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The challenge of the sublimeFrom Burke's Philosophical Enquiry to British Romantic art$
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Hélène Ibata

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781526117397

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526117397.001.0001

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The sublime contained: academic compromises

The sublime contained: academic compromises

(p.109) 4 The sublime contained: academic compromises
The challenge of the sublime

Hélène Ibata

Manchester University Press

Chapter 4 assesses the extent of Burke’s immediate influence on academic painters and explores their predilection for dramatic or terrifying subject matter. The correspondence between Burke and his protégé James Barry is examined as an example of the fascination exerted by the Enquiry on the painters of the pre-Romantic generation, and of their keenness to demonstrate the sublimity of painting through neoclassical principles. The rest of the chapter examines other examples of academic painters who addressed the Burkean challenge from the perspective of neoclassical aesthetics, and successfully conflated existing pictorial formulae with the new taste for terror. The work of Henry Fuseli, in particular, is presented as a conscious and informed response to contemporary theories of the sublime, including Burke’s, which sought dynamism, irrationalism and affective power while remaining within the boundaries of academic aesthetics.

Keywords:   James Barry, Henry Fuseli, Royal Academy, Neoclassicism, Indistinctness, Irrationalism, Milton

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