Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 July 2020
While Gothic scholars of the last two or three decades have explored forms of Gothic sensation, spectacle or visuality, they have generally had as their focus illustrations, caricature prints, graphic ephemera and advertising material rather than oil paintings and watercolours by the famous artists associated with Romanticism. This chapter considers precisely those works of art that have defined Romanticism. The more circumscribed notion of art and the artist associated with the ‘autonomisation’ of art around 1800 is here tied to the emergence of Gothic forms and themes within painting. It is argued that it is more than coincidental that the chronology of the original phase of Gothic literary and cultural production matches that of the development of aesthetics as philosophical discourse, and the ‘invention of art’ as a relatively autonomous field of activity. That a full-blooded Gothic art subsequently resurfaces only intermittently in the history of ‘high art’ exposes not only the volatility and inconstancy of Gothic culture, or the irreconcilability of the Gothic and art, but also the general ambivalence towards the indeterminacies of art in the modern era.
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