Explain how different version of the sublime can be found in various Romantic paintings and literature.
During the 19th century Romantic Movement, authors and artists began to include the philosophical concept that combined beauty with terror. This philosophy, known as the sublime, used scenes of beauty with subtle addition of shocking terror to make the viewers scared but also feel safe knowing that they could not be harmed by this impending danger. Artists used this to draw a new form of attention to their work and have the viewer compelled to see or read more. Artists and writers such as Thomas Cole, Immanuel Kant, and Arthur Schopenhauer use the sublime to display an essence of beauty that is paired with the uneasiness of vulnerability.
Thomas Cole in his piece The Course of Empire (Cole) uses the sublime to create a passion with the viewer about the rise, fall and growth of a nature surrounded empire. During the first stages of the pieces, Cole paints magnificent landscapes scattered with seemingly nomadic tribes of natives that have just come to settle. This Savage State represents the dauntingness of nature in its pure form with its natural resources untapped and its land undisturbed by man. But as man progresses and begins to settle during the Pastoral State, the viewer can see structures being built in the distance and people preparing to farm. The Consummation of Empire shows the quickly growing power of the empire and the viewer feels overwhelmed by the rapid growth from a small village to an overflowing city. Cole uses this overwhelming feeling and the sublime to display the growing vastness of this new empire. Destruction displays the fall of this grand empire as the entire city goes up in flames and an unknown enemy sieges the city. The destruction encapsulates the viewer within the massacre through the sublime, but the observer knows that they cannot be harmed by the impending eradication of the city. As the years pass, and the abandoned city crumbles through time, nature begins to regrow overtop the remains of the once great city. Desolation is shown through the dying light at the end of the day and gives the scene a colorless, water-washed feel as the viewer sees this once living city becoming overgrown with new wildlife. Cole’s use of the sublime causes the observer to feel compassion for both the city and nature as they are each destroyed by two different forms of an opposing force but only nature is reborn over the ashes of the city.
Unlike Thomas Cole, Immanuel Kant was not an artist or a romantic writer, he was a philosopher who researched the sublime. Kant dictates the sublime into two forms, one being the mathematical sublime and the other being the dynamical sublime. Each of these forms are part of the overall topic of beauty and sublime. Kant’s view on beauty is that beauty is not a property one can display in artwork or a feature in the natural world but the...