European Art In The Nineteenth Century

Science has changed the conditions of agriculture, industry, and trade during the Nineteenth Century, working wonderful reforms in the social condition of the people. The “Achievements of the Nineteenth Century in Science and Industry” are told in another volume of this series, those in literature are set forth in still another, while the work of the philosophers whose thought has revolutionized the world will be found in the volume, “Great Philosophers.” The fact that a statement of the results in these departments has been thought worthy of two separate volumes in this “History of the World,” and a large portion of another, are in themselves evidences of the progress which has been made in this direction. The improvement in the condition of the people which has followed scarcely needs mention when its evidences are so abundant at every hand. It remains, then, for the present historian to give here some details of the progress in European art, especially music, which is necessary to the completion of the general scheme of this work.

Music, which made rapid strides in the Eighteenth Century, became one of the principal arts during the Nineteenth, and has attained a supremacy which has tempted its votaries to subordinate all other arts to it. German music has maintained its supremacy in almost all Nations.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) is held by most critics to be one of the greatest of all musicians. He was a prodigy of precocious ability, playing the violin excellently at eight years of age, and composing sonatas at thirteen. He was instructed in composition at Vienna by Haydn, and began to write his great works in 1801. In his later years he was perfectly deaf. Beethoven gave a new character to instrumental music, improving even Mozart, and displaying the utmost boldness and richness of imagination in his symphonies, overtures, quartettes, sonatas, and other compositions. He wrote also a splendid opera, “Fidelio,” an oratorio, “The Mount of Olives,” and the exquisite song, “Adelaide.”

Karl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) wrote operas, overtures, sonatas, and pianoforte symphonies, and became Director of the German Opera at Dresden in 1816. His great opera, “Der Freischütz,” appeared in Berlin in 1821, and “Euryanthe” at Vienna in 1823. “Oberon,” written for Covent Garden Theater at Charles Kemble’s request, was produced, under the composer’s direction, in April, 1826. The gifted and famous master’s health had been declining under lung disease, and he died soon afterward in London, where he was buried, in the Moorfields Catholic Chapel. Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828), one of the greatest modern composers, was born at Vienna. His ballads and songs being among the best things extant. In his symphonies and other compositions for stringed instruments and for the piano he worked in the vein of Beethoven, and is remark-able for poetic feeling, originality, pure melody, and richness of fancy. Schumann’s (1810-1856) intense application to work overcame his brain,, and he died in an asylum. His compositions are very highly esteemed in Germany, where he is looked upon as the founder of a new school which disregards the older masters. He wrote the cantata, “Paradise and the Peri,” several symphonies, and smaller pieces. Richard Wagner, who died in 1883, was the chief representative of the new musical lights in Germany. Aiming at intense realism, he is held by many to be simply grotesque, but regarded by his admirers as a genius of the highest order. His operas, “Tannhaüser” and “Lohengrin,” are among his chief works. Louis Spohr (1784-1859) is famous as a composer for the violin in solos and concertos; he wrote operas (“Faust,” “Jessonda,” and others) of high merit; his oratorio, “The Last Judgment,” is a grand and elaborate work. His music, from its want of melody, is not popular, and derives its renown from the taste of the scientific musicians and critics. He is the author of an admirable and complete work on violin playing. One of the greatest of modern composers was Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864). He was a precocious genius, and played on the piano like a master when he was nine years old. His first operas failed, as the public taste ran in the direction of Italian music. Meyerbeer then went to Italy, and wrote many operas there, which were well received, as he had rapidly acquired the new style, between 1818 and 1824. He then settled in Paris, where his famous “Robert le Diable” was produced, with triumphant success, in 1831. It was found that the new composer had in himself the gifts of all schools the strength and massiveness of the German, the liveliness of the French, the brilliancy of the Italian. Meyerbeer’s subsequent works confirmed this exalted estimate of his powers. His splendid “Les Huguenots” created an unparalleled excitement on its production at Paris in 1836. “Le Prophète” appeared in 1849, “L’Étoile du Nord” in 1854, “Dinorah” in 1858, and “L’Africaine” in 1865, after the composer’s death.

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), grandson of the famous Jewish philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn, the friend of Lessing, played well on the piano and composed ably before his tenth year. He was known soon to the world by his overture to the “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and had a great reception when he came to England in 1829. He visited Paris and Italy, and began his famous “Songs Without Words” before 1832. He then took the highest position as an orchestral conductor at great musical festivals, and his band at Leipsic was the finest in Germany. His great oratorio, “St. Paul,” was first produced at Düsseldorf in 1836, and then came the “Lobgesang,” or “Hymn of Praise,” composed in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the invention of printing. In 1843 his music to the “Mid-summer Night’s Dream” appeared at Leipsic. Mendelssohn’s oratorio, “Elijah,” was first performed at Birmingham in 1846, under his direction.

Italy has been the birthplace of many famous composers. Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842), in early life, acquired fame as a composer of operas, and devoted himself later to sacred music, in which he produced his splendid “Coronation Mass,” and an equally grand “Requiem.” Vincenzo Bellini (1802-1835) is universally known by his beautiful melodies taken from his most popular works, “Norma,” “I Puritani,” and “La Sonnambula.” Many of the greatest singers of Italian opera rose to, fame in the performance of these sweet strains of music from the sunny south, the outpourings of a pure and gifted soul. Antonio Rossini (1792-1868), one of the greatest writers of Italian opera, began his musical career as a choir-boy at Bologna. For the purpose of writing operas he specially studied Haydn and Mozart, and his first success was ” Tancredi,” produced at Venice in 1813, and received with enthusiasm all over Europe. He now poured forth operas in rapid succession. His exquisite “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” appeared at Rome in 1816. Rossini’s rapidity of composition was marvelous, and he produced several operas in a year. One of his finest productions “Semiramide,” came out at Venice in 1823. In 1824 he settled at Paris, and in 1829 produced his masterpiece, “William Tell.” This great work is graceful in melody, rich in its harmony, and varied in its instrumental scoring. But it was coldy received at Paris, and he made a vow (which he kept) that he would never write another opera. His “Stabat Mater,” a religious piece, appeared in 1832. Gaetano Donizetti (1798-1848) gained European fame by “Anna Bolena,” produced at Milan in 1830, and soon followed by the charming “L’Elisire d’ Amore.” Then came “Lucrezia Borgia,” and the equally famous “Lucia di Lammermoor,” produced at Naples in 1835. In 184o “La Favorita” appeared, and was badly received in Paris, but its merits have been since fully recognized. “Don Pasquale” appeared at Paris in 1843, and is a charming work. Giuseppe Verdi, a still (1899) living Italian composer, is famous for his popular operas, “La Traviata” and “Il Trovatore.”

Auber, the charming French opera writer, was born at Caen in 1782, and died at Paris in 1871. The famous Scribe was the skillful composer of plots and dialogues for Auber’s lively music, which is thoroughly French in character, full of graceful and piquant expression. “Masaniello” is a well-known serious opera of Auber’s, but his greatest talent lay in such comic operas as “Fra Diavolo” a universal favorite. Gounod, the French composer, is famous for his opera, “Faust,” the favorite with most prima donnas, and several sacred works. The Hungarian, Liszt (1811-1886), and the Pole, Chopin (1810-1849), were composers of magnificent music of a serious nature, though the latter won fame by his waltzes.

In painting and sculpture much good work has been done under the inspiration of the great masters, although there have been no names to place alongside Michael Angelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci. A revival of French painting came with the style of Louis David, who was at the height of his power during the great Revolution, and died in 1825. Among the, greatest of his pupils were the historical painter, Baron Gros (1771-1835), Ingres (1781-1867), and the portrait painter, Baron Gérard (1770-1837). This classic school was rivaled by the artists of the new romantic style, Delacroix (1799-1863), Delaroche (1797-1856), and the battle painter, Horace Vernet (1789-1863). That prolific genius, Gustave Doré, was remarkable for brilliant conception and facile execution. Meissonier and Gérôme are eminent as genre painters. Rosa Bonheur is renowned for her animals. Corot’s landscapes have few rivals.

Germany, in William von Kaulbach (1805-1874), has had one of the greatest mural painters of modern times. A pupil, at Düsseldorf, of Cornelius, he attained fame as a painter of frescoes, or pictures executed in water-colors upon a freshly plastered wall. Fresco painting is a field for the true poet painter, and Kaulbach, in this department, revived some of the glories of Raphael and Michael Angelo. 1837 he painted, in sepia, his famous “Battle of the Huns,” in which spirits of the warriors whose corpses lie under the walls of Rome are represented as continuing the combat in the air. In 1846 he completed in the Pinakothek, the famous picture gallery formed by Louis I of Bavaria, at Munich his colossal oil painting, the “Fall of Jerusalem.” At Berlin and at Munich Kaulbach produced many other works in the noblest style of art. Peter von Cornelius was born at Düsseldorf in 1783, and lived till 1867. He displayed his grandeur of conception in some of his earliest work, was the reviver of fresco painting, and the founder of a new school of German art. In 1819 he became Director of the Academy of Painting at Düsseldorf, and was then intrusted with the painting of the walls of the Glyptothek the great sculpture gallery at Munich. In 1825 he became head of the Academy at Munich. In one of the great halls of the Glyptothek the Hall of Heroes the frescoes represent, on a colossal scale, the leading events of the “Iliad.” In the Hall of the Gods, the Grecian mythology is symbolized. The “Last Judgment,” in one of the churches at Munich, is magnificent.

Belgium produced two great historical painters in Hendrik Leys and Louis Gallait. Holland has given to the world Alma Tadema, remarkable for his skill in treating subjects which illustrate the old civilization of Greece, Rome, and Egypt.

Thorwaldsen, the great Danish sculptor (1770-1844), studied at Rome under Canova, and was recognized as one of the greatest sculptors of modern times, and executed works for all parts of Europe. The latter part of his life was spent at Copenhagen, where the Thorwaldsen Museum contains about three hundred of his works. His chief success was with subjects from Greek mythology. Among his best known works are the bas-reliefs “Day” and “Night,” and the colossal lion near Lucerne, in memory of the Swiss guards who fell in defense of the Tuileries in the great French Revolution.

In England among the most notable artists must be named Turner (1775-1851), the number of whose landscapes is immense, Edward Matthew Ward, Mulready, Maclise, Webster, Rossetti, Millais, and M. Holman Hunt, who were formerly called pre-Raphaelites, because they endeavored under the influence of John Ruskin to lead painting back to the traditions that existed before Raphael; Leighton, Cole, Long, Burne-Jones, and many others whose work is not inferior to that of any of the other schools of Europe.

Art has even penetrated to Russia, where a school has been founded that portrays Russian life in a natural manner. The names of Verestchagin and Gay are known for peculiarly Russian art by all lovers of art.