The first half of the 18th century was characterized by reason while the last decades of the century were characterized by emotion because there was a movement that was not satisfied by the restriction of reason. So from the field of the visual arts starts a new sensibility.
A philosopher, E. Burke, said that there is in philosophy but also as an aesthetic value, an enourms difference between what We call sublime and that We call beautiful.
He said that sublime is any form of art that produces a sort of strong emotions, terror, fear, a sense of astonishment when We look at it because sublime is everything that gives an idea of the strength and of the power of nature.
Beautiful means classical harmony, balance and regularity. So beautiful is connected to reason while sublime is connected to the romantic sensibility and They always refer to natural landscapes.
• SUBLIME PAINTINGS:
"The nightmare" by Füssli there is a girl who is sleeping and She is having a nightmare. There is a monkey sitting on her body and there is a horse but They are two monstrous creatures. It gives a sense of fear.
"The Shipwreck " It gives the sense of strength, of limitless of the human, They are in a tiny ship in the middle of the storming sea. It demonstrates the violence of the sea and the plight of the humans at the mercy of nature.
"The rainbow" by Dawson: there is a peaceful landscape, a rainbow, some cows. It gives a sense of harmony and peace.
"Dedham valley" by John Constable: It gives the sense of harmony, peace because there is a shepherd who is having a rest.
"The Haywain": It represents a rural scene in the country side. There are two people in haywain, big trees and a light blue sky.
Other paintings are "The cornfield", "The clouds". The first emotions given by these paintings are harmony and peace.
"The ancient of days " by William Blake: It deals with the Romantic hero so this is not a natural landscape. There is a Titan. He is a powerful man because he is drawing the limits of the world, but he is also very isolated. This painting is a metaphor of the Romantic artist, an isolated out of the world.
Pre-romanticismis is a literary movement that was born from the new sensibility in the field of the visual arts and so from the new interest in feeling and strong emotions. It is characterized by a gloomy atmosphere, terror, a new interests in what is macabre. The pre-romanticism produced a new literary genre, "the Gothic Novel". So the Gothic Novel can be considered the representation in prose of what is sublime in the visual arts. The Gothic Novel finds his first expression in the "The Castle of Otranto", by Horace Walpole. This novel is set in Apulia, in an old medieval castle, with a complicated plot centered on a young woman persecuted by a villain. It is full of mystery and horror. In the field of poetry sublime finds its embodiment in the Graveyard poetry. The best example is "Elegy written in a country churchyard" by Thomas Gray where We can find an interest for what is macabre, gloomy. Gray influenced the Italian poet Foscolo that not by chance wrote "I Sepolcri".
The novel of purpose is so called because It aimed at spreading a topic especially social, political or scientific. But is also Gothic in plot. The best example of this genre is Frankenstein by Mary Shelly. In this case the idea was that It is possible to create an artificial life starting from a corpse. This idea comes from the fact that in the last decades of the 18th century an Italian scientist called Galvani found out that with an electric sparkle It was possible to provoke the movement of dead tissues.
Pre-romanticism is a first phase of supporting romanticism. There is a great difference between pre-romanticism and romanticism because in the pre-romanticism there is a strong stress on the terror, macabre, astonishment while in the romanticism the stress is on the emotions, imagination, individualism, artist's isolation, interest for the nature. We have to distinguish between first generation of romantics and second generation romantics is that They all died when They were very young. The romantic hero isn't the middle class man, the romantic hero with his strong emotions can be seen as a rebel or an outcast. The rebel is alone not because society excludes him, but because he rejects the society (an example is Byron). In the case of the outcast It is the society that rejects him (an example is Frankenstein's creature).