top of page

Unit 4 (1st half): 1750 - 1980 CE

Later Europe and Americas

Images 98-125; 128

Main Ideas:

  • As Europe and the Americas underwent rapid societal changes (such as urbanization, commercialization, imperialism, political revolutions, and world wars), works of art generally either sought to support or oppose those developments to advocate for greater harmony


Later European Art

  • Rococo: Uses elaborate and intricate imagery to depict the extravagant lifestyle of the monarchical classes

  • Enlightenment: Most artworks serve the purpose of encouraging people to accept new developments in science and learning, such as allowing women to get an education
  • Neoclassicism: Uses classical artistic and architectural (from Greek & Roman times) elements to showcase certain individuals as embodying the classical ideals of honor
  • Romanticism: Exaggerates certain features of a landscape or object by increasing their texture, size, or spotlight to emphasize its importance in conveying a message

Image 98: The Tête à Tête, from Marriage à la Mode



The Tête à Tête, from Marriage à la Mode


William Hogarth


c. 1743 CE


Oil on Canvas

  • Shows that aristocrats value inherited wealth more than their actual lifestyle → Criticizes the lifestyle of the aristocratic class
    • Forced marriage between the Squanderfields → Both look disinterested

      • The man (on right) is tired after a night of womanizing, looks drunk and stares into the carpet

        • Dog sniffs a bonnet in his pocket → Indicates his intimacy with other women

          • Dot on his neck → Syphilis

      • The woman (center) looks flirtatious (top of her dress is undone, holds a mirror, etc.) → Might have been intimate with another man

      • Accountant (left) looks fed up with the couple’s lack of care for their finances and holds a bunch of bills and puts his hand in the air as if he’s saying, “I’m done”

    • Objects in the room symbolize this couple’s lack of care for their lifestyle

      • Music symbolizes sensuality, and the violin on the floor that has fallen out of its case symbolizes the chaotic state of the couple’s sensuality/marriage

      • The paintings in the room in the back left are Saints → Showcase the wealthy inherited power of the couple

        • Contrast this with the cheap newly-purchased items on the mantelpiece → Show that the couple has no concern for their life and solely relies on inherited power

      • The classical sculpture with a broken nose on the mantelpiece → Shows the couple’s lack of interest in classical ideals and their lack of concern for each other

      • Painting of Cupid among the ruins → Since Cupid is the god of love, this symbolizes that their love is broken

      • The 4th painting from the left in the back left room shows a nude leg → Symbolizes that the painting is lewd

    • This is the 2nd painting in a series of 6 paintings to criticize the aristocracy

Image 101: The Swing



The Swing


Jean-Honoré Fragonard


1767 CE


Oil on Canvas

  • Displays a lot of energy in an erotic sexual scene
    • A man told Fragonard to depict his wife on a swing (center) behind pushed by a bishop (bottom right), while the man (bottom left) looks under his wife’s dress

    • Various classical figures showcase the love

      • On the left is a statue of Cupid (the god of love)

        • Puts his finger on his lip to ask the couple to keep this secret

      • Below Cupid (in the left center) is a relief sculpture with maenads (dancing figures from Greek mythology) → Signify energy, dance, sexuality, etc.

      • Bottom right of swing are 2 playful cupid figures riding a dolphin → A reference to love

    • The imagery showcases the energy and elaborate decorations of Rococo

      • Decorative pink silk dress has quick brushwork along the edges → Showcases energy and movement

        • Pink slipper is flipped up → Showcases movement

      • Diagonal lines (from the rope of the swing to the husband’s arm position) signify energy

    • The nature around them is very fertile and lush → Signify sensuality and energy

    • Commissioned by French Royal Court for use in a private home → Has many features that represent the aristocracy

      • Very opulent → Characteristic of aristocracy

      • Woman sits on a red velvet colored swing → Red signifies aristocracy

Image 105: Self-Portrait





Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun


1790 CE


Oil on Canvas

  • Showcases the intelligence and freedom of female artists
    • Vigée Le Brun was a female artist who was the court painter for Marie-Antoinette (King Louis XVI’s wife) → During French Revolution, she was exiled

      • This image is a portrait of Vigée Le Brun herself painting Marie-Antoinette

    • White turban, dark dress, soft white ruffed collar, soft red ribbon belt → Symbolize her free-flowing style and freedom of expression

      • The softness of her collar is a metaphor for this free-flowing style

      • This showcases Vigée Le Brun’s feeling of independence and freedom of expression when painting Marie-Antoinette, despite oppression toward female artists

    • There weren’t many female artists at the time, and Vigée Le Brun has a feeling of optimism to keep painting Marie-Antoinette even after she was exiled → Shows the intelligence and greatness of Vigée Le Brun as an artist

      • This also shows her freedom as she didn’t feel constrained to paint her subjects even though she was a woman

Image 99: Portrait of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz



Portrait of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz


Miguel Cabrera


c. 1750 CE


Oil on Canvas

  • Represents Sor Juana as a nun and as an intellectual
    • How she’s depicted as an intellectual
      • Sitting at her study desk, has a book open, has quills in front of the book

      • Many books are in the background → Signify the large library in her house

    • How she’s depicted as a nun

      • Wears a black veil on her head

      • Has a nun’s badge (escudo de monja) on her chest

        • Shows the annunciation (archangel Gabriel announces to Virgin Mary that she will bear Jesus)

      • Holds a rosary (a religious symbol that’s a string of beads) in her left hand

    • Her high social status is also depicted

      • Red curtain symbolizes her high social status

      • Her direct assertive gaze symbolizes her high status

    • Context: 

      • Sor Juana was a nun (female monk), but she was removed from her religious order because she wanted to pursue her intellectual interests (which wasn't allowed in nunneries)​

Image 100: A Philosopher Giving a Lecture on the Orrery



A Philosopher Giving a Lecture on the Orrery


Joseph Wright of Derby


c. 1763 - 1765 CE


Oil on Canvas

  • The lighting symbolizes the observers' undergoing "conversion" from religious views to rational scientific views
    • The Orrery (in the center): Diagram of our solar system

    • The light illuminates the faces of the observers’ awed expressions when viewing the orrery

    • The light in the center also symbolizes a dramatic heavenly “conversion” in the beliefs of the observers from religious views to scientific/rational views

      • Most Christian paintings used light to symbolize religious salvation or spirituality, but here it symbolizes the "spirituality" (aka the benefits) of pursuing scientific knowledge

    • The light in the center (in the orrery) also represents the sun (in the solar system)

    • This use of light to create extreme contrasts is called tenebrism

Image 102: Monticello








Virginia, USA


Thomas Jefferson (Architect)


1768 - 1809 CE


Brick, glass, stone, and wood

  • Jefferson designed Monticello in a French classical style to tie stronger relationships with France (instead of Britain) & to promote the ideals of education, civic responsibility, rationality, and democracy of the classical past
    • Background information:

      • Hated the British-style architecture of William & Mary college → Looked to French architectural style

      • Went to France on a diplomatic mission → Learned about French classical architecture → Rebuilt his home (Monticello) with French architectural ideals

      • Wants to break friendly ties with Britain and forge ties with France → Chooses French classical architecture over British architecture

      • With French neoclassical architecture, he wants to encourage Americans to follow the ideals of democracy, education, civic responsibility, and rationality of the classical past

    • Classical architectural features:

      • Extended portico with Doric columns, a triangular pediment with a semicircular window on top

      • Short octagonal prism at top + shallow dome → Sense of verticality

      • Large width of building and guardrails (balustrade) on the top of the house → Horizontality

      • Parlor and library are large → Emphasis on education and collaboration

Image 103: The Oath of the Horatii



The Oath of the Horatii


Jacques-Louis David


1784 CE


Oil on Canvas

  • Revives the classical ideals of rationality and virtuosity → Used as a model for revolutionaries in the French Revolution
    • This painting depicts the men as very virtuous

      • Their body is made of straight lines, all 3 move in unison, and their bodies appear sharp and focused → Showcase strength & virtuosity

      • The 3 boys’ arm movements and the lines in the pavement meet at the father’s hand which holds the sword (vanishing point) → Showcases the simplicity and strength of the men

    • This painting depicts the women as emotional

      • The women are very curvilinear and appear sad and emotional → Showcases the classical ideal that women are more domestic and personal than men

    • The virtuosity of men and the domesticity of women are classical ideals

      • The Roman arches and Tuscan columns in the back are also indications that this painting revives Classical elements

    • Historical Context of scenery:

      • War: Rome vs Alba

        • Horatii brothers (Rome) vs Curiatii brothers (Alba)

      • Due to intermarriage between Horatii and Curiatii families, everyone will lose, and families will be torn apart

        • Women are mourning on right side as they are related to the brothers on both sides of the war

          • One woman is a Curiatii but married to Horatii

          • Other woman is Horatii but will marry a Curiatii

Image 104: George Washington



George Washington


Jean-Antoine Houdon


1788 - 1792 CE



  • Uses Classical ideals to show George Washington as a public soldier (ruler) and as a private citizen
    • Representation of George Washington as a public soldier and a ruler for the people:
      • Depicted in contrapposto → Shows him as virtuous
      • Facial expression looks fatherly
      • Left hand atop a fasces (pillar of 13 columns) → Showcases unity among the states of the US (E pluribus unum)
      • Surrendered his absolute power → He is a ruler for the people, not a tyrannical absolute ruler
        • A sword behind his grasp (shows that he just removed it from his hand) and a plow → Show the story of Roman dictator Cincinnatus who surrendered his absolute power to return to his farm
    • Representation of George Washington as a private citizen:
      • He wears contemporary clothing (instead of classical clothing)
      • Right hand atop a walking stick → Shows his old age → Shows that he’s not a supreme ruler and is a normal person like all Americans

Image 106: Y no hai remedio (And There's Nothing to be Done)



Y no hai remedio (And There's Nothing to be Done) from Los Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters of War), plate 15


Francisco de Goya


1810 - 1823 CE (published in 1863 CE)


Etching, drypoint, burin, and burnishing

  • Shows the true horrors of war caused by French occupation of Spain (in Napoleonic Wars) → Critiques the French brutality of the Spanish people
    • The process for making this artwork emphasizes its emotional intensity:

      • Used the light-dark color gradient and the ability to see the individual lines to convey emotional intensity and rawness

      • Etching on a copper plate, then drypoint to make more uneven/textured lines, then printed

    • The soldiers and guns in the background portray a sense of sadness and useless → Represent the title "There's nothing to be done"

      • There is a man (known as Alter Christus, or the "Other Christ") tied to a pole → Shows that the Spanish lost faith in religion as they are suffering so much​

        • There are many other Spanish people tied to poles behind him​

      • Rifles are coming from the right side (aimed at the central "Alter Christus" figure) → Represents Spanish defeat

Image 107: La Grande Odalisque



La Grande Odalisque


Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres


1814 CE


Oil on Canvas

  • An idealized yet unavailable presentation of the female body → Allows the viewer to gaze at it but represents it as exotic and unavailable to Europeans
    • Just like Venus of Urbino (Image 80), this showcases a female nude with an elongated back to emphasize her beauty & sensuality

    • However, this shows the female as unavailable to the Europeans because it is exotic

      • Positioned a bit far away from the viewer with the body turned away from us​

      • She holds exotic feathers in her right hand

      • The curtain (on the right side) has some exotic decorations

      • Her headdress is also a bit exotic

Image 108: Liberty Leading the People



Liberty Leading the People


Eugène Delacroix


1830 CE


Oil on Canvas

  • Personification of the ideals of liberty during the French Revolution of 1830
    • Revolution Context: Charles X was ousted for being monarchical → Replaced with Louis Philippe who reinstated Constitutional monarchy

      • The Notre Dame in the back is burning → Represents the destruction of the monarchy

    • The woman in the middle is holding a tri-color flag → She is a personification of liberty (like the Statue of Liberty)

      • There are two men with pistols (to our left of her), one of lower class and one of the upper class → Represents that everyone of all classes is fighting for liberty

      • She is even climbing on barricades → She wants other people to fight harder for liberty

      • There is a somewhat pyramid from the base of the dead bodies to her flag → Unity in the fight for liberty

      • She looks to the left in a classical expression and her breasts are exposed in a classical style → She is alluding to the classical ideals of liberty

    • There are many dead bodies all over the place → The chaotic cost of the revolution

      • The boy to our right of the woman has two pistols, and there are two dead bodies next to him → Cost of the war was high

      • There is no sense of order in the dead bodies → Chaos

Image 109: The Oxbow



The Oxbow (View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm)


Thomas Cole


1836 CE


Oil on Canvas