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In the mid 1700's the City of Pompeii, destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius  in 79 AD, was discovered. The excavation of the city by archeologists fueled artists fascination and curiosity about the ancient art techniques and they began to use this knowledge in their works, thus the Neo-Classical age was born.


As the name suggests, Neo-Classical art was a return to the classical art techniques from Greek and Roman art that were then perfected in the Renaissance period. The Neo-Classical art movement was widespread, especially in America where art and architecture were already heavily influenced by Greek and Roman styles.

Did you know?

Many Neo-Classical artists believed that Greek art was about as close to perfection as you could get. In turn, Neo-Classical artists were obsessed with making the surface of their work perfectly smooth. The goal was to show no evidence of brush-strokes discernible to the naked eye.

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Below is some basic information on Neo-Classical Art and its characteristics and influences. If you would like to print off a copy of this page along with samples of art from this period, you can download the Neo-classical summary above.

Anton Raphael Mengs
Anton Raphael Mengs

Even though he is known as the primary founder of neoclassical painting, Mengs is often overlooked. He was a court painter which is why most of his work consists of portraits like this one of Maria Luisa of Parma. He also painted religious works with The Adoration of the Shepherds being one of the more famous examples.

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Jacques-Louis David
Jacques-Louis David

David first painted for royalty, then for revolutionaries during the French Revolution and in his final days for Napoleon. His political allegiances often changed, but he was always loyal to the values of Neoclassicism; harmony, simplicity and proportion. The Death of Socrates, pictured here, is one of his more well-known pieces.

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Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Ingres traveled between France and Paris during his art career. He strived to become a history painter, but was truly talented in painting portraits. Ingres was known for his willingness to distort figures and play with space.

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Quick Facts:
  • Greatly influenced by a revival of interest in classical Greek and Roman art

  • Gained popularity as a reaction against the ostentation of Baroque and
    the lightheartedness of Rococo

Characteristics and/or Types of Art:
  • Simple images in classic form

  • Calm poses and distinct outlines

  • Age of Enlightenment

  • Industrial Revolution

  • Excavation of Pompeii and Herculaneum

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