How Scientific Discoveries Influenced the Arts During the Classical Era


Much of the change that occurred in the arts during the Classical period occurred due to the advancements in science and scientific discovery.  Scientific discovery inspired a form of art in the classical era known as Neoclassical art as well as new innovations such as the piano. The discovery of Roman ruins and Pompeii inspired Neoclassical art which focused on moral virtue, patriotic self-sacrifice, goodly deeds and Roman ideals. The characteristics of Neoclassical art include pieces being somber and linear.

Jaques-Louis David created The Oath of the Horatii in 1784 in Rome. This image depicts “the 7th century BC, to put an end to the bloody war between Rome and Alba, both cities designated champions: the former chose the Horatii, the latter the Curiatii.” (Louvre Museum). David created this art piece in Rome for more inspiration and completed it in 1785. The Oath of the Horatii is an excellent example of Neoclassical style. The piece is linear and has somber colors and emotion. The piece also focused on Roman ideals and self-sacrifice.

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While observing this piece I enjoyed the linear architecture featured in it. The linear floor tiles and arches center the individuals in the painting nicely, especially Horatii who is centered by the middle arch. The arches and floor tiles also give the painting more depth, making the room seem huge. I also noticed the women in the background crying in their somber-colored tunics, adding more emotion to the painting.

All of the scientific discoveries that occurred in the classical era also lead to the innovation of new instruments. The piano was created in 1709 in Italy and was a production of individuals evolving different string instruments to create an instrument that had “hammers” to hit the strings instead of someone having to pluck or strum them. The invention of the piano lead to composers being able to create great works such as Für Elise which was composed by Ludwig van Beethoven around 1810 in his home in Munich, Germany but wasn’t published until after his death. Für Elise displays the style of music seen in the Classical Era. The beginning of the piece has a main melody then it goes into a creative exploration of a major scale and finishes by going back to the main melody.


As I was listening to this melody it was very easy for me to find where Beethoven followed the classical model of the Classical Era.The beginning of the song (0:00-0:49) contains the main melody at 0:49 he then goes into a creative exploration and ends the melody from 2:00-2:25 with the main melody. I have always enjoyed this piece of music, it is very eloquent and interesting to listen to.

The Classical Era also had explorations via ship voyages for scientific discovery. The most famous of these voyages was that of James Cook’s. James Cook also had an artist, John Webber, who accompanied him on his voyage.  John Webber created several pieces that gave insight to this scientific exploration of different parts of the world. One of his famous pieces known as Kealakekua Bay and the Village Kowroaa was painted in 1779 during James Cook’s voyage. This piece depicts the landscape and village of Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii. Due to James Cook having John Webber accompanying him on his voyage, Webber was able to create pieces that created a story of the scientific voyage and all of the different places they visited and all of the different people, animals and things that they encountered. The style of Webber’s painting leans more towards a Neoclassical  style, as this painting features somber colors and was painted during the Neoclassical period.


I could automatically recognize that this painting was of Hawaii when I first saw it. The landscape depicts tall cliffs, palm trees and ocean which are typical features in Hawaii. This painting focus seems to be on the large cliffs up ahead. I can only imagine how phenomenal it would be to experience a foreign land with sheer cliffs above the ocean for the first time.


Works cited:

Beethoven, Ludwig V. “Für Elise (Piano Version).” YouTube, 16 Mar. 2008, Accessed 6 Oct. 2016.

For Elise. “Für Elise Bagatelle in A minor WoO 59.” For Elise, Accessed 6 Oct. 2016.

Gagliano, Rico. “The Mystery Behind Beethoven’s Famous Piece, ‘Für Elise’.” The Dinner Party Download, 1 May 2015, Accessed 8 Oct. 2016.

Gontar, Cybele. “Neoclassicism.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2003)

Green, Aaron. “”Fur Elise” by Ludwig Van Beethoven.” Entertainment, Accessed 6 Oct. 2016.

Kljaich, Lisa. “Classical Music.” ARTMUSTHR F200. N.p.,24 Apr. 2009. Web. 08 Oct. 2016.

Kljaich, Lisa. “Visual Arts in the Classical Era.” ARTMUSTHR F200. N.p., 24 Apr. 2009. Web. 08 Oct. 2016.

Lerouge, Ophélie. “The Oath of the Horatii Louvre Museum Paris.” The Louvre, Accessed 5 Oct. 2016.

McCoy, Dr. Claire. “David, Oath of the Horatii | Neo-Classicism |Khan Academy.” Khan Academy, Accessed 6 Oct. 2016.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. “Topic: Biography of John Webber | Collections Online – Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.” Welcome | Collections Online – Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Accessed 6 Oct. 2016.

National Endowment for the Humanities. “Neoclassicism and America 1750-1900 Discovering the Classical Past.” Accessed 5 Oct. 2016.

PianoNet. “History of the Piano | Pianonet.” Your Comprehensive Guide to Everything About Pianos | Pianonet, Accessed 5 Oct. 2016.

Webber, John. “Kealakekua Bay and the Village Kowroaa.” Painting . Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu, Hawaii. wikipedia, 1779,,_1779,_ink,_ink_wash_and_watercolor.jpg. Accessed 6 Oct. 2016.


3 thoughts on “How Scientific Discoveries Influenced the Arts During the Classical Era

  1. The scientific discoveries made during the Classical Era with James Cook are just amazing. I did not realize that he discovered so much. In chase of an eclipse in the southern hemisphere, the British government decided to send an expedition to observe the phenomenon and with a more secret motive to find the fabled southern continent. The endeavor landed in Tahiti and he continued on to New Zealand and Australia’s eastern coast. Cook claimed it for Britain and named it New South Wales. He arrived back in July 1771. According to,
    “Cook set out on a second voyage to look for the southern continent. His two ships sailed close to the Antarctic coast but were forced to turn back by the cold. They then visited New Zealand and Tahiti, returning to England in 1775.” Also after finding Hawaii on 14 February Cook was in a scuffle and stabbed and killed.
    I love listening to the piano and I chose the same piece from Beethoven for my blog. He was an amazing composer and I can not believe he accomplished so much and he was deaf….. I really learned a lot of new information.


  2. I really like that you connected the different advances across the two different I really like that you connected the different advances across the two different areas of art. Though I did find it hard to see the connection between The Oath of the Horatii and the other works here, other than that they are from the same era. Both the invention of the piano and Captain Cooks sailing around the world were the result of innovation and the increase of knowledge and innovation. However I do think that your analysis sheds some light on that the neo-classical style gave rigidity and guidelines using strait lines to give depth and guide the eye. This is much the same way science gives rules and guidelines to understanding the natural world. I enjoyed all of the works you chose However to me was Kealakekua Bay and the Village Kowroaa, this is because it reminds me of the sketches that Charles Darwin did while on the Galapagos islands. These types of paintings were the basis for why people went out and explored the unknown. I also like that you recognized the picture before doing your research, it’s a testament to Webbers attention to detail.areas of art. Though i do find it hard to see the connection between the The Oath of the Horatii and the other works here, other than that they are from the same era


  3. Being someone who is very math oriented I tend not to think too far past the scientific discoveries themselves. However you did an awesome job correlating these advances in science to those in the arts as well. The Neoclassical style art has always fit the role of a classic painting to me. I also liked how you included that link to The Oath of the Horatii. It was nice being able to read the background behind the painting when observing it. I find it so interesting that characters so void of emotion can contain such life.


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