This is the first in a series of writings about painting. Edmund Burke, a philosopher of the 18th century, wrote a short essay about the sublime. My interest in this subject has to do with images that embody similar elements as Burke refers to in his essay. Pain, which can embody terror, is one of several qualities that are found in something sublime. In good painting, one can find a presence almost as strong as pain. It is something I look for in a picture and try to imbue in my paintings.
"Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion, because I am satisfied that the ideas of pain are much more powerful than those which enter on the part of pleasure. Without all doubt, the torments which we may be made to suffer, are much greater in their effect on the body and mind, than any pleasures which the most learned voluptuary could suggest, or than the liveliest imagination, and the most sound and exquisitely sensible body could enjoy...."
"But as pain is stronger in operation than pleasure, so death is in general a much affecting idea than pain; because there are very few pains however exquisite, which are not preferred to death; nay what generally makes pain itself, if I may say so, more powerful, is that it is considered as an emissary of this king of terrors." Edmund Burke, 1757