Hélène Ibata
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‘Sublime dreams’
Ruin paintings and architectural fantasies
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This chapter argues that one of the most efficient strategies of visualisation of the sublime was found in ruin paintings and architectural fantasies, more specifically in the exploration of architectural fragments as a source of formal inventiveness and indeterminacy. The argument suggests that the capriccio genre, especially as it had been developed by Piranesi, provided a combination of irrationality, indeterminacy and boundlessness that made it possible to deny the figurative limitations of the visual arts, and addressed the formal issues that were raised by Burke’s Enquiry. As a result, it could be seen as a major influence on Romantic visual practices, in their quest for the sublime, as may be attested by the works of Joseph Gandy and J.M.W. Turner.

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The challenge of the sublime

From Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry to British Romantic art


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