Monday, August 17, 2015

Romantic and Sublime, The Critique of Reason at Yale

Lion Attacking a Horse George Stubbs
I was fortunate to take in The Critique of Reason: Romantic Art 1760-1860 at Yale University this summer. I had never had the opportunity to visit Yale or the Yale University Art Gallery and I was happy to find the gallery is extensive is size, located in a substantial building. The exhibition took up the entire 4th floor of the building, accessed by an enormous elevator. Someone attuned to the current tiny house trend might find the elevator large enough to live in.

As told by The New York Times review, this exhibition is a sweeping, 300-piece survey of the Romantic movement that reformulates the concept of the Romantic artist from dreamy introvert to critical, political thinker. 
Hadleigh Castle John Constable 
The exhibition's title, recalls Immanuel Kant's two philosophical tomes: Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Practical Reason. The rise of Romanticism out of the Age of Reason encompassed the general shift against the scientific rationalization of Nature and towards subjectivity, and includes the sublime; the overwhelming forces of Nature and the vulnerability of mankind.
Vesuvius in Eruption Joseph Mallord William Turner
As the first major collaborative exhibition between the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art, as might be expected works of Turner and Martin were present, but none of Caspar David Friedrich - whose work to my mind is almost synonymous with Romantic art. However, for me, the absence of Friedrich was compensated by the abundance of Stubbs.
The Deluge John Martin
A Lion Attacking a Horse George Stubbs

The Stubbs painting above is one of sixteen in a series that preoccupied him for nearly 30 years. This one is almost life size in scale and was displayed at the entrance of the building.  The sublime in art, as in Nature, activates the emotion of awe. The sublime is defined as a terrifying or disturbing event, contemplated from a safe distance or within the controlled confines of art and inspires the more potent emotion of excitement stoked by terror. In Stubbs 'sublime actionone form of the sublime is overpowered by another.



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