Romanticism, an artistic and literary expression of Liberal thought, was initially introduced in Spain in 1820 and acquired its maximun importance during 1830-40, a decade marked by the return from exile of many liberals following the death of Ferdinand VII. They had been influenced by late Franch Romanticism to the exclusion of the English and German models. Mariano Jose de Larra (1809-37) represented its maximun exponent and its influence was still felt at the turn of the century through the poetry of Gustavo Adolfo Becquer (1836-1870) and partially in the grandiloquent drama of Spain's first Nobel Prize winner, Jose Echegaray.
Romanticism would give way to the 'costumbrist' movement of Mesonero Romanos and Estebanez Calderon; to the poetry of Espronceda and to the dramas of the Duque de Rivas, Garcia Gutierres, Hartzenbusch and Jose Zorrilla (Juan Tenorio).
During the second half of the century the Romantic exaltation of nationalist values stimulated the reappearance of regional cultures. In Catalunya, the Floral Games were restored and the Catalan Renaixenca (a literary and linguistic renaissance) was initiated by Rubio i Ors, Verdaguer (L'Atlantida and Canio), and Guimera (Terra baixa and Maricel).
In a like manner, Nicomedes Pastor Diaz laid the foundations for the rebirth of Galician letters, which would produce two exceptional figures: Rosalia de Castro and Curros Enriquez.
During the latter third of the century the Romantic movement found its counter part in a realistic prose writing concerned with 'costumbrismo', the depiction of customs and manners: Fernan Caballero, Alarcon and Pered were amjor exponents. In drama, there were prominent figures such as the sophisticated comedy playwright, Tamayo y Baus, and Ventura de la Vega was an aothor of 'sainetes' (one-act farces) and librettos for zarzuelas. The two greatest figures of the times were Juan de Valera (1828-1905) and Benito Perez Galdos (1843-1920). Galdos, father of the contemporary novel, recreated an historical world spanning some 70 years in his novels the 'Episodios Nacionales'.
Realism and 'costumbrismo' gave way to Naturalism, with three exceptional figures: Leopoldo Alas 'Clarin'; Emilia Pardo Bazan and Vicente Blasco Ibanez.
The end of the 19th century was witness to political, literary, philosophic and artistic restlessness. The institutions founded at the beginning of the century: the Ateneos (cultural associations), Artistic and Literary Societies, reached their highest point of activity. Ethical idealism and Krausist philosophy represented the fundamental ideology of the most progressive intellectuals although many remained faithful to more traditional ideas. Joaquin Costa and Giner de los Rios initiated the 'regeneracionista' movement which produced several extraordinary investigators in the field of historical research: Amador de los Rios, Menendez Pidal, Rafael Altamira, Mila y Fontanals. The most important traditional philosopher was Marcelino Menendez Pelayo. At the same time, a gradual recovery of scientific research came about, above all in the field of medicine, with such prominent figures as Jaime Ferran and the future Nobel Prize winner, Santiago Ramon y Cajal.