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Neoclassical Art and Classical Music

New buildings that look like old Greek temples—these are examples of "neoclassical" architecture.

Neoclassical Art and Classical Music

In Europe, divine right, absolute monarchy, and the Ancien Regime were swept away by the Enlightenment, revolution, and Napoleon. A simpler artistic style was needed to replace the rich and fancy Baroque style of the god-kings. Again, the Western world turned to classical Greece and Rome for artistic inspiration; the new style was termed “Neoclassical,” meaning “new classical.”

Greece = the country at the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula. Its capital city is Athens.

Emperor Napoleon considered himself the new Caesar of the new Rome. He had himself crowned in the style of Roman emperors. He built classical-style monuments such as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and he spread Neoclassicism to the countries he conquered. Meanwhile, the young republic in the United States chose Neoclassical architecture for its new capital in Washington D.C. Other changes were also happening in the art world: successful members of the middle class now bought art, not just kings and churches. And artists were learning their skills at “academies,” not through the support of rich patrons.

Arc de Triomphe = an arch, located in Paris, begun in 1806 by Napoleon in honor of his victorious armies and completed in 1836. It is one of the most famous monuments in Paris.

republic = a country ruled by the people; a country where people vote and elect their leaders; basically, the same thing as a democracy.

Washington, D.C. = the capital city of the United States, located on the Potomac River, in the District of Colombia, between the states of Maryland and Virginia. It’s defined by imposing neoclassical monuments and buildings—including the iconic ones that house the federal government’s 3 branches: the Capitol, White House and Supreme Court.

While the art and architecture of the period are called Neoclassical, the music is simply called Classical because ancient classical music had not survived to claim that name. Classical music originated with opera, which was meant to imitate ancient Greek theater. Classical music replaced the Baroque musical style popular at the court of France’s Louis XIV and other kings. This was Europe’s greatest age of music; it was centered in Vienna, Austria where music was the focus of upper class social life. During a remarkable 50-year period (1775-1825), Classical music giants Haydn, (HIGH-dun) Beethoven, and Mozart worked side-by-side in the same city. “Papa” Haydn gave encouragement to Mozart and lessons to Beethoven. Musicians flocked to Vienna where they found training, jobs, money, honor, and fame.

neoclassical art = art and architecture that draws inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome.

classical music = a loose expression for European and American music of the more serious kind, as opposed to popular or folk music; especially music composed between 1750 to 1830.

Vienna = the capital city of Austria, on the Danube River; a center of art and culture during the 18th and 19th centuries, having associations with many famous composers.