Movement in art, architecture, and design in Europe and North America about 1750-1850, characterized by a revival of classical Greek and Roman styles. Leading figures of the movement were the architects Claude-Nicolas Ledoux and Robert Adam; the painters Jacques-Louis David, Jean Ingres, and Anton Mengs; the sculptors Antonio Canova, John Flaxman, Bertel Thorvaldsen, and Johann Sergel; and the designers Josiah Wedgwood, George Hepplewhite, and Thomas Sheraton.
Neoclassicism replaced the rococo style and was inspired by the excavation of the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which began in 1748. Also influential were the cultural studies and theories of the German art historian Johann J Winckelmann (which revived Greek styles). Winckelmann identified the most important elements of classical art as being ‘noble simplicity and calm grandeur’. Neoclassical artists sought to capture these qualities by copying classical styles and subject matter (mainly by using columns, pediments, friezes, and ornamental motifs). They took themes from Homer and Plutarch and were influenced by John Flaxman's simple linear illustrations for the Iliad and Odyssey.
The greatest neoclassical painter was Jacques-Louis David, whose Oath of the Horatii (1784) in the Louvre, Paris, became a model example for movement, combining idealism, Stoicism, and simplicity, The British painters Angelica Kauffman and Frederic Leighton and sculptors Thomas Banks and John Gibson were also inspired by the neoclassical movement.
In architecture the visionary designs of Giovanni Piranesi and Étienne Louis Boullée were influential, though little of their work was completed. Other important neoclassicists were the British architects John Soane, Charles Cockerell, James Gibbs, William Playfair, Charles Barry, and Thomas Hamilton (1784-1858).
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