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Difference between Enlightenment and Romanticism

Difference between Enlightenment and Romanticism

The Enlightenment and Romanticism have been two of the most influential movements in European history. Both eras left a lasting impact on society, literature, politics and art, but they also had some distinct differences between them. The Enlightenment was a period of scientific advancement that sought to recreate society by introducing principles such as reason and individualism while Romanticism was focused more on artistic expression through various forms of creative work. In this blog post we will discuss the core concepts of each movement and explore how they contrast with each other to help you develop a better understanding of their respective impacts on western culture.

What is Enlightenment?

  • Enlightenment is an age-old concept that has been at the forefront of philosophical debates for centuries. Enlightenment is conceivably defined as the state in which a person has reached a higher level of spiritual or mental awareness – a newfound understanding of one’s place in the world and in nature.
  • This state is often associated with moral and psychological transformation, independent thinking, freedom, self-discovery, increased knowledge, and harmony.
  • It can be attained by engaging in activities that stimulate critical thinking such as reading literature, contemplating life choices, having meaningful conversations with others, and engaging in spiritual practice like meditation. Enlightenment requires inner work and effort to achieve but it brings with it extraordinary personal growth and inner peace.

What is Romanticism?

  • Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that deeply influenced the world during the late 18th and 19th centuries. Romanticism was defined as a reverence for nature and imagination, coupled with a rejection of classical rationality in favor of individual emotion, sensuality and freedom of expression.
  • Romanticism put emphasis on creative genius, intense feelings and originality in works of art, literature and music. Romanticism revolutionized culture not only through its criticism of traditional values but also through its refusal to adhere to any strict standard beauty or truth.
  • Romanticism encouraged creativity and individuality which led to a flourishing of art in all forms around Europe during this time period. Although Romanticist movements have come and gone since then, their influence still permeates our lives today.

Difference between Enlightenment and Romanticism

Enlightenment and Romanticism were two artistic movements of the 18th and 19th centuries respectively, with Enlightenment focusing on reason and Romanticism focusing on emotion.

  • Enlightenment period artwork highlighted themes such as rationality, progression, objective truth and democracy while Romanticism featured mysticism, nature, emotion, dreamy ideals and subjectivism. Enlightenment artists focused more on traditional forms to express its ideals while Romanticist favored more freedom in composition.
  • Enlightenment art is usually full of light and order emphasizing symmetry and form while Romantic art can be characterized by its color palette of emotional intensity.
  • Both aesthetic styles revealed the culture’s ideologies during their respective time eras, offering insight into how they uniquely responded to expansive political changes occurring in those periods.


The key difference between Enlightenment and Romanticism is that Enlightenment emphasizes reason and rationality while Romanticism focuses on imagination and emotions. Both movements were a reaction to the Industrial Revolution which began in the late 18th century. The enlightenment was driven by a desire to use Reason to achieve progress whereas Romanticism was inspired by nature and intuition.

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