Programme Sep – Dec 2024


The philosophical concept of the sublime is rather different from the present day use of the word, and over centuries it has captivated writers, philosophers, and artists alike. Edmund Burke’s definition of the sublime from 1757 focuses on such terms as darkness, obscurity, privation, vastness, magnificence, loudness and suddenness, and suggests that our reaction is defined by a kind of measurable terror. Feelings of terror, awe, infinity and minuteness course through an experience of the sublime in nature, and for centuries, artists have attempted to recreate that
experience in whatever art form they can use to best expose it. The point of view is territorial and vast, in contrast to the picturesque which is more intimate. The forces overwhelm humans. Because the experience of the sublime is relational – we feel ourselves in relation to something larger than ourselves – artists interested in the sublime use myriad methods and media – from colour and perspective to immersive installations and sound – to create an experience that engages the viewer’s senses and brings them into the work.

Wednesday, 11 September, 2024, 10:30 – 12:30, The Arc, Jewry Street, Winchester
Introduction to the Sublime – Illustrated seminar by Hendrika Foster
Sublime is derived from the Latin word for high, lofty, exalted. It owes its currency as a critical and aesthetic term to the anonymous Greek treatise Peri Hypsous (hypsos – height/elevation) formerly ascribed to the rhetorician Casius Longinus, third century CE but now generally agreed to belong to the first century, possibly around 50 CE, originally to describe speech and literature. His essay was translated from Greek into Latin in 1572 and into English in 1652 but has had a recurrent fascination for modern minds until the seventeenth century when it was reinterpreted for modern times. “Whatever transports us with wonder is more effective than something which merely pleases us. When we are being persuaded, we are usually in control, but sublimity has an irresistible power over us.”
In Augustan Rome, a new mythology of Imperial Rome was created through visual imagery, and for the emperor, a new ritual of power.
Architecture from Roman times to the Gothic aimed for ever increasing size and grandeur to inculcate moral high standards. Sir Joshua Reynolds, in his last discourse (1790), associated the sublime with overriding excellence – in this sense Raphael’s work is ‘sublime’. It is usually employed to describe natural grandeur and the power of nature over man, thus inspiring landscape painters. It was with this
understanding of the term that Edmund Burke wrote his Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, (1757). In this text he recognized the potential of the sublime to fire the imagination in art.

Wednesday, 25 September, 2024, 10:30 – 12:30, The Arc, Jewry Street, Winchester
The Sublime in American Art – Illustrated seminar by Dr Kathy McLauchlan
In his Picturesque Views of American Scenery (published 1820-25), Joshua Shaw acclaimed the sublimity of American landscapes, contrasting them with the more mundane prettiness to be encountered in Europe: “In no quarter of the globe are the majesty and loveliness of nature more strikingly conspicuous than in America. [Its] vast regions … present to the eye every variety of the beautiful and the sublime. Our lofty mountains and almost boundless prairies, our broad and magnificent rivers, the unexampled magnitude of our cataracts, the wild grandeur of our western forests … are unsurpassed by any of the boasted scenery of other countries.” And he called on American painters of the day to represent the grandeur of their country’s scenery. This seminar considers the work of those who took up this challenge, and the
ways in which their work became identified with the development of American national identity. Starting with Thomas Cole and the painters of the Hudson River School, we go on to discuss those associated with exploration and settlement in the western US in the later nineteenth century, including Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran.

Wednesday, 2 October, 2024, 10:30 – 12:30, The Arc, Jewry Street, Winchester
The Sublime Wonders of Gothic Architecture – Illustrated seminar by Dr Sally Dormer
Soaring spires, vertiginous vaults, and streams of coloured light filtered through expansive windows were just some of the features that characterised a new, elegant, brand of architecture which took shape in Paris in the mid-twelfth century, became all the rage, and swept thereafter across Western Europe. Seventeenth-century architectural historians dubbed the style “Gothic”, the term still used today, but during the Middle Ages it was simply known as the “New Style”. This seminar will explore the wonders of Gothic church buildings in France, England, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Spain. It will consider their origins, development, costs, the building techniques employed in their construction, their structural and aesthetic characteristics, the varied roles played by masons and patrons, geographical uniformity, and regional difference. There will also be time to reflect on Gothic buildings in Italy, which were dramatically different from their northern European cousins. Gothic churches, like the cathedrals of Chartres, Salisbury, Cologne, Prague, and Siena were intended to evoke a sense of heaven on earth for the medieval believer and they continue to astonish and delight audiences today just as they did in the Middle Ages.

Wednesday, 16 October, 2024, 10:30 – 12:30, The Arc, Jewry Street, Winchester
The Northern Romantics: Friedrich to Turner – Illustrated seminar by Dr Jan D Cox
2024 sees the 250th anniversary of the birth of Caspar David Friedrich, the key painter of German Romanticism. Friedrich’s very personal vision proposed a religious presence in nature, often showing man as a small presence amid the grandeur of the northern landscape. For many years he shared a house in Dresden with the father of Norwegian landscape painting, Johan Christian Dahl. These two were joined for a few months by another Norwegian, Thomas Fearnley, who went on to paint numerous landscapes of both northern and southern Europe.
This triumvirate was not alone. Many artists from different countries took the opportunity to engage with the northern or the alpine, creating visions both picturesque and sublime. Following in the tradition of Jacob van Ruisdael, artists didn’t necessarily visit the countries that they painted, relying on imagination and other works that they had seen. Hugely popular with patrons were visions of mountains, waterfalls, romantic skies and stormy seas. Small human figures provided scale and suggested man’s powerlessness in the face of nature. Typical examples by northern European artists include luminous chalk cliffs by Skovgaard, a rider in a stormy landscape by Roelofs, a gushing waterfall by Larson, a shipwreck by Baade and a moonlit lake by Blechen.

Wednesday, 6 November, 2024, 10:30 – 12:30, The Arc, Jewry Street, Winchester
The Sublime in Russian Landscape Painting – Illustrated seminar by Jane Angelini
Underlying all the various definitions and interpretations of the sublime in art is a feeling deep rooted in man’s relationship to the world, to nature and what lies beyond, that helps us formulate an understanding of ourselves. In the eighteenth century Edmund Burke defined the sublime in art as art that refers to a greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation, and that produces the strongest emotions the mind is capable of. His philosophical treatises greatly influenced, or concurred with, trends in landscape painting. Russian painters were in tune with this and the talk offered here will concentrate on nineteenth and early twentieth-century Russian landscape painters including Aivasovsky, Savrasov, Polenov, Vasilyev, Shishkin, Kuindzhi, Nesterov and, the most important of all, Isaac Levitan.

Wednesday, 20 November, 2024, 10:30 – 12:30, The Arc, Jewry Street, Winchester
Stained Glass – Illustrated seminar by Sophie Hacker
In this lecture, Sophie will share her journey after graduating in Painting from the Slade School of Fine Art into making stained glass windows and sculpture. She will explore in depth how she uses these mediums to express the sublime mysteries and language of visual theology. Sophie will share some of the processes involved in making stained glass windows, such as the use of hydrofluoric acid, beeswax, badger hair and porcupine quills. Using examples of her own work, including the Calling Window in Romsey Abbey, she will unpack the factors to consider when planning, proposing and completing successful commissions. These include colour, scale, connection with architecture, narrative language and the presence or absence of light. Further case studies will include David Hockney’s Jubilee Window and significant commissions by Alan Younger and Hughie O’Donohue in the Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey, the Sainte Chapelle in Paris, and Tom Denny’s West Window for Holy Trinity, Wall Street, New York.

Wednesday, 4 December, 2024, 10:30 – 12:30, The Arc, Jewry Street, Winchester
The Sublime is Now – Twentieth-Century American Abstraction – Illustrated seminar by Barry Venning
The sublime declined in importance in the later nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries. It suffered further through its association with totalitarian regimes in the 1930s in, for example, the architecture of Albert Speer, the Nuremberg Rallies and the use of Friedrich’s landscapes as symbols of German soil and nation. It reappeared, however, as an important aesthetic category in post-war America, particularly in the thinking of major Abstract Expressionist painters such as Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko, both of whom had studied philosophy. It was particularly important for Newman, who published his landmark essay on the subject, ‘The Sublime is Now’ in 1948. Newman internalised the sublime: for him, it was all to do with the ‘perception of the Absolute’ and ‘man’s desire for the exalted’. The exalted and the Absolute had nothing to do with beauty or with external nature; they were approachable only through the kind of rigorous,  monumental abstract art practiced by Newman and his New York colleagues, including Rothko, Clyfford Still and Robert Motherwell. In Newman’s view, they had shaken off ‘the impediments of memory, association, nostalgia, legend [and] myth… Instead of making cathedrals out of Christ, man, or “life”, we are making it out of ourselves, out of our own feelings’.