Constantin Daniel Rosenthal- The Return to Realism and Beauty

Romanticism in art has always been vastly superior, aesthetically speaking, than all other forms of art. Not because of the realism and more importantly the supra-realism of emotions, but  due to the fact that such art does not need to express ideas beyond the human form. The human condition is merely one fueled by complex emotions. The raw energy of sentiments are almost enough to move the viewer.

Rosenthal is one of Romania’s greatest Romantics. His work is a sly representation of the idealism and nationalism that presented itself in early 19th century Romania- where the precariousness of the socio-economic situation made people generally uneasy. His work is characterized mostly by the eyes of his subjects, but also his display of beauty as something beyond itself. It is not vanity, nor narcissism but an actual celebration of beauty, symmetry and lively colors.

Despite his conservative painting style, Rosenthal was a revolutionary in terms of politics. He advocated and even participated in revolutionary groups in Wallachia in the 1840s, at the time when the European Revolutions were sweeping across Europe. Perhaps nothing is a better exemplification of this than the politics in his work which seems to be towards freedom, and equality. Unfortunately Rosenthal did not meet a peaceful end. He was exiled later by the Ottomans, from where he left to live in Paris. There he found his bitter end at the hands of the despotism of the Second French “Republic”.

I suggest that art should no longer be about ideas. We have had enough ideas- in fact so much that they have become mass produced cultural diarrhea who employ a message that perhaps sparks the interest of the viewer for a mere 2 seconds before moving on to an awe-aspiring socio-polical commentary. People have no attention spans. If contemporary art is all about ideas? What are these ideas? Where are they? How are they being manifested in society? Is Bansky’s work actually doing anything, or does it serve so rich entitled Westerners can pretend they are cultured and modern because they understand the social, economic and political turmoils of the world?

They say that art is supposed to be thought-provoking. It has been over 90 years that art has been trying to be art provoking. How many people have looked at Duchamp’s LHOOQ and said “You know what? I am going to strive to do something to change society”- whereas someone would take the Communist Manifesto or some other literary work and actually genuinely have their lives and minds changed forever. Books and words change minds. Paintings only serve to protect those ideas already imposed by books.

What I am saying is that paintings are supposed to be aesthetically pleasing. I am tired of ideas, if i want thought-proving ideas I will read a book, not stare at a painting. It is all part of the greater idiocrization of culture- the “tumblr culture”, who stare at an image for 2 self-gratifying seconds and than completely forget about it. Why do you think that contemporary artists do not have the same effect on culture like 10, 20 , 30 years ago?- Too many ideas, not enough beauty, not enough aesthetics.

There is too much abstraction, not enough humanism in art. Where is the human factor? Would it not be a good idea to employ realism, humanism and romanticism to better promote political ideas. Not so differently from how Rosenthal did?

I suggest a Return to Realism, truth to beauty.

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Further Reading

Source of Images:

Published in The Art of Polemics, Issue 1, on June 18th, 2014.


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