Romanticism (also the Romantic era or the Romantic period) was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, it was also a revolt against the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education and the natural sciences. Its effect on politics was considerable and complex; while for much of the peak Romantic period it was associated with liberalism and radicalism, its long-term effect on the growth of nationalism was probably more significant.
The movement validated intense emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as apprehension, horror and terror, and awe—especially that which is experienced in confronting the sublimity of untamed nature and its picturesque qualities: both new aesthetic categories. It elevated folk art and ancient custom to a noble status, made spontaneity a desirable characteristic (as in the musical impromptu), and argued for a "natural" epistemology of human activities, as conditioned by nature in the form of language and customary usage. Romanticism reached beyond the rational and Classicist ideal models to raise a revived medievalism and elements of art and narrative perceived to be authentically medieval in an attempt to escape the confines of population growth, urban sprawl, and industrialism. Romanticism embraced the exotic, the unfamiliar, and the distant in modes more authentic than Rococo chinoiserie, harnessing the power of the imagination to envision and to escape.
Although the movement was rooted in the German Sturm und Drang movement, which prized intuition and emotion over the rationalism of the Enlightenment, the events of and ideologies that led to the French Revolution planted the seeds from which both Romanticism and the Counter-Enlightenment sprouted. The confines of the Industrial Revolution also had their influence on Romanticism, which was in part an escape from modern realities. Indeed, in the second half of the 19th century, "Realism" was offered as a polarized opposite to Romanticism. Romanticism assigned a high value to the achievements of 'heroic' individualists and artists, whose pioneering examples, it maintained, would raise the quality of society. It also vouched for the individual imagination as a critical authority allowed of freedom from classical notions of form in art. There was a strong recourse to historical and natural inevitability, a Zeitgeist, in the representation of its ideas.