Detail from The Shipwreck by Claude Joseph Vernet
The Shipwreck (detail)

 

  In a 1757 essay on aesthetics, English philosopher Edmund Burke described "the sublime" in art. For Burke, a sublime landscape communicated the awesome power of nature, whether through storm, fire, or other natural disaster, and the misfortune it caused. A sublime work like Shipwreck would both thrill and terrorize the viewer, all from a safe distance.
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