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Neo-Classicism was an art movement that emerged in the mid-18th century as a response to the overly ornate and fanciful Baroque and Rococo styles of the previous century. Neo-Classical artists sought to revive the austere, classical forms found in ancient Greek and Roman art, which they believed represented a timeless and universal ideal of beauty. This movement was inspired by archeological discoveries of ancient ruins and art, as well as Enlightenment ideals of reason, order, and simplicity.

One of the most distinctive features of Neo-Classical art was its emphasis on classical motifs and themes. Many artists produced works that depicted mythological or historical scenes from ancient Greece and Rome. They often used heroic figures, such as statuesque athletes, mythological gods and goddesses, or famous historical figures like Julius Caesar or Napoleon Bonaparte.

In addition to classical influences, Neo-Classical artists also sought to express a sense of moral and social order in their works. They often portrayed idealized scenes of civic virtue, patriotism, and self-sacrifice, in contrast to the frivolity and indulgence of the Rococo era. The Neo-Classical movement had a profound impact on art and culture, influencing everything from architecture to literature and fashion.

Giulio Monteverde (1837-1917) was an Italian sculptor who was fascinated with creatures that led us and guarded us in the afterlife. His youthful 'Angel of Night' in the Campo Verona cemetery in Rome, leans over with folded wings, draping over the scene. The androgynous angel has a human quality of resignation and mild despair to the gestures.
With beautiful features, and face perched in the sublime, perfectly formed hand as the eyes lift slightly to the sky, perhaps contemplating the deep meaning of the reason for existence, and the fleeting moments of life against the backdrop of the eternal.


The 'Angel of Night' by Giulio Monteverde

'When contemplating this picture it is useful to bear in mind that the second half of the nineteenth century was a period remarkable for archaeological researches and discoveries, especially by English expeditions. The British Museum was a treasure house of antiquities increasingly valued by artists as a reference library. Egypt and the Middle East replaced Greece and Italy as the focus of curiosity. 'The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon' can be contextualised against a craze for orientalist narratives in literature, music and visual art. The wildly composite architectural system of Solomon's temple is reprised in the frame, which bridges the temporal and spatial distance between viewer and subject. The artist has been so obsessed with the accuracy of his details, however, that the figures seem somewhat doll-like. Trained in Paris under Gleyre, Poynter was at heart a Salonist for whom artistry resided in weight of detail rather than dramatic synthesis.' (AGNSW Handbook, 1999)

Category: Painting
Materials used: Oil on canvas 234.5 x 350.5 cm 
Artist: Sir Edward John Poynter (1836 -1919) 
Location: The Art Gallery of New South Wales 


The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, 1890 by Edward Poynter
oil on canvas painting, Art Gallery of New South Wales
Edward Poynter, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Godward was an English painter from the end of the Neo-Classicist era. Here we see his portrait of woman who is believed to be of the Roman origin. She is dressed in a headscarf that is almost pink in colour. The scarf covers most of her visible body in the painting. Godward enjoyed painting women portraitures and fine details. He worked a hard to capture these details as we can find in this particular artwork. Much of this painting is actually concerned with communication through the body language of the sitter. For instance, when we look at this picture, we can notice her head is tilted to the right giving us the clear indication that she was interested in something. She seems to be gazing at this something, though it is unclear of what it is. Many theories have been developed to comprehend her body gesture, with the most likely being she was interested in what the artist was doing and how he conducted his work. Additionally, upon veiwing the 'Lycinna' painting by Godward, we can see the artist goes on to tell us a bit more about the environment in which his subject is in. We are also shown walls, which appear ceramic-like in the background. This clue may denote that the subject could be from a noble family or at least definitely a well off family, relaying her affluence. 

Title: 'Lycinna' 
Date: 1918
Artist: John William Godward (1861-1922) 
Style: Neoclassicism
Genre: Portrait
Media: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 51 x 40 cm
Location: Private Collection


Lycinna (1918)
by John William Godward 


Declaration of Independence (1819), by John Trumbull
Here we see John Trumbull's painting depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress. The painting can be found on the back of the U.S. $2 bill. The original hangs in the US Capitol rotunda.
John Trumbull, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

'Declaration of Independence' by John Trumbull is one of the most iconic paintings in US history. Commissioned in 1817, the painting has been sitting in the US Capitol building for almost 200 years, and was later depicted on the US $2 bill. Because of the name and the importance of the painting, many people incorrectly assume that the artwork depicts the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In reality, it shows the five-man drafting committee led by Thomas Jefferson (and including Ben Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston) presenting the first draft of the declaration to the President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock. The painting shows 42 of the 56 people who would eventually would go on to sign the declaration. Trumbull wanted to include all 56, but he couldn’t get the authoritative likenesses for the other remaining 14 historical figures at the time. In the work we can see that other architectural features of Independence Hall, where the event took place, were also inaccurate due to the fact that they were based on a sketch Thomas Jefferson did from memory. Interestingly, in the painting it would appear at first glance that Thomas Jefferson is stepping on John Adams’s foot, and some have even speculated this was meant to represent the political tension between the two. However, upon closer examination it is revealed that their feet are side-by-side. Just to be sure though, the image on the $2 bill was modified to create more space between their feet.

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