Romantics, room guide, Introduction to Romanticism

John Martin Plate from Illustrations to the Bible: Belshazzar's Feast 1835

John Martin
Plate from Illustrations to the Bible: Belshazzar's Feast 1835
Mezzotint on paper
19 x 29 cm

Photo: Tate Photography

On display until 9 April 2012

As a force in art and ideas, Romanticism has a long international history. Christened in Germany at the end of the eighteenth century and soon exported to France, Britain and beyond, the concept has been revived, revised, challenged but never decisively abandoned. It has been retained ‘for want of a better name’ to describe preoccupations of thinkers, writers and artists expressed with special intensity at a particular point in history: liberty and individual rights, the creative power of the human mind and our relationship to the natural world.

Our display does not attempt to be definitive, but to show artists and works of art whose vision, imagination or expression reflects these concerns – often in strikingly different ways. In this room, they are introduced by six capsules, opening windows into aspects of Romantic thought and experience that occur in other rooms and pictures. None of them is dominant, nor are they exclusive. There is no single narrative, nor a linear chronological progression, but rather a texture of ideas and themes.

In the following rooms, we show an imaginary Romantic exhibition and focus on the work of a range of British artists including Turner, Constable, Blake and the Neo-Romantics.

This display has been devised by curator David Blayney Brown.