Although the terms "Classical" and "Romantic" are often used to describe periods in artistic history, they are also approaches to art. Art of the classical approach will emphasize orderly, balanced forms depicted in an objective, rational way. Classical art is often associated with the Age of Reason, also known as the Enlightenment, when thinkers and philosophers such as John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau and even Ben Franklin were ruminating in writing on the possibilities of the human mind and questioning traditional religious beliefs in light of new scientific knowledge and understanding. The classical art forms often recall the work of the Greeks, with an emphasis on the beauty and harmony of the human form and the symmetry of classic architecture. Classical music is characterized by brief, uncomplicated melodies and repetition of such, while classical paintings tend to be constructed with symmetry and balance, realistic forms and classic architectural features such as columns and arches.
Romantic artistic approaches tend to reject the realism of classicism, focusing instead on feelings, emotions, images that appeal to the senses, a subjective point of view in contrast to the objective point of view of the classicists. A romantic painting will have less defined forms, and often depicts feelings that are often gloomy, dark, pessimistic. Romantic music, similarly, will be characterized by long, often brooding, melancholy melodies and changing tempos and volumes. In contrast to Classicism, the emphasis is on feeling over form.