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Art movement, architectural style around XVII-XIX centuries

The terms classic or classical came into use in the seventeenth century to describe the arts and culture of the ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome. The following of the principles of these ancient civilisations in art, architecture and literature is referred to as classicism.

Classicism is generally associated with harmony and restraint, and obedience to recognized standards of form and craftsmanship.

From the Renaissance on, classicism dominated Western art, with classical mythology – consisting of the various myths and legends of the ancient Greek and Roman gods and heroes – becoming a major source of subject matter for history painting.

Classicism both as an art style and as the first theory of art was defined by the ancient Greeks, emulated by the Romans, and then continued to appear in various forms across the centuries. Historically, the periods most associated with Classicism are the fifth and fourth centuries BC in Greece with writers such as Aristotle and Sophocles; the first century BC and first century AD in Rome with writers such as Cicero and Vergil; in late seventeenth-century French drama; and in the eighteenth century, especially in France, during a period called the Enlightenment, with such writers as Voltaire and Condorcet. In its varying formulations Classicism affirms the superiority of balance and rationality over impulse and emotion. It aspires to formal precision, affirms order, and eschews ambiguity, flights of imagination, or lack of resolution. Classicism asserts the importance of wholeness and unity; the work of art coheres without extraneous elements or open-ended conclusions.

Both ancient Greek and ancient Roman writers stressed restraint and restricted scope, reason reflected in theme and structure, and a unity of purpose and design. In his Poetics, for example, Aristotle stressed the unities of time, place, and action. Perhaps basing his theory of drama on Sophocles's plays, Aristotle asserted that the action of a place must occur within 24 hours, with all the events taking place in one location, and each event causing the next event. Following these restrictions would produce a pleasingly cohesive drama. In all, the ancients believed that art was a vehicle for communicating the reason and intelligence that permeate the world and human affairs when people act rationally and according to moral precept.


Further Resources


Classicism | Literary Movement | HSA English


May 9, 2021

Classicism in English Literature II Characteristics of Classicism II Literary Movements II UGC NET


January 25, 2021

History of the Golden Ratio in Art - artnet News


October 2, 2015

What is Classicism?


April 18, 2018


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