Fascinating stories behind sublime artworks

Sublime artwork is one of the art world’s most dramatic and poignant subjects, encompassing drama, beauty, and devastation in equivalent amounts. Here are a few awe-inspiring sublime paintings right from the renaissance era to modern times.

The Raft of the Medusa (1819) by ThéodoreGéricault

ThéodoreGéricault showcases violent and terrifying imagery of surviving and less lucky inmates of a lifeboat set loose from a navy ship sunk by a commander. This 23-by-16-foot canvas is considered to be Théodore’s supreme work as it startled the audience with the true depiction of the tragedy of the event.The theme of horror and death is central to the investigation of the Sublime which is truly captured in this artwork by the macabre appearance of the desiccated corpses along with the tension of a frightening sky.

Landscape with the Flight into Egypt (1563) by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

This is a Northern Renaissance sublime landscape painting that has a religious undertone with breathtaking scenery. It showcases Mary and Joseph escaping the persecution in Bethlehemthrough a perilous cliff face in the foreground. In the painting, the pale and distant scenery represents the familiar grounds while the dark and foreboding foreground represents the dangers of an unknown future. This striking balance of darkness, fragility, and movement makes it one of the most enduring metaphors of all time.

An Avalanche in the Alps (1803) by Philip James De Loutherbourg

In this classic sublime artwork, one can see the distant French Alps beginning to crumble away into an avalanche, forming frighteningly huge clouds of rising dust and smoke across the scene and cloaking the sky above. Further, a flash of white light in the center draws our attention to the minuscule, horrified spectators who are witnessing the disaster, soon to be consumed by the fundamental forces of nature.The theatre created by lightning, depth, movement, and overwhelming drama makes this a masterpiece!

Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (1831) by John Constable

The sublime becomes evident through this painting’s gloomy sky and plentiful symbology. Constable has raised worry about the Anglican Church’s future through this enormous canvas; the use of vivid hues, handling of lighting, and overall gloomy and foreboding air raise the right emotions given the times. The cart wading through a brook and big tree to the left adds to the gloomy sublime effect.

The Island of the Dead (1880) by Arnold Bocklin

This is considered to be one of the most hauntingly sublime landscape paintings ever made depicting an imaginary island rising from the sea against a dark and menacing sky. Commissioned by the recently widowed Marie Berna, this sublime artwork depicts Bocklin’s imagery of death and mourning.

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