89 artworks, 8 artists
Sentimentalism (fr. sentiment — feeling) is a direction in literature and painting, which dominated European culture from the 1720s to the 1780s. Sentimental works are characterized by sensuality, love of nature, the desire to get away from the bustle of the city, the absence of negative aspects or critical situations. The subjects of sentimentalist works are, as a rule, ordinary people who can be content with little and find pleasure in a sweet and bright, trouble-free existence.

One of the founders of sentimentalism in literature was the Scot James Thomson, who wrote the cycle of poems “The Seasons” (1726—1730). The Frenchmen also made their contribution, for example, Antoine Prévost, who presented readers with his books “Manon Lescaut” (1731) and “The English Philosopher” (1732—1739), and later the philosopher and thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who created one of the main novels of sentimentalism “Julie, or the New Heloise” (1760). Literary works written in this style were characterized by moralizing, touching, sensuality, claims to psychologism and some melancholy. In Russia, the sentimentalism was picked up by Nikolai Karamzin in his novel “Poor Liza” (1792).

Having overcome some resistance, having won the minds of an enlightened public, the style was reflected in painting. Having inherited some elements of Rococo painting, the art of sentimentalism focused on the sweet and sensual subjects. Artists depicted innocent childhood, sinless pure youth, contentment of maturity and clear touching wisdom of old age. In the paintings of sentimentalism there is no place for anger, greed, envy and sexual lust.

A recognized master of the style is the French artist Jean-Baptiste Greuze, whose paintings are filled with emotionality and edification, and at times, they are even too sugary. This artist was so absorbed in the moral aspect of his paintings that he even accompanied some of them with explanatory comments. Sentimentalism rarely became a fundamental trend in the artists’ oeuvres. Nevertheless, many painters used the techniques of this style to some degree. For example, sentimentalism is clearly present in many paintings by the English artist Thomas Gainsborough. Purity and sensitivity were inherent in some of the works by the French Louis-Léopold Boilly and Jean Chardin.

Sentimentalism came to Russian painting at the end of the 18th century and it existed there as an addition to other artistic directions. One of the brightest representatives of the style is the portrait painter Vladimir Borovikovsky. The artist loved sentimentalism and brought the humanity and sensuality to the subjects, the delicate landscapes to the background of his paintings, which he took from the English landscape painters Richard Wilson, Jacob Hackert, Thomas Jones.

Significant paintings by sentimental artists:
Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin. “The Prayer Before Meal,” 1740s
Thomas Gainsborough. “Mr and Mrs Andrews”. 1749
Jean-Baptiste Greuze. “The Souvenir (Fidelity)”, 1789
Vladimir Borovikovsky. “Lizonka and Dasha”, 1794
Vladimir Borovikovsky, “Portrait of M. I. Lopukhina”, 1797
Alexey Venetsianov, “On arable land. Spring”, 1820s

Sentimentalist artists: Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Vladimir Borovikovsky, Charles Burton Barber, Alexey Venetsianov.