?In Burke makes it clear that the notion of

?In 1757, Irish philosopher Edmond Burke proposed the concept of  “the sublime” in his text, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origins of the Sublime and Beautiful. This idea of the sublime describes the feeling a person experiences when they observe something in the world around them that is so great in size that it makes that person feel extremely small and insignificant in comparison, but in the best and most awe-inspiring way possible, rather than a solely negative sensation. For example, when a subject sees a gigantic range of mountains, and has an entirely encompassing feeling of being dwarfed by them, in admiration of creation. Or if one stared at the night sky and realizes the sheer number of stars above our heads, dizzied by that unimaginable sum. The idea of the sublime has not been something isolated to philosophical thinking, as it has spread into several other mediums, specifically within an art context. This concept was very quickly adopted into the art tradition as artists grappled with the question of “… how can an artist paint the sensation that we experience when words fail or when we find ourselves beyond the limits of reason?”  This concept was particularly well received by British artists, spanning from the Baroque period onwards, leaving an indelible impression on art history and philosophy. Burke’s concept of the sublime evolved from being simply a philosophical construct to a theme etched into the British history of art, from the Enlightenment into modernity.The definition of the sublime has been interpreted in several different contexts over the centuries, and often times gets easily confused with great beauty, but in Burke’s original text he clarifies the separation between these two. Burke makes it clear that the notion of the sublime does not always originate within admiration as beauty does, although it certainly can be related to beauty, he focused on the sublime’s distinct traits involving danger: “Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner of analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is the product of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.”  Burke believed that pain ultimately would override feelings of pleasure, so he focused on that aspect of the human senses when he described what exactly encompassed the sublime. Burke believed that danger and pain could cause just as much delight as the beautiful could, as long as there was some aspect of distance involved.   Burke set specific sensations associated with the sublime in relation to this theory of pain over pleasure in order to more clearly identify it: darkness, limiting the sense of sight; obscurity, something that confuses judgement; privation, pain is a more powerful feeling than pleasure; vastness, beyond comprehension; magnificence, causing awe; loudness, that which is overwhelming; suddenness, which shocks us to the extent of paralyzing us.  While these symptoms of the sublime may not sound terribly pleasurable to experience or see, or very easy to depict as an artist, British creatives took these criteria and rendered the sensations into wonderful and thoughtful works of art.This set of criteria was integral to how British artists viewed the nature of the sublime, and in how they attempted to render their interpretation of this concept. For example, in Philip James de Loutherbourg’s An Avalanche in the Alps (Image 1), de Loutherbourg created his own rendition of the Alps, a scene that would have been very familiar to British travelers, into an image of sublime greatness.  De Lotuherbourg’s piece is a well developed example of how Burke’s list of criteria can be seamlessly interwoven into a painted work. He juxtaposes the rugged massiveness of the mountains with diminutive figures fleeing the scene, adopting Burke’s definition of an overwhelming loudness, as we see these people overwhelmed by the severity of their doomed situation.  The panicked nature of the figures, with one even praying in desperation, solidifies this notion of danger and privation, and also evokes a sense of empathy from the viewer, as we can see their encroaching fate, and we almost feel just as helpless as the victims do, as we aren’t able to do anything to prevent their tragic deaths. There is a sense of limited sight just as the figures in the painting would be experiencing in this moment, as the masses of snow are encroaching, neither we nor the travelers can see past the natural disaster, can see no route of escape. De Loutherbourg also adopts vastness in this piece, as both the viewers of the painting and the subjects of the piece are unable to comprehend the sheer size of this avalanche. This particular piece is a prime example of the darker undertones that the sublime held for much of British art history. While we marvel at the enormous power of nature, the artful representation of the sublime also depicts the danger of these forces and points directly to our own mortality.This darker side to the sublime was what was in the forefront of artists’ minds during the earlier depictions of the concept. During the eighteenth-century, you would have been more likely to hear the word ‘sublime’ along those that we as contemporaries tend to have negative associations with, like ‘awful’ or ‘terrible’, rather than anything connoting something beautiful.  This word association between the sublime and what we find tremendous or terrifying is what drove artists like de Loutherbourg to depict such heartbreaking and grandeurs scenes in their work. The sublime would not begin to be defined as anything lighter than tragedy until the idea returned back to fashion after the Victorian era, wherein artists were more enamored with the beautiful than the sublime.  It was only partway though the Baroque period when Burke published his Philosophical Enquiry of the sublime, but the concept had been explored throughout the extent of the eighteenth-century, though it was Burke who created a distinct and specific interpretation that would then become the foundation for the rest of British sublime art. Before Burke, there was no specific ties between the sublime and terrible or the sublime and beautiful, it was simply seen as a spectacle, or something that evoked a strong emotion from the viewer.  It was only when Burke later elaborated on the specifics of the sublime would it then become a more concrete concept, expanding further than simply the relationship between the viewer and a work of art. The pre-Burke focus of the sublime on drawing a certain emotion or sensation out of the viewer went very easily hand-in-hand with the Baroque notion of the “intense relationship between the composer, their art, and the audience.”  This notion of the early Baroque sublime aiming to create a powerful reaction from the viewer was what mainly fed the sublime before Burke was able to define it. An example of this rendition of the sublime was the writings of Johnathan Richardson and his analysis of Anthony Van Dyck’s portrait Countess Dowager of Exeter (Image 2). Richardson thought that portraiture in and of itself was a sublime genre, if the artist had enough skill in order to take the subject they had in front of them, and be able to turn that subject into a character that was so powerfully crafted that it had a profound effect on the viewer.   Richardson developed his own point system as to how he judged whether a painting was capable of this sublime effect, where he scored a piece on categories such as expression and composition, and how these related to the character in the piece.  For Richardson’s scoring of Van Dyck’s piece (Image 3), while the piece did not get a perfect score in each category, Richardson still declared it as sublime. Richardson believed that the portrait earned a sublime ranking for merely demonstrating many of the qualities he was judging upon, and also that the piece depicted the subject so poignantly that the “mere sight of her the depicted widow can make the spectator into a more moral being.”  Not only is this critique representative of the early Baroque definition of the sublime, it also illustrates the need that was felt to give a specific definition to the sublime, reflected in Richardson’s own scorecards.After Burke’s publication, the nature of the sublime experienced it’s first shift in definition, changing from this sole experience of the spectator to more of a representative theme in art. This then translated into the Romantic sublime, one that took on a more natural, landscape oriented turn, rather than the previous emphasis on solely the audience. British artists like Joseph Mallord William (J.M.W) Turner found specific motifs within nature and adopted them into a Burkean representation of the sublime. For Turner, he focused on a sublime motif of water. One of his first pieces to have been exhibited was Fishermen at Sea (Image 4), depicting a boat full of fisherman on a luminous sea, hauntingly peaceful as they are surrounded by dark and foreboding clouds. Some critics reprimanded Turner for depicting two pools of water lit by the moon, when it would not have been physically possible for that to occur.  Others praised him for using this specific detail to employ Burke’s sublime obscurity, how the observer of this scene would not have been able to see clearly through the dark gloom, and would have had a confused judgement as to the motion of the scene.  Turner also uses Burke’s sense of darkness to further experiment with the depth of the depiction, as we can only see the turbulent boats clearly, and everything else beyond is veiled in dark clouds, with just a hint of a silhouette of land in the back, almost flattening this scene. The sky Turner chooses to depict also evokes Burke’s sense of vastness and magnificence, as these massive black clouds drape themselves across the sky, seeming nearly endless, yet there is one brilliant gaping hole in the cover illuminating the scene. This piece from Turner revels in the Burke sublime, as it continued to develop up until the Victorian Era, and is emblematic of the signature landscape style that would come to rule this era of the sublime.Around 1850, there was again a shift in the sublime, while this was not one of definition, it was one of popularity. The concept fell out of favor, as artists and their audiences gravitated towards the beautiful rather than the sublime.   After Turner’s immense success in rendering the sublime in his works scholars like John Ruskin began to question Burke’s definition of the sublime as too cruel a vision of nature, or lacking any sort of divinity.   Society began to shift it’s attention toward the secular, and as technological and industrial advances continued to grow, the focus of creators like George Eliot began to shift from relatively inaccessible ideas to focusing on more the the experience of common life. The sublime re-emerged as the Modern era took hold, once again adopting a new context and a new definition. During the previous Victorian era, the sublime had become part of an everyday syntax, having had its rich connotations seemingly forgotten according to artists like James Abbot McNeill Whistler.  Whistler sought to reinvigorate the sublime, to revile its simpler definition in favor of one that interpreted Burke’s ideas into a new context. During a public lecture Whistler gave in 1885, he implored “How dutifully the casual in Nature is accepted as sublime, may be gathered from the unlimited admiration daily produced by a very foolish sunset.”  Despite Whistler’s protests, as the nineteenth-century continued, supposedly sublime pieces of familiar views flooded the art community. There was turmoil as to which new direction the sublime would take. Artists like John Martin were content making representations of the familiar, while others like philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed that the sublime was dead and there was no more left to extrapolate from it:”How the theatrical scream of passion now hurts our ears, how strange to our taste the whole romantic uproar and tumult of the senses has become, which the educated mob loves, and all its aspirations after the sublime, lofty and weird! No, if we convalescents still need art, it is another kind of art…” As the twentieth-century progressed, the definition of the sublime began to break into factions. The Dada movement and Nietzsche were anti-sublime, claiming that it AppendixImage 1Philip James de Loutherbourg, An Avalanche in the Alps. 1803Image 2William Faithorne after Anthony van Dyck. Francesca Bridges Filia Domini Cavendish bet Dotissa Exoniae Comitissa. 1650-1663Image 3Johnathan Richardson. Scoring of Countess Dowager of Exeter by Van Dyck. 1719. Image 4 Joseph Mallord William Turner. Fisherman at Sea. 1796BibliographyBurke, Edmund. A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origins of the Sublime and Beautiful. R. and J. Dodsley, 1757.Christine Riding and Nigel Llewellyn, ‘British Art and the Sublime’, in Nigel Llewellyn and Christine Riding (eds.), The Art of the Sublime, Tate Research Publication, January 2013, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/the-sublime/christine-riding-and-nigel-llewellyn-british-art-and-the-sublime-r1109418, accessed 06 December 2017.Philip James De Loutherbourg, An Avalanche in the Alps 1803, in Nigel Llewellyn and Christine Riding (eds.), The Art of the Sublime, Tate Research Publication, January 2013, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/the-sublime/philip-james-de-loutherbourg-an-avalanche-in-the-alps-r1105560, accessed 08 December 2017.’The Romantic sublime’, in Nigel Llewellyn and Christine Riding (eds.), The Art of the Sublime, Tate Research Publication, January 2013, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/the-sublime/the-romantic-sublime-r1109221, accessed 08 December 2017.Lydia Hamlett, ‘Longinus and the Baroque Sublime in Britain’, in Nigel Llewellyn and Christine Riding (eds.), The Art of the Sublime, Tate Research Publication, January 2013, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/the-sublime/lydia-hamlett-longinus-and-the-baroque-sublime-in-britain-r1108498, accessed 10 December 2017.Richardson, Jonathan. Two discourses. I. An essay on the whole art of criticism as it relates to painting. Shewing how to judge I. Of the Goodness of a Picture; II. Of the Hand of the Master; and III. Whether ’tis an Original, or a Copy. II. An argument in behalf of the science of a connoisseur; Wherein is shewn the Dignity, Certainty, Pleasure, and Advantage of it. Both by Mr. Richardson. London,  1719. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. 10 Dec. 2017. http://find.galegroup.com.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/ecco/infomark.do?&source=gale&prodId=ECCO&userGroupName=s1185784&tabID=T001&docId=CW106417178&type=multipage&contentSet=ECCOArticles&version=1.0&docLevel=FASCIMILESarah Monks, ”Suffer a Sea-Change’: Turner, Painting, Drowning’, in Nigel Llewellyn and Christine Riding (eds.), The Art of the Sublime, Tate Research Publication, January 2013, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/the-sublime/sarah-monks-suffer-a-sea-change-turner-painting-drowning-r1136832, accessed 11 December 2017.Philip James de Loutherbourg, An Avalanche in the Alps. 1803William Faithorne after Anthony van Dyck. Francesca Bridges Filia Domini Cavendish bet Dotissa Exoniae Comitissa. 1650-1663Joseph Mallord William Turner. Fisherman at Sea. 1796