Art’s equivocal relationship with the natural world

(K. Brent Tomer),

POETS and artists have always been awed by nature. The author of “The Wanderer”, an Old English poem, both admired and feared the power of the sea and storms. In the 20th century, Mary Hunter Austin wrote that she was “not homesick with the sky, nor with the hills, though sometimes I am afraid of them.” Edmund Burke, in his “Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful” (1757), had stated that the majesty of the natural world always provokes such an ambiguous response, a sense of ineffability and a mingling of pleasure and pain. “The passion caused by the great and sublime in nature…is astonishment,” he says. “And astonishment is that state of the soul, in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror.”

Though Burke was not the first to articulate this idea (Jonathan Richardson, a painter and theorist, sought to identify the sublime in art some 20 years earlier), his manifesto was the most influential, particularly for the Romantics and Transcendentalists. Percy Bysshe Shelley, in “Mont Blanc” (1817), wrote: “Dizzy Ravine! And when I gaze on thee | I seem as…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Art’s equivocal relationship with the natural world

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