What is Neoclassicism Art? Neoclassicism is a revolutionary artistic movement in the visual and decorative arts, literature, music, and architectural development that drew influence from the highly creative art and architecture of ancient classical antiquity. It is believed to have been founded by the French philosopher Malebranche in his book The Paintings of Maleboise. The term “neoclassicism” is often used today to describe art that is “neumatized,” which simply means “without style,” but this term was first applied to the works of Malebranche in the 18th century. Neoclassicism is often referred to as “esthetic modernism,” because its influence on art was so wide-ranging and radical, that it can be considered a movement of art in its own right.
In Malebranche’s idealistic aesthetic philosophy, each work of art is an individually determined creation, which has a purpose and style of its own. This view was heavily based on the works of Boucher and Maleboise, whom he greatly admired, and who were also Maleboise’s greatest critics. With this basic framework, Malebranche conceptualized a revolutionary breakthrough in art, placing his highly individual style statements into a cohesive whole, while maintaining their individualism. He rejected the traditionalist formalism of the old schools of art, which tended to develop in tandem with new and more rigid definitions of style in the works of Debord and Degas, with him looking to develop something fresh.
While Malebranche’s idealism was revolutionary, his penchant for overly grandiose gestures and exaggerated facial expressions makes his work appear confused and even embarrassing. However, Maleboise’s inflated ego is offset by a clear sense of sexual allure, in that he declares that all women are beautiful. The central point of Malebranche’s aesthetic theory is the belief that beauty is defined by the emotional state of a painting evokes and that to achieve real aesthetic value in art one must be able to manipulate this emotional charge through implication.
Malebranche believed that Neoclassicism is the proper path for artists, as his preferred styles all share common elements including an aggressive portrayal of female subject matter, a strong sense of imagery, and a tendency towards structural incongruity. What is Neoclassicism Art? Malebranche’s other works, such as the Night Watch (1800) and Theban (also 1800), also bear a strong resemblance to the Impressionist movement, especially the works of Degas. A close examination of these works will reveal Malebranche’s fascination with impressionism.
Malebranche’s aesthetic theories are closely related to those of the French Nouveau movement, which, as we have seen, were highly inspired by the works of Courbet. Malebranche’s more dominant aesthetic theories include the notion of a natural aesthetic, similar to the one conceived by the eighteenth century French artist Louis Degas. According to Malebranche, nature is the main source of aesthetic beauty. While Degas and Malebranche do not explicitly relate their notions of aesthetic beauty to nature, the similarities between their aesthetics cannot be overlooked. Both artists agree that colours, lines, and forms reflect aspects of nature, and that a work of art created using these methods may appeal to a different and wider audience.
In addition to his concepts of Neoclassicism Art, Malebranche also drew upon the works of earlier French artists, particularly the sculptor, Jean Baptiste Cezanne, whom Malebranche found profoundly appealing. Although Malebranche never considered himself a neo-artist, he did consider some of Cezanne’s works to be of exceptional merit and often copied aspects of Cezanne’s style. In fact, Malebranche’s interest in Cezanne’s work extended to his dislike of modern art. Malebranche made his most famous work, Vaseux, an homage to the Impressionist artist whose work Malebranche found wanting.