To get a sense of the true style of Romanticism one only has to look at the self-portraits of the artists during this time period. Studying these portraits gives an incredible sense of emotion because the artist was portraying the way they themselves felt and could therefore express the emotion very deeply in a work of art. It is very powerful to look at these self-portraits and realize that many of these men had troubled lives and were trying to portray the intense way they felt during this time. In the portraits of Goya especially we see the beginning of young man’s life (Figure 1) that is filled with ambition and determined to become an individual as indicated by his long hair and the dark background. In the second self-portrait (Figure 2) we see a man who appears to be in his mid-thirties who is confident in his abilities to create. Thirdly, we see an older Goya (Figure 3) with glasses who looks full of wisdom. And lastly, in his self-portrait at the age of 69, we see a man who had many burdens and is a shell of who he once was, but still remains stoic (Figure 4).
Caspar David Friedrich (Figure 5) has an intense expression and seems almost to have a look of worry, but who nonetheless remains sure of himself. The dark background along with the dark clothes and puffy white collar is typical of many self-portraits during this time and can also be seen in the self-portrait of J. M. W. Turner (Figure 6).
Although Eugene Delacroix’s (Figure 7) self-portrait has a dark background he seems to be expressing pure confidence in himself and wants everyone to know that which may be why the orange in the background makes him appear to be glowing. Someone said of Delacroix “Eugene Delacroix was a curious mixture of skepticism, politeness, dandyism, willpower, cleverness, despotism, and finally, a kind of special goodness and tenderness that always accompanies genius”. Gericault’s (Figure 8) self-portrait is melancholy and the skull in the background adds to the gloom and drama of this portrait. He is also dressed in all black, except for the white collar, and his posture makes him look rather sad. What is so incredible about each one of these self-portraits is that each artist had the opportunity to express themselves and did not paint a static straightforward portrait. The portraits show the concept of who they thought they were; confident, sometimes intensely emotional, creative individuals. They wanted to break free of the traditional way of portrait painting that was for record keeping and instead focus on self- expression and the mysteries of life. From these self-portraits viewers really get a sense of who these artists were and what they believed their place was in the art world.