During the spring of 1798, two young English poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth (aged 25 and 27), sold some of their poems to raise money for a trip to Germany.

Each had published books of poetry but their new joint work was to be anonymous. Soon after they left England in 1798, their book, ‘Lyrical Ballads with a Few Other Poems‘, appeared and marked the start of the Romantic Movement in the arts. Among the “few other poems” was Coleridge’s long narrative The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Wordsworth’s Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey.

At the time Samuel Taylor Coleridge (the youngest of the pair) told the printer: “Wordsworth’s name is nothing . . . mine stinks.” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge to the printer of The Lyrical Ballads in 1798)

Reacting against industrialism, convention, authority and all the rules that had typified Classicism in art up to this juncture, Wordsworth and Coleridge spear-headed an artistic movement that became known as the ‘Romantic Movement.’ The idea spread from England across the whole of Europe, stressing:

  • the wonder and beauty of the natural world, enabling human beings to feel the presence of God
  • strong emotion and spontaneity rather than reason and intellect that had typified Classicism
  • self and the human personality
  • genius and heroism – the exceptional figure, his passions and inner struggles
  • the idea of artists as individual creators with spirits extending beyond formal rules
  • imagination as a gateway to transcendence and spiritual truth
  • folk culture including the national, ethnic and medieval
  • exoticism embracing the remote and occult
  • Sharing  the romantic era with Wordsworth and Coleridge was John Constable. He painted the natural world from his observations of real life and transformed the status of the landscape from merely a background for portraits and mythical pictures to an art form in its own right.

Creative artists who are contemporaries of John Constable include:

  • painters JMW Turner, Caspar David Friedrich, Theodore Gericault and Eugene Delacroix
  • composers Ludvig van Beethoven, Carl Maria Von Weber, Giocchino Rossini and Franz Schubert
  • writers Jane Austen, Walter Scott followed by Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats.
  • To find out more about romanticism during the industrial revolution,

click the tab marked ‘video’ above the image gallery at the top of this page

  • select the link attached to this bullet point – to listen to an enlightening discussion on Constable’s The White Horse (1819), Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa (1818-19) and Friedrich’s Sea of Ice (1823-