan Peninsula, where it supports a number of independence movements in the Ottoman provinces of the region. The British also become involved; their plan to weaken the monolithic empire results in the independence of Greece and greater rights for Bulgaria and Serbia, though the latter remain under Ottoman rule.
Neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova (1757–1822) exhibits the lifesize marble Perseus with the Head of Medusa (67.110.1) in the Vatican. It is purchased by Pope Pius VII and placed on a pedestal formerly occupied by the work upon which Perseus is based: the Apollo Belvedere, which Napoleon’s troops took as war booty to France in 1800. The replacement of a masterpiece of classical antiquity with Canova’s “new classic” attests to the artist’s success. Napoleon summons Canova to Paris in the following year.
The Cisalpine Republic, comprising the territories of present-day Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna and ruled by Napoleon I (1769–1821), is renamed the Italian Republic; it is again renamed in 1805, with the addition of Venezia, as the Kingdom of Italy. Napoleon’s stepson Eugène de Beauharnais (1781–1824) rules as viceroy, with a splendid court in Milan, until the emperor’s downfall in 1814. By this time, France has annexed most of present-day Italy—including Savoy, Piedmont, Liguria, Tuscany, Parma, and the Papal States—and a French ruler sits on the throne of Naples. Pre-Napoleonic boundaries are largely reestablished at the Congress of Vienna (1814–15).
Bertel Thorvaldsen (1768/70–1844), a Danish sculptor active in Rome since 1797, produces Jason with the Golden Fleece (1803; Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen); this early work secures the young artist’s fame in Rome, where he remains for most of his long and prolific career. The Jason is executed in a severe style influenced by ancient Greek sculpture, and Thorvaldsen’s entire oeuvre is marked by an emulation of classical ideals in both form and subject matter. With a large studio of assistants, he produces relief sculpture, portrait busts inspired by Imperial Roman models, and memorials such as the tomb of Pius VII at Saint Peter’s in Rome (1824–31).
People of the Ottoman province of Belgrade, long suffering from brutal governors and wars between the Turks and the Austrians, revolt against Ottoman rule. Their leader Djordje Petrovic (Karageorge, 1768?–1817) demands greater autonomy, a fixed tribute, and religious freedom. With Russian backing, his rebel armies win many cities, forming a miniature Serbian province; Belgrade becomes the capital after its capture in 1806. This fledgling state lasts until 1813, when the Ottomans regain control of their province. A second revolt in 1815–17 gains the Serbians further rights, but the struggle continues. Finally, after a war between Russia and the Ottomans, Serbia is named a principality and rebel leader Milos Obrenovic (ca. 1780–1860) is appointed prince in 1833.
Art produced during the reign of Ottoman sultan Mahmud II reflects European influences. The emperor adopts European forms of dress, refurbishes his palaces with furniture of Western design, and commissions the Nusretiye Mosque in the French Empire style. Western techniques of draftsmanship and oil painting flourish, superseding the production of small-scale works for manuscripts and albums. In 1831, Mahmud founds the first Turkish newspaper.
A group of young artists based in Vienna, led by Franz Pforr (1788–1812) and Friedrich Overbeck (1789–1869) and known collectively as the Brotherhood of Saint Luke (Lukasbrüder), travel to Rome and settle in the abandoned monastery of Sant’Isidoro. They adhere to the artistic goals of fidelity to nature and emotional purity, drawing inspiration from late medieval and early Renaissance painting, notably the works of Dürer and Raphael. The artists emulate a monastic lifestyle of poverty and chastity, wearing long cloaks, growing their hair long, and, above all, imbuing their art with a fervent sincerity of emotion and religious faith. This lifestyle, combined with the artists’ spiritual subject matter earns them, around 1817, the pejorative nickname Die Nazarener (the Nazarenes).
The Bourbon monarchy is restored in Spain with the fall of Napoleon. Ferdinand VII (r. 1814–33), an absolutist ruler, revokes the Spanish constitution and launches a reign of terror. Brought before the reinstated Inquisition for his pledge of allegiance to Napoleon, painter Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746–1828) demonstrates his loyalty to the Bourbons in two paintings, The Second of May 1808 and The Third of May 1808 (both Museo del Prado, Madrid), both commemorating Spain’s uprising against the French regime. Goya continues his account of the atrocities of war in a series of eighty-five prints called The Disasters of War (1810–20; published posthumously).
The Greeks push for freedom from Ottoman rule, and also garner Russian support. An initial revolt is put down by Ottoman forces, but once the British intervene in 1827, the Greek war for independence gains momentum. Among the most passionate advocates for Greece is the English poet George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788–1824), who finances a Greek fleet and embarks for the Greek stronghold of Missolonghi at the end of 1823. In the midst of plans to attack the Turkish-held fortress of Lepanto, Byron falls ill; he dies at Missolonghi in April 1824, and is mourned as a hero by the Greeks, who bury his heart there. In 1826, Missolonghi falls to Turkish siege and, in desperation, the Greek insurgents ignite their powder magazines, killing themselves along with their enemies. French painter Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863) responds to this tragedy in the allegorical canvas Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi (1826; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux).
The war concludes in 1830 when the combined forces of England, France, and Russia induce the Ottoman sultan to grant Greece its freedom. The Europeans then install a monarch of their choosing as the head of the country. The Bavarian prince Otto arrives in 1833 and is crowned king two years later. The freeing of Greece from Ottoman control gives foreign scholars greater access to the country; German archaeologists start work at Olympia and Athens in the 1830s, and the first excavations at the Parthenon take place in 1885–91.
Purismo, an Italian cultural movement originally intended to restore and preserve language through study of late medieval authors, extends to the visual arts. Inspired by the German Nazarenes, artists of the Purismo reject Neoclassicism and emulate the early works of Raphael and masters such as Giotto and Fra Angelico. The ideals of this movement are codified in the manifesto Del purismo nelle arti of 1842–43, written by Antonio Bianchini (1803–1884) and co-signed by Tommaso Minardi (1787–1871), the major proponent of Purismo, Nazarene co-founder Friedrich Overbeck (1789–1869), and Pietro Tenerani (1789–1869). The movement flourishes through 1860, and reflects the contemporary taste for revivalist styles, which in Italy is stirred by growing interest in Italian national identity and artistic heritage.
In a settlement to appease Muhammad ‘Ali, governor of Egypt (1805–48), the Ottoman sultan grants him the island of Crete. It returns to Ottoman rule in 1840.
Athens is named capital of Greece, where the influence of German art and architecture predominates under its Bavarian monarch Otto I (r. 1833–62). Neoclassicism becomes the stylistic emblem of the emergent Greek national identity, as illustrated in the Royal Palace (1835–41; now the Parliament Building) of German architect Friedrich von Gärtner (1792–1847), and Agios Dionysios (1853–87), the Roman Catholic cathedral in Athens, designed by Leo von Klenze (1784–1864).
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780–1867) is head of the French Academy in Rome, where Davidian classicism in painting flourishes until mid-century.
A realist movement known as Verismo takes root in Italy. It is at first practiced mainly in Tuscany and Naples, where schools of landscape painting—such as the Neapolitan Scuola di Posillipo—develop along with an interest in genre scenes and the dignified portrayal of everyday labors. The ideals of Verismo are similarly espoused in literature and music, where they are given particularly vivid illustration in the operas of Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924), whose La Bohème (1896) elevates to monumental grandeur the trials of struggling young artists in Paris.
A group of artists called the Macchiaioli (literally, “spot-makers”) emerges in Florence. Plein-air landscapists from the Scuola di Staggia and other Tuscan painters form the core of this group, united not only in opposition to the academic style professed by the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence but also in ardent support of the nationalist movement that leads to the unification of Italy. Interested in—though not directly inspired by—contemporary French art movements such as the Barbizon School and Impressionism, the Macchiaioli explore contemporary theories of color and the relationship between color and form; the group is in fact so named (at first pejoratively) for the artists’ juxtaposition of patches of color to create form and spatial depth. The Tuscan landscape and scenes of everyday life are their preferred subject matter; in this respect, they are associated with Verismo.
A nationalist movement known as the Risorgimento culminates in the unification of Italy. Venezia remains an Austrian possession, while Rome and Latium are retained by the papacy; the Kingdom of Italy incorporates Venezia in 1866, and Rome in 1870.
After King Otto of Greece is deposed, the European powers that had installed him on the throne choose a prince from the Danish royal house of Glücksberg to succeed him. He rules as King George I (r. 1863–1913).
As part of a plan to regain all areas with a Greek population, Greece conquers the Ionian islands. It will take Thessaly in 1881, Macedonia, Crete, Epirus, and the Aegean islands in 1913, western Thrace in 1918, and the Dodecanese islands in 1947, forming the modern borders of the country.
The Treaty of Berlin, which concludes a war between the Ottomans and Bosnian insurgents, grants independence to Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania, and creates the principality of Bulgaria. The Austro-Hungarian empire keeps Slovenia and Croatia and gains control of Bosnia.
In Palermo, Ernesto Basile (1857–1932) develops an Italian version of Art Nouveau, making the city a major center of Stile Liberty, as the style is called in Italy, after the London design firm of Liberty & Co. A major example is Basile’s Hotel Villa Igiea (begun 1899), in which all elements of the decorative scheme incorporate the intertwining and asymmetrical organic forms of the Art Nouveau style. Other important centers of Stile Liberty are Turin and Milan, where its chief practitioners include the Milanese architect Giuseppe Sommaruga (1869–1917) and the designer Carlo Bugatti (1855–1940).
Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) is appointed director of works on the Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (begun 1882, still incomplete), a project that will occupy him for the rest of his life—though not exclusively until after 1910. In this and other buildings of the period, such as the Palau Güell (Barcelona, 1886–91), Gaudí develops a style that takes direct inspiration from nature. He uses organic motifs not only to ornament his buildings, but also to give them form, resulting in structures of remarkable plasticity. Gaudí is a major contributor to the emergence of Catalan Modernisme, a regional form of Art Nouveau.
After studying in Rome and Paris, Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863–1923) settles in Valencia, where he develops a high-keyed palette and painterly style influenced by the French Impressionists. The seacoast town of Jávea, south of Valencia, provides Sorolla with the subjects for many of his paintings (09.71.2), which, by the turn of the century, earn the artist international renown.
Els Quatre Gats, or the Four Cats café, is the meeting place of bohemian writers and artists in Barcelona. Founded by painters Santiago Rusinõl (1861–1931) and Ramón Casas (1866–1932), it is managed by amateur painter Pere Romeu and frequented by the puppeteer-folklorist Miquel Utrillo (1862–1934), painter Isidre Nonell (1873–1911)—a member (1893–96) of the Colla del Safrà (literally, “bunch of saffron”), a group of Catalan painters who favor a palette of “hot” colors—and the young Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), who has his first exhibition at the café in 1900. Many of the artists who gather at Els Quatre Gats dedicate their work to a realistic portrayal of bourgeois life in Barcelona, a “religion of art and truth,” as described by Rusinõl. At this time, Els Quatre Gats unites many of the leading artistic and literary talents of the modernist movement in Southern Europe.
After a revolt in Crete, England, France, and Russia once again intervene in the region’s politics, this time forcing the Ottomans to grant autonomy to the island.
“Southern Europe, 1800–1900 A.D.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=10®ion=eus (October 2004)