What is Classicism? – Simplicity and Perfection

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What is Classicism In Art?

What Is Classicism - The Death of Socrates by Jacques Louis David
What Is Classicism – The Death of Socrates by Jacques Louis David

What is classicism? In art, classicism refers to an elevated regard for a specific artistic period, typically classical antiquity, or the Western traditionalism of the arts. It includes artworks that fall broadly within these categories, including ceramics, furniture, paintings, and sculpture. Classicism may be regarded as an approach to aesthetic appreciation characterized by a rejection of the recent and unsymmetrical.

There are several common characteristics of classicism. It often manifests as a reverence for highly decorative periods and the highly fashionable works associated with those periods. Classicists tend to value highly stylized forms and themes, often emphasizing the visual beauty of the items rather than their utility. Another trait of classic styles is the use of vivid color schemes that are at odds with the dominant shades of white that prevail in post-modern times.

What is classic can vary widely depending on one’s point of view. According to some classicists, Picasso is the father of modern art, due to his adoption of a “Picasso Syndrome,” which emphasized the use of heavy, dark imagery to communicate feeling and a desire to connect with the audience. Others view Leonardo da Vinci as a precursor to modern art, because of his design of the Mona Lisa. Other classicists, such as Leo Tolstoy, disagree with the view that classicism is a style. They regard classicism as a style, or a gestalt, which they argue is necessary if an artistic production is to be meaningful. They believe that classicism is not a style, but is a unique genre of artistic production.

The term “classic” may be used in two different ways. In one sense, classicism may be defined as works produced by certain eras in history that are regarded as significant by contemporary artists. Examples include works by Picasso, Monet, Rothko, de Kooning, and others. These works bear unmistakable fingerprints, which have been established through interpretation, including stylistic elements such as brushwork, color, and ornamentation.

In another sense, what is classicism can be defined by the absence of modern influences in works produced by a specific artist. Works produced before 1950 are generally considered classic. This category includes artworks produced by artists from this era who nonetheless retain popular audiences today. The lack of changes in these works precludes the artist from developing theories of his or her own that may challenge the definition of classicism. Examples include artists such as Frank Stella, Edvard Munch, and Paul Gauguin.

Defined against this broad definition, what is classicism is not necessarily a certain form or style. For example, the painting above, entitled Optimism, by Pablo Picasso, clearly has classicist influences. However, when one considers the work’s style, it seems to be more moderate than Futurism, the style initiated by Pablo Picasso, with its minimalist tendencies. The central focus of Optimism, then, is on the figure of the woman, its proportions, and the use of color. The central concern of Optimism, which is not explicitly Art-related (although its aesthetic conception is), is the preservation of balance and harmony in an artistic composition.

What is classicism is then, defined by the inherent qualities of a specific artistic style? This issue arises because some art styles, such as Romanticism for instance, have been revived recently but, upon further analysis, have failed to achieve classic status. Classicism on the other hand, is determined by criteria that can be used by any interested individual, including an art dealer. The “classic” label is therefore very subjective, as it is dependent on the current taste of the general public. Nonetheless, it is useful to know the definitive definition of classicism so that you will know whether or not a given piece meets the criteria of what is classic.

In terms of its definition, what is classic has become something of a misnomer over the years. Some critics consider any art produced in the past century as classic, while others insist that art produced in different eras of history are classic. These definitions however, are merely opinions and are subject to change with the times. It should be noted that the word classic in art is generally reserved for works produced by reputable and respected artists. It is also worth noting that the term classic is usually used in contexts other than art, referring to famous architecture, books, etc.

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