Wednesday, 2 March 2011


Neo-classicism emerged in northern Europe at mid 18th to the end of the 19th century and was a revival of all things Ancient Greek and Ancient Rome from art to philosophy people looked back in time to a more grand and majestic period of time. Neo-classicism was a direct reaction against the exclusivity and pomposity of the Rococo movement. Neo-classicists believed that the beauty of art should be experienced to its fullest and by everyone.

A key factor behind the Neoclassicist movement was the Philosophies of the ancients, the most dominant of these would have been Plato, student of Socrates, master of Aristotle, whose work was also considered. Apart from his famous 'Allegory of the Cave' which is his way of teaching that philosophy is the key to all knowledge and the consequences of those that do, his other big idea was 'The Theory of The Forms'.

(According to Plato, reality consists of two realms. First, there is the physical world, the world that we can observe with our five senses. And second, there is a world made of eternal perfect “forms” or “ideas.”

What are “forms”? Plato says they are perfect templates that exist somewhere in another dimension (He does not tell us where). These forms are the ultimate reference points for all objects we observe in the physical world. They are more real than the physical objects you see in the world.

For example, a chair in your house is an inferior copy of a perfect chair that exists somewhere in another dimension. A horse you see in a stable is really an imperfect representation of some ideal horse that exists somewhere. In both cases, the chair in your house and the horse in the stable are just imperfect representations of the perfect chair and horse that exist somewhere else.

According to Plato, whenever you evaluate one thing as “better” than another, you assume that there is an absolute good from which two objects can be compared. For example, how do you know a horse with four legs is better than a horse with three legs? Answer: You intuitively know that “horseness” involves having four legs.

Not all of Plato’s contemporaries agreed with Plato. One of his critics said, “I see particular horses, but not horseness.” To which Plato replied sharply, “That is because you have eyes but no intelligence.”)

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With this idea for a 'Pursuit for Perfection' rising again in European society people turned back to the works of antiquity and saw these carved masterpieces of the perfect form and the Renaissances feverish chasing of this wonderful, almost unachievable mystery proportion of the the human figure.

Da Vinci's Vetruvian Man

This had a massive impact on the social, political and cultural climate at the time particularly against the French Monarchy with the French Revolution with the storming of the Bastille in 1789 this was the symbolic, and very bloody, rejection of aristocracy, exclusivity and nobility that had dominated France for over an era. In wake of the the first couple of decades of the age of enlightenment even the common people adopted the day-to-day classically inspired fashion. Once where there were corsets and elaborate dresses of many yards of silk and some mysterious unknowable scent, women adopted a simple high-waisted natural figured look in tribute to the old style of simplicity. It even extended to hair styles, pompous wigs were discarded and for the first time in decades people left hair to hang freely in curls especially, in tribute to the classic Roman style

So the foundation was laid for people to follow this mysterious 'perfection' once again, the common people had taken power, science was challenging religion and man was ready for his next step in history.
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