These are the techniques used in art especially around the time of romanticism. Philosopher Edmund Burke differentiated the differences between these two keywords.
Sublime portrays real pictures and real things happening – like reality. It shows intense emotions and awe through the vastness of nature. Usually in the image, there is a human figure, which appears helpless in the image, making you feel afraid and vulnerable.
“The passion caused by the great and sublime in nature is astonishment, and astonishment is that state of the soul in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror. The mind is so entirely filled with its object
that it cannot entertain any other, nor reason on that object which fills it. Astonishment is the effect of the sublime in its highest degree…No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its power of acting and reasoning as terror; and whatever is terrible with regard to sight, is sublime.”
—Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, 1757
This is my favourite image. Looking at it makes you see how big the world is around you, making you appreciate it. The image is also trying to show that we are tiny and that we must be aware of our surroundings and ourselves.
Picturesque on the other hand, is literally an image like a picture. They are supposed to be pretty and dainty – the opposite of sublime! The images represent pure beauty in them, giving a sense of peace and calmness. They contain interesting techniques, detail and textures; many artists travelled to untamed areas to view this landscape.
“Disputes about beauty might perhaps be involved in less confusion, if a distinction were established, which certainly exists, between such objects as are beautiful, and such as are picturesque—between those, which please the eye in their natural state; and those, which please from some quality, capable of being illustrated by painting.”
—William Gilpin, Three Essays on Picturesque Beauty, 1794
– J. M. W. Turner, the Chancel and Crossing of Tintern Abbey, Looking towards the East Window by, 1794
– James Lambert, Landscape, 1769
– John Constable, The Hay Wain, 1821