Example Of Materialism In Art

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Humanity is most affected by matter and ideas, which are intricately entwined in each experience, relationship, and piece of art. Around the time of the 1800s, there was an existential conflict between artists on whether artwork should be more materialistic or more idealistic. The more idealistic Romantics focused on the sublimity of nature, nationalistic and individualistic heroes, and the corrupting of good humans by society. Because they are idealists, they believe that what humans perceive is all that they can know. Reality is, therefore, mental. Realists, on the other hand, focus on the struggles of common people. They are materialistic, meaning that they believe that material conditions are what lead to humanity’s ideas. These different …show more content…
In Jacques-Louis David’s iconic Napoleon Crossing the Great Saint Bernard Pass, Napoleon poses triumphantly on a large horse. With a beautifully dark natural backdrop, Napoleon, in his kingly attire, lifts his hand and the horse lifts its forelegs toward the sky. Napoleon, the symbol of an entire nation, is the quintessential Romantic hero in this painting. His leadership, even in the midst of war, is on full display. Napoleon, who in reality was just a flawed individual like everyone else, is elevated like a Greek god. This painting illustrates my main problem with Romanticism: the heroes are too fantastic to the extent that even nature , which usually takes a divine forefront in Romanticism, is belittled. This is not an issue whatsoever for an idealist who wants to show the ultimate man. However, the exaggeration of heroic figures detaches itself so much from the reality of humanity, even if that reality is nothing but perceived, that I feel no connection to the exemplary Napoleon victoriously battling through the seemingly insurmountable elements of nature and war.
Another example of Romanticism over emphasizing an individual over the power of nature is in Walt Whitman’s poem Song of Myself. By focusing only on individualism, he even goes so far as to say “Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch’d from”. His obsession with the character and perfection of himself completely rejects
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David’s painting and Whitman’s poem were to focused on the power of individuals. Brady’s photo was too focused on the struggle of humanity by not giving a more extensive natural context. Even Bierstadt’s painting lacks the struggle of humanity that I appreciate in Realism. Which aspects of my taste are Romantic, which are Realistic, and why? I love the power of nature compared to normal people in Romanticism and the struggle of those normal people in Realism because of my view on material conditions and ideas. Certainly, one’s material situation impacts one’s ideas of the world and their character. An industrial worker feels the oppression he undergoes to the extent that even nature is hidden from his worldview. Similarly, ideas can idealistically impact our perception of the world. Appreciating the awe-inspiring beauty that nature provides can and does help struggling people. This mixture of materialism and idealism in my worldview is perfectly exemplified in Jean-Francois Millet’s

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