How Society can Trigger Changes in the Nature and Meaning of Art

How Society can Trigger Changes in the Nature and Meaning of Art

The Renaissance period paved the way for immense change in European culture, especially in the arts. It is believed that changes in the nature and meaning of art are inspired by the changes that occur within society. Others believe that it is simply a trend that is set after the preceding trend becomes too lousy or old for the elite. I would most likely agree with the first statement since changes in society ultimately bring changes in all of its aspects, including its culture. Analyzing two different eras of art might explain this decision further.

Baroque is an art movement that emerged around the seventeenth century and was mostly visible and limited in Catholic countries since it mostly portrays religious themes as encouraged by the Church at that time. It is also associated with portraying emotion through vigorous movement, and it appears complex and grandeur which attracted the eyes of many aristocrats at that time (Pioch, 2002a). Baroque was brought about by the Counter-reformation movement which basically showed the intensity and drive of a revitalized Catholic church (Delahunt, 2009). An example of the Baroque movement can be seen in most Catholic churches and cathedrals around the world, like the Basilica di Superga in Italy and Mexico’s Cathedral. The Baroque architecture may have been also been a way for the church to reflect the grandiosity of God’s kingdom in order to lead its followers to the greatness of God’s kingdom.

Romanticism is an art movement that countered the classicism notion of restraining emotion. Basically, Romanticism uses emotion to deepen its appreciation to nature in its untamed state. The Romantics wanted to somewhat break away from the norms established by the forerunners of the Enlightenment period — the aristocrats — and by classicism and neoclassicism (Pioch, 2002b). Since the lower class lacked the qualities of intellect and reason, the ideals of romanticism penetrated their fleeting emotions, resulting in an opposition against the aristocrats, as characterized by the different revolutions in Europe. Many of these artworks were inspired by the issues at that time. Such examples are The Third of May by Francisco Goya and Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix.

These two art eras — Baroque and Romanticism — garnered their inspiration from both nature and society. Certain changes within society also tend to create changes in the nature and meaning of art within their cultures. However, these changes need to be drastic to the extent that their impact would lead to a great shift in all aspects of society, especially in art. With the occurrence of the Counter-reformation movement, the Baroque style of art entailed classic Greek and Roman art forms, as well as followed the church’s encouragement of using religious themes. They were used to signify the grandiosity of the Catholic religion and at the same time favored the aristocrats’ taste. On the other hand, Romanticism, brought about by the age of Enlightenment, opposed classicism and neoclassicism, tapping into people’s emotions, especially those belonging to the lower classes. In conclusion, I believe that major changes in one aspect of society would reflect on its other aspects. Hence, a radical shift in society would result in a change in the nature and meaning of art.


Delahunt, M. (2009). ArtLex. Retrieved July 1, 2009, from

Pioch, N. (2002a, October 14). Baroque. Web Museum, Paris. Retrieved July 1, 2009, from

Pioch, N. (2002b, October 14). Romanticism. Web Museum, Paris. Retrieved July 1, 2009, from

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