Matthew Henry John Bartlett

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Sunday 20 December, 02020

A history of longing

by Matthew Bartlett @ 9:41 am

Here’s a great lecture on the ‘American Sublime’ by one Jackson Lears. What we long for feels like some essential part of ourselves, but it might be the leftovers of some dude’s overcooked ponderings a couple of hundred years ago.

Featuring such artworks as:

Singing Beach, Manchester, Massachusetts
Singing Beach, Manchester, Massachusetts (1863) Martin Johnson Heade
Among the Sierra Nevada, California (1868), Albert Bierstadt
File:Frederic Edwin Church, El Rio de Luz, 1877.jpg
El Rio de Luz (The River of Light) (1877), Frederic Edwin Church
Icebergs floating in an ocean
Twilight in the Wilderness (1860), Frederic Edwin Church
File:Winslow Homer West Point, Prouts Neck.jpg
West Point, Prout’s Neck (1900), Winslow Homer
Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, Ansel Adams
The Flatiron (1903), Alfred Stieglitz
Lillian Glish
Teddy Roosevelt in Kenya, 1909
Dionysius, 1949 - Barnett Newman
Dionysus (1949), Barnett Newman
Lichen on Round Stones near Flaajokull, South Coast, Iceland (1972), Elliot Porter
Dungeon Canyon, Glen Canyon, Utah * Cliff, Moonlight Creek, San Juan River, Utah (c1961/62) Eliot Porter

Lears warns that the sublime is coming back, ending with a bit of TS Eliot’s Four Quartets:

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable.
Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.