The Awe and Anxiety of Nature
NYU Arts Digest, Spring 2018

The Victorian-era art critic and social activist John Ruskin argued that an artist’s principal goal should be “truth to nature” – that all great art should depict the natural world as humanity experiences it. He believed that landscapes should capture not only the beauty of nature but also its threat and terror in order to render an authentic representation of the sublime, evoking feelings of awe and human insignificance. And by speaking out against industrial pollution in the 19th century, Ruskin effectively became one of Europe’s first environmentalists.

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