In art this is seen as the foreground

The sublime in fine art and music using the example of C. D. Friedrich's "Mönch am Meer" and Beethoven's "Fifth Symphony in C minor"

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 The sublime
2.1 Sublime in the fine arts
2.1.1 TheMonk by the sea- Landscape painting in a new style
2.1.2 Reception atMonk by the sea- Aroused feelings of the sublime
2.2 The sublime in music
2.2.1 Beethoven'sFifth Symphony in C minor19
2.2.2 Review of theFifth symphony27

3 conclusion

4 Appendix

5 Bibliography

1 Introduction

The period from the end of the 18th to the middle of the 19th century describes, with regard to music and painting, the transition from the Viennese Classicism and Classicism to the Romantic era. In the classical period, a direction has already emerged in which bourgeois culture gradually takes the place of courtly. As a result of it, art has now become available to the public.1

The artist's feeling for nature also changed during the Romantic era. Man no longer merely imitates nature, but sees himself as part of it, he finds himself in it. The artist becomes a subject who internalizes his environment and expresses evoked sensations artistically. Such a subjective image of nature, for example, was expressed by Ludwig van Beethoven in his “Fifth Symphony in C minor” and Caspar David Friedrich in his painting “Monk by the Sea”.2 Inherent in both works is the idea of ​​the sublime, which is to be examined in this work.

In order to show the aesthetics of the sublime in the works mentioned, it is first necessary to define what constitutes sublimity. TheFifth symphonyand theMonk by the seaare intended to serve as examples to show how sublimity can be characterized in visual arts and music.3

2 The sublime

The sublime was already of great importance in the field of rhetoric in antiquity.4 There it is regarded as the "invisible, unnameable and unrepresentable".5 Pseudo-Longinos describes this in his work “On the Sublime” as intangible, excessive and limitless. A sublime object is the "overwhelming"; that is “astonished and shocked”, captivates and frightens and carries an “irresistible power and violence”. In addition, the sublime “shatters all things like lightning”.6

In the first half of the 18th century and into the 19th century in particular, philosophers, writers and other scholars grappled with the concept of the sublime. Two that cannot go unmentioned in this regard are Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant.

Burke tries in his treatise to determine the origin of the sublime and summarizes that “everything that is somehow terrible [...] is a source of theSublime“Is.7 The strongest effect that sublime objects can produce is "shivering"; less effective trigger at most "admiration, admiration and respect". He counts among the sources above all "darkness", "power", "size of dimension", "infinity", "suddenness" and "interruption".8

For Kant, everything is sublime, “what is really good”.9 And so that everything great can be called sublime, “must [es, L. H., A. U.]

to be great at all times ”.10 However, it is not great objects in themselves that are sublime, but the sensations that such an object evokes.

"The feeling of the same is sometimes with some horror, or melancholy, in some cases just with calm admiration"11 connected.

Similar to Burke, Kant also divides the sensations triggered by the sublime into strong and less strong ones. The gradation of feelings is based on the fact that objects are viewed subjectively and can thus arouse different emotions. Whether horror or just admiration, sublime feelings always evoke “reluctance” and “lust”.12 Displeasure means that everything great, which reason or imagination cannot grasp, has a repulsive effect and, for example, arouses awe or fear. At the same time, pleasure is felt in front of these sublime objects, since they emanate a (magical) attraction that stimulates the viewer to look. Pleasure and displeasure "can take on different forms and increase in relation to astonishment and shudder, enthusiasm and horror, admiration and horror, awe and fear."13

"The immeasurable [...] also arouses a mixed sensation of pleasure and displeasure, which at first a shudder, and when we continue to contemplate it, a kind of dizziness."14

Kant's distinction between the mathematically sublime and the dynamically sublime also includes a classification of sublime objects. Schiller comments on about pleasure and displeasure as follows: Sublime feelings consist “on the one hand of the feeling of our powerlessness and limitation to encompass an object, but on the other hand of the feeling of our superior power, which is frightened of no limits and that which submits itself spiritually to ours are subject to sensual powers. “Schiller, Friedrich: About the reason for enjoying tragic objects. In: Schiller's works. Complete edition in fifteen parts. Philosophical writings and reviews. Edited by Arthur Kutscher. Volume 12. Berlin et al., 1909, p. 300.

Mathematically sublime, he arranges everything that cannot be expressed by a number concept. To this he counts the general, the divine or the infinite.15 For Kant, the dynamically sublime is the “might of nature”, whereby nature appears “terrible” and its objects also instill fear.16

In general, objects of nature are often viewed as sublime, such as high mountains (Alps), oceans, gorges, storms, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.

The most characteristic of the sublime aesthetics are the feelings evoked by objects, which are always contradictory and which cannot be clearly identified. “The subject remains divided [therefore, L. H., A. U.].” The contradiction arises “because something impossible is attempted with the sublime in all its manifestations, namely the naming of something that cannot be named”.17

About grandeur with FriedrichsMonk by the seaor with BeethovensFifth symphonyTo be able to feel, it is important that the subject gets involved in the works. Depending on his emotional state, sublime feelings are expressed accordingly. If it feels depressed, it willMonk by the seaalso find it depressing. Works that are considered sublime can appear boring, terrifying, great, or captivating.

2.1 Sublime in the fine arts

Since art became accessible to the general public around 1800, there has been a paradigm shift, namely that works of art are viewed differently18: The now “public” art becomes an occasion for social exchange and thus a social art. The exchange about works of art initially takes place as a conversation between connoisseurs in front of the picture. This creates a three-way relationship in which "art connoisseurs [...] with one another and with the work"19 communicate (connoisseur - picture - conversation), which serves as an end in itself for social upgrading or for pure entertainment value. In rejecting such behavior of the higher class, the bourgeois view of art comes to the fore. An inner contemplation unfolds between the work of art and the recipient, creating a two-way relationship (viewer - image) in which art takes an active role.

“The talking, the sociable exchange of connoisseurs, enthusiasts or despisers of art should obviously be put to an end; what applies now is pure, quiet, internalized viewing, contemplation. "20

Where the art of entertainment used to be used and people talked about it, this change occurs with the introduction of art for laypeople. One now adapts to the bourgeois view of art. In front of the picture and about the same there is no longer any talk, but now there is only a silence in front of the pictures.21

This way of seeing, or how art is viewed in silence, is realized in Caspar David Friedrich's “Monk by the Sea”.

And it is not just the silence in front of the picture that Friedrich achieved with his painting. At the same time, it opens up a new concept in German romantic landscape painting, in which landscape is no longer an image of nature, not just an imitation of it. The subject is now the absorption of humans in nature, caused by the desire of the individual to project conflicts and feelings onto the space of nature.

“Nature does not appear to be the ultimate landscape to be copied; but something becomes important to the mind when looking at nature and stimulates the imagination. "22

With this landscape painting, which he in theMonk by the seato create something new in the visual arts. The type of representation in this picture arouses mixed feelings in the recipient - also in the context of the new way of looking at things.

In contrast to previous landscape painting, the “viewer [...] [suddenly, L. H.] has to change his attitude because the picture [Monk by the sea, L. H.] does not correspond to the expectation. [...] But the viewer obviously has a new experience of the sublime, which is now peculiar to the picture. Because the disappointment turns into a 'wonderful sensation' ".23

A feeling that - as Zimmermann mentioned - should arise in every viewer is that of sublimity.24

But how does the evokeMonk by the seathis sensation in the viewer? In order to be able to answer this question, the way in which it is represented must first be examined.

2.1.1 The monk by the sea - landscape painting in a new style

Have previous landscape paintings, such as Friedrich's "Chalk Cliffs on Rügen"25, the view of the sea - limited by gradations of background and foreground - released, these limitations are missing in theMonk by the sea26all. Where once trees in the foreground direct the line of sight to the deep sea and at the same time limit the view to this, you look at theMonk by the seaon a not ostensibly designed surface.

If you look at the picture, the first thing you notice is the bright cloud field, from which your gaze immediately wanders to the dark figure, the monk. The figure is the center of the picture. From here, the viewer's gaze goes into every corner of the painting and comes back to her. The huge cloud cover, through which you can see the blue sky despite the black, low-hanging gray clouds, suggests either the beginning or the end of a storm. There is also a brownish-yellow area on which the monk is standing and which suggests a beach, although it could also be rocks. This sandy area protrudes into a black, slightly restless sea, which is separated from the beach by clear (color) lines.27 The separation of sea and sky can be recognized by a very straight horizon line, which, however, occurs with softer transitions - through the merging of the dark colors of sea and clouds.

Regarding this new type of landscape painting, as it has already been described, the viewer's gaze wanders over and over again over the entire surface of the picture in the hope of seeing something. And again and again the eyes turn to the monk, who acts here as the only stopping point for seeing. There are no objects that form a chain “that the eye can feel its way along”.28

The division of the picture is also noteworthy. The sand surface and the sea together do not even take up a third, the sky and cloud mass correspondingly take up the rest of the picture surface. Through the "oppressive emptiness"29 or non-representational, the division and the non-framing, the picture appears very large and, above all, the sky is oversized. Since, according to Kant, everything great is sublime and for Carl Grosse the "Simple[...] a main character of the sublime "30 is, the image can be classified into the aesthetics of the sublime due to its size and the features radiating from it.

The simple representation of theMonk by the seaallows the viewer an unrestricted view of the vastness of the natural space and thus conveys boundlessness and infinity.31 Unlimited objects - like the sea or the sky - are formless for Kant and thus sublime.32 The shapeless object lacks "visible outlines"33because imagination and reason cannot grasp it. The outlines inMonk by the seaare partially visible, but due to the strong, monotonous color gradients, they are so blurred that, for example, the sea cannot be recognized immediately. The individual objects in the picture seem to form a unit, brought about by the colors merging into one another. This kind of concealment makes the viewer insecure, who suspects something hidden and tries to find a tangible object behind it. “The viewer of the picture loses all orientation” in the search for a tangible object, whereby the emptiness of the picture increases the size.34 Searching and seeing seems to be a never-ending process when looking. Large, so sublime objects are - as Burke and Kant define - at the same time infinite. in theMonk by the seaInfinity is expressed by the lack of a frame. Friedrich also achieves the impression of limitlessness through the fact that he has a shore on which the "endless [...] strip of troubled sea"35 could be smashed, replaced by an abyssal beach. The viewer is again put into uncertainty, comparable to the veil-like color gradients. You don't know exactly how deep it goes and whether something is hidden there.36 The recipient's imagination is stimulated by this thought and thus it becomes a symbol for infinity, because fantasies are immeasurable or limitless.

With his composition, Friedrich provokes an action on the part of the viewer. In search of an object or even to get an introduction to the picture, the viewer steps back and forth.37 The closer you stand in front of the picture, the bigger and more limitless it becomes, because "the viewer [can, L. H.] never grasp the whole thing simultaneously, that is, never with a single glance".38

The subject of the sea39 therefore - if one stands like the monk in front of it - it cannot be perceived as a whole. And although it does not take up more space in the picture than the beach, it is still perceived as a large space.

Also the sublime sky that is inMonk by the seacan be interpreted as a metaphor for God cannot be grasped at a glance. With regard to the monk, it stands for the divine and at the same time symbolizes eternity and thus also infinity, power and greatness. The area that the sky takes up in the picture exudes power and has a corresponding effect on the viewer.


1 Pieces of music and paintings are no longer commissioned works. Music is now performed for the general public in operas or concert halls and is no longer just entertaining at court. Whether privately or in salons, works of art can also be found outside the courtly gallery. A gallery and concert culture that was accessible to the bourgeoisie established itself, and what you saw in exhibition rooms and heard at music evenings wanted to be communicated, that wanted to be described Munich: Wilhelm Fink, p. 32. How paintings are now viewed by the bourgeoisie is described in more detail in Chapter 2.1.

2 Friedrich, for example, coined with theMonk by the seaa new concept of landscape painting that Beethoven expanded with theFifth symphonyexisting (compositional) structures and forms.

3 The aesthetics of theSublimeis a very complex topic that has already been dealt with many times. The sublime is often associated with theBeautifulcalled, whereby it is either viewed as a higher level of the beautiful or differentiated from it. For this reason, the sublime is to be defined in this work in terms of the works of Beethoven and Friedrich.

4 "Sublime" goes back to the Greek word "Hypsos" (= height), which describes "the exaltation of the pathetically ascending soul". See Ritter, Joachim (Ed.) (1972): Historical Dictionary of Philosophy. Volume 2: D-F. Darmstadt, p. 624ff, here p. 624. In German, the word derives from the mhd. Participle passive from “to raise”. The English, French as well as ital.The concept of the sublime, on the other hand, is derived from the Latin “sublimare”, which means “to lift something up”.

5 Pries, Christine (Ed.) (1989): The sublime. Between borderline experience and megalomania. Weinheim, p. 3.

6 Pseudo-Longinos: Of the sublime. Greek and German. By Reinhard Brandt. Darmstadt 1966, pp. 29 and 31.

7 Burke, Edmund (1980): Philosophical investigation into the origin of our ideas of the sublime and the beautiful. Translated by Friedrich Bassenge. Edited by Werner Strube. Hamburg, p. 72.

8 Ibid., P. 91ff.

9 Kant, Immanuel: Critique of Judgment. In: Weischedel, Wilhelm (Ed.) (1966): Immanuel Kant. Works in six volumes. Volume 5. Darmstadt, p. 333.

10 Kant, Immanuel: Observations on the feeling of the beautiful and sublime. In: Weischedel, Wilhelm (Ed.) (1960): Immanuel Kant. Works in six volumes. Volume 1. Darmstadt, p. 828.

11 Ibid., P. 827.

12 Kant, Critique of Judgment (KdU), p. 344f.

13 Treptow, Elmar (2001): The sublime nature. Design of an ecological aesthetic. Würzburg, p. 14.

14 Mendelssohn, Moses: Rhapsody or additions to the letters about feelings. In: Moses Mendelssohn. Collected Writings. Edited from the original prints and manuscripts. by G. B. Mendelssohn. Volume 1. Hildesheim, 1972, pp. 251f.

15 See Ritter, p. 628.

16 Kant, KdU, p. 353. Fear is not meant here in the sense of fear and violence. Fear is only meant to shudder our minds. See also Schiller, Friedrich: From the sublime. In: Schiller's works. Complete edition in fifteen parts. Philosophical writings and reviews. Edited by Arthur Kutscher. Volume 12. Berlin et al. 1909, p. 440.

17 Pries, pp. 6 and 11.

18 This is the first public museum in GermanyOld museumin Berlin, which was only opened in 1830.

19 Kemp, Wolfgang: The art of silence. In: Koebner, Thomas (Ed.) (1989): Laokoon and no end. The dispute of the arts. Munich, pp. 96-119, here p. 100.

20 Ibid., P. 100.

21 Silence in front of the pictures does not mean that there is no exchange about works of art. Talking “no longer runs along conventional lines, is not an end in itself. Information is exchanged and conclusions are drawn. Both happen in the direction of the work of art and not spoken parallel to him, in the direction of the interlocutor. ”Ibid., P. 110.

22 Flemming, Willi (1931): The change in the German feeling for nature. From the 15th to the 18th century. Halle / Saale, p. 123. Flemming describes the change in the relationship between art and nature as follows: “The artist no longer tries to outdo nature. He humbly bows to reality. ”Ibid., P. 93. Man does not address nature, but“ waits longingly [...] until it speaks to his heart. So he needs the motive that moves and stirs his mind. The l a n d s c h a f t l i c h e M o t i v i s t thus the typical e n g e s h e i n u n g s form of nature for the 18th century.

23 Zimmermann, Jörg: Images of the Sublime - On the Topicality of the Discourse on Caspar David Friedrich's “Monk by the Sea”. In: Welsch, Wolfgang; Pries, Christine (1991): Aesthetics in Controversy. Interventions on the work of Jean-François Lyotard. Weinheim, pp. 107-127, here pp. 118f.

24 According to contemporary reviews, Friedrich has with theMonk by the seaApparently a very provocative (landscape) motif was chosen, which nevertheless appeals to every viewer, regardless of whether it is positive or negative.

25 See appendix p. 37.

26 The Monk by the sea was painted by Friedrich between 1808 and 1810 (oil on canvas, 110 x 171.5 cm) and belongs to the State Museums of Berlin (National Gallery). In 1810 the picture was first exhibited in the exhibition of the “Royal Academy of the Arts”.

27 Since the water does not flow shallowly into the sand - as is usual on the seashore - the sand surface looks more like an abyss.

28 Begemann, Christian: Brentano and Kleist in front of Friedrich's monk by the sea. Aspects of a Change in the History of Perception. In: Brinkmann, Richard et al. (Ed. (1990): Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte. Stuttgart. No. 64. Issue 1, pp. 54-95, here p. 80.

Infrared images of the picture show that Friedrich originally drew sailing ships to the left and right of the monk, which he then painted over again. Only in this way could he achieve this effect of searching seeing. Further information on this follows in the next section (2.1.2).

29 Vaughan, William: Landscape Painting and the "Irony of Nature". In: Vitali, Christoph (Ed.) (1995): “Ernste Spiele. The Spirit of Romanticism in German Art 17901990 ”. (Catalog for the same exhibition in the Haus der Kunst in Munich from February 4 to May 1, 1995.) Stuttgart, pp. 563-569.

30 Grosse, Carl (1997): About the sublime. With an afterword ed. by Carstenzell. St. Ingbert, p. 23.

31 The “composition [...] [desMonk by the sea, LH] is designed in such a way that the impression of infinity and infinity is awakened on all sides. ”Müller, Axel: Caspar David Friedrich - Monk at the Sea - In: Müller, Axel (1990): As far as possible: Studies on image - and spatial conception of painting in the 19th and 20th centuries. Hildesheim et al., Pp. 11-34, here p. 15.

32 See Kant, Observations (B), p. 329.

33 Grosse, p.24.

34 Begemann 1990, p. 80. The emptiness of the picture is intended by Friedrich. He has painted over once existing ships, which allows a clear view of the sea and paintings.

35 Ammer, Andreas: Considerations of the observation in a newspaper article about the viewer of a picture, whereupon the viewer of a landscape. Behler, Ernst; Bormann, Alexander von i.a. (Ed.) (1991): Athenaeum. Yearbook for romance. Paderborn, Munich and others, pp. 135-162, here p. 136.

36 As a viewer of the picture, one can only estimate and guess at the height and depth. Friedrich achieves this lack of perspective through the simple conception and the lack of framing, which turns the picture into a surface. And yet he managed to design a room.

37 Cf. Kurz, Gerhard: Before a picture. On Clemens Brentanos 'Various sensations in front of a seascape by Friedrich, whereupon a Capuchin'. In: Perels, Christoph (Ed.): Yearbook of the Free German Hochstift 1988. Tübingen, p. 128140, here p. 133.

38 Imdahl, Max: Barnett Newmann. Who’s afraid of red, yellow and blue III. In: Pries, Christine (ed.) (1989): The sublime. Between borderline experience and megalomania. Weinheim, pp. 233-252, here p. 238.

In section 2.1.2, the action in front of the picture will be discussed in more detail.

39 “This infinite surface is absolutely soft because it does not withstand any pressure, not even a breath; it looks infinitely innocent, indulgent, friendly and hugging, and it is precisely this indulgence that turns the sea into the most dangerous and powerful element. ”Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich: The reason in history. Edited by Johannes Hoffmeister. Hamburg 1955, p. 198.

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