Romanticism, as an artistic movement in the first half of the 19th century, profoundly influenced the visual arts, especially painting. Its origins were first found in landscape paintings of the 1760s. Landscape painting had largely been denigrated as a serious subject, but Romantics tended to depict violent storms and wild locations.
Romantic art moved from England to continental Europe and was a leading style during the Napoleonic period in France. Artists sought to use imagination and emotion in order to depict heroic ideals, especially as the post-Revolutionary ideals spread across Europe with Napoleon’s armies.
By stressing nature, Romantic art sought to counterpoise the heavily scientific and rigid Enlightenment. The uncontrollable power and majesty of nature, especially in depictions of violent storms on land or sea, were representative of the inner emotional world of the artist. Another major subject for Romantic art were animals, often used as metaphoric depiction. Wild, unbroken animals, like terrifying storms, were depicted as forces of nature that man could not contain.
In America, Romantic art and its focus on the landscape found expression in the Hudson River School. American artists turned to the vast wilderness areas of the United States, starting in around the Hudson River in New York, but eventually encompassing much of the undeveloped wilderness across the contitnent.