During the industrial revolution, Romantics were concerned with individualism. Byron in literature and Beethoven in music are both examples of romantic individualism. The most influential exemplar of individualism was Napoleon Bonaparte. He dramatically rose to the head of France in the chaotic wake of its bloody revolution, led his army to a series of triumphs in Europe to build an influential Empire, and created new styles, tastes, and even laws with disregard for public opinion. He was the inspiration for authors like Dostoyevsky (Brians, 1998).
Classicism, I would have thought would have been the main force against which Romantics were reacting. Classicism seemed to me like the most unfeeling and conformed. Classicism was about form, simplicity, proportion, and restrained emotion. Nothing in Classicism resembles Romanticism. Shakespeare disregarded structural models of Greek drama and exploited freely the supernatural elements of folk legend. Romanticism legitimized the individual imagination as a critical authority, which permitted freedom from classical notions of form in art. Neoclassicism was seen as decorous imitation of classical models, which were on their own dull, by the Romantics. The Raft of the Medusa (Theodore Gericault) represents a break from the calm and order of the then-prevailing neoclassical school.
While Enlightenment was against rigidity of social structures protecting privilege, it was focused on reason and intellect. Romantics would relate with allowing a diverse acceptance of religion, although Enlightenment was more against Christianity rather than tolerant of it and wanting Christians to be tolerant of their religious beliefs. Romantics rejected Enlightenment as mechanical, impersonal, and artificial. William Blake’s writings are an example of anti-Enlightenment in the 1970’s.
Rationalism was reacted against because once again it was about logic and reasoning instead of emotion. Philip James De Loutherbourg portrayed nature overcoming human in An Avalanche in the Alps, 1803.
Brians, Paul. Romanticism. 1998. Retrieved on September 17, 2010.