“Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor in exact truth, but in a way of feeling.”
– Charles Baudelaire, 1846
Romanticism of nearly two centuries ago created works of such considerable diversity that the only clear similarities lay in the emphasis on originality, imagination and deep emotional content. Ranging from expressive portraits to epic landscapes, those artists sought to push back against the reasoned order of the Enlightenment by producing emotionally charged works that spoke to their intensely individual perspectives. Today a new Romanticism is emerging among artists who value authentic emotion. The effect is a revival of the Romantic ideal that artists are gifted and singular purveyors of original thought.
The New Romantics explores the characteristic Romantic themes of emotion, nature and grandeur from a distinctly contemporary perspective. At first glance, the globe-spanning environs depicted in Carrie Ann Bracco’s work may appear to be lifted from the past: In Bracco’s The Traverse, Maparaju, people are dwarfed by the enormity of the natural world much as they would be in a traditional Romantic landscape. However, the Brooklyn-based artist’s extensive travel to remote locales also points to a growing access of all kinds within an increasingly interconnected, post-digital world. Lisa Lebofsky’s shimmering, ethereal landscapes likewise contain the looming presence of global warming, the real effects of which are present concerns for many of the people in the far-flung communities she depicts.
Human feeling is another centerpiece of The New Romantics. The raw emotion of Clara Lieu’s Self-Portrait No. 6 and Self-Portrait No. 22 is palpable. The pair is part of Lieu’s Falling series, a collection of 50 self-portraits in which she confronts her struggle with undiagnosed depression and anxiety from the vantage point of post-treatment. By contrast, the pensive and dazzlingly plumed figure in Heidi Elbers’s Exhale subtly alludes to the fraught issue of coupling outward appearance with perceived inner worth. Inspired and informed by the spirit of Romanticism, the artists of The New Romantics comprise a rich visual trove of emotion and awe, each individually conspicuous and collectively harmonious.