The Term Sublime and Romanticism

Sublime is an aesthetic category that characterizes the great in nature, life and art, which is not determined by quantitative parameters, but by their aesthetic influence on a person. The concept of the sublime emerged at the sunset of antiquity and characterized a particular oratory style. This meaning of the term prevailed until the Renaissance. As an independent aesthetic concept the sublime was first developed by Eric Berne in his treatise The Philosophical Research on Our Notions of the Sublime and Beautiful in 1757 (Ferguson 75).

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The term sublime is one of the main categories of classical aesthetics characterizing complex non-utilitarian relationships between the subject and object, usually with the contemplative nature. Due to the latter, the subject has an uneasy feeling of admiration, delight, awe and fear at the same time in relation to the object, which requires superior capabilities for perception and understanding (Ferguson 86).

In this case, the subject experiences the deepest ontological ownership of the most sublime object, the relationship with it, or the transcendent archetype and spiritual forces, which are behind it. The subject has no threat of real danger feeling his or her inner freedom and spiritual equality in the system of interaction among disparate units. In the latter, the subject appears as an infinitely small unit.

Romanticism is a phenomenon of the European culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is a reaction to the Enlightenment and the scientific and technical progress. It is an ideological and artistic movement in the European and American culture of the end of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century. Romanticism is characterized by the statement of a self-worth spiritual and creative life of a person, the image of strong (often rebellious) passions and characters with an inspired and healing nature (Day 132). The given movement was spread to various spheres of human activity. In the eighteenth century, Romanticism referred to all that was strange, fantastic, picturesque and existing in books, but not in reality. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, it became a symbol of a new direction opposite to Classicism and the Enlightenment.

Romanticism was originated in Germany and replaced the Enlightenment. While the latter is characterized by the cult of intellect and based on the principles of civilization, the former argues for the cult of nature, feelings and natural in man. During the era of Romanticism, such phenomena as hiking, climbing and picnics were drawn and represented in artworks, which were designed to restore the unity of man and nature (Ferber 57).

The image of a noble savage armed with folk wisdom was a demand of the romantics. The latter wanted to show a strange man in unusual circumstances. In short, the romantics opposed the progressive civilization.

The central romanticism category of the sublime was formulated by Kant in The Critique of Judgment. According to the philosopher, people find a positive delight in everything that is lovely. It is expressed in quiet contemplation. However, there is a negative pleasure felt in sublime, formless, and infinite causing not joy, but amazement.

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The development of Romanticism in painting was based on a sharp controversy with the adherents of Classicism. The romantics reproached their predecessors for cold rationality and the absence of the movement of life. In the 1820-1830s, works by different artists were characterized by pathos, nervous excitation, as well as the attraction to exotic grounds and the play of imagination capable to lead away from a dull everyday life. The fight against frozen classical norms lasted for a long time, almost half a century. Theodore Gericault was the first who managed to secure a new direction and justify Romanticism.

Romantics have questioned the value of exact sciences and revealed the importance of personality and individual imagination. Their works often convey sublime senses, such as horror, despair, and the triumph of true love. The Romanticism movement ceased to exist by the middle of the nineteenth century, but the romantic trend continued and survived until the twentieth century manifesting itself in expressionism and neo-expressionism.

Romanticism became widespread in all areas of philosophy and cultural life of society. In their writings, all painters, writers and musicians sought to highlight the highest destiny of man, his rich spiritual world, the depth of feelings and emotions. From that moment, a man with his spiritual experiences, quests and internal struggles has become the main theme of artworks, and a smeared idea of welfare and prosperity is of minor importance (Ferber 89).

The depth of personal experiences and thoughts is a thing that all painters of the era of Romanticism tried to pass through their art images made by using color, composition and focuses. Constable and Turner were the main representatives of the Romanticism era. It can be seen that both of them sought to display the unknown mystery of the world in their works.

Paintings of English Romanticism characterized by a deep sense of nature were not represented as static, but in motion often augmented by the presence of man. It was manifested in the landscape genre fully. Turner was a landscape painter with an overwhelmingly romantic talent, and could comprehend the artistic transfer of untamed natural forces. His bold coloristic landscapes had unusual effects and colorful phantasmagoria of nature.

Turner and Constable tried to express the romantic sublime sense of merging with nature. Maybe this trend caused the contrastive enhancement of storm clouds, gloomy mountains around and glowing rainbow in the center with the one end lowered in it. Incidentally, the rainbow is reflected in the water. It cannot be in reality, because it does not occupy a particular place in the space. However, Turner never hesitated to show inconsistencies if they were in his painting.

While paintings of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries lacked emotions, the artistic reflection on the canvases of Romanticism allowed making a great insight into the world different from reality. Thus artists, including Turner and Constable, used rich colors, vivid saturation strokes and paintings with special effects in order to transfer passions and sublime senses.

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