an introduction to neoclassicism

The term Classical refers to the Classical era when Greek and Roman ideals thrived and informed a way of life and culture. Neoclassicism art was a revival of Classical ideals, and it is important to place it contextually to understand it as a movement. 

renaissance vs. enlightenment

Neoclassicism was influenced by two massive shifts in society after the Medieval Ages: the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment.


Other major proponents included the seminal works of Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768).

noble simplicity

One of the primary characteristics of Neoclassical art was its return to ideals of “simplicity”, “symmetry”, “proportion”, and “harmony”.

didactic subject matter

The subject matter utilized was of mythological scenes and characters, as well as historical scenes taken from Greek and Roman sources.


Neoclassical architecture became a testament to the ideals and virtues in Neoclassicism and consisted of two phases, namely: Early, or Palladian, and High Neoclassical architecture.


Anton Raphael Mengs (1728 – 1779) Parnassus  (1761)

Benjamin West  (1738 – 1820) The Death of General Wolfe (1770)

Angelica Kauffman  (1741 – 1807) Virgil Writing his Epitaph at Brundisi (1785)

Jacques-Louis David (1748 – 1825) The Death of Marat  (1793)

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867) La Grande Odalisque (1814)

Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741 - 1828) Bust of Christoph Willibard Gluck (1775) 

Antonio Canova (1757 - 1822) Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss (1787)

the legacy of neoclassicism

The Neoclassical style ended during the 1850s with the rise of a new movement called Romanticism, which started during the 1780s and lasted until the 1830s. The Neoclassical movement continued and lived on in the Classical ideals that it sought to emulate.