Kenneth Clark: Civilisation (11): The Worship of Nature (1969)

Title: The Lake District. Beethoven's Concerto for Violin, Cello, Piano and Orchestra in C Major (Op. 56, 2nd mvmt). Ruined abbey, decline of Christendom in an Age of Reason. Replaced by the Divinity of Nature. Nature: 52 meanings. 1730 in England, "There is no religion," Montesquieu. Other abbeys, Rievaulx, Fountains, Furness. The ruins of the Age of Faith become part of Nature, instilling a gentle melancholy conducive to poetizing. William Collins' "Ode to Evening." Gainsborough, Cozens, Wilson landscapes: not very like nature. From sensibility to the sublime. The emotional response to nature: the picturesque English garden vs. the formal gardens of Europe. Jean Jacques Rousseau: Frenchman with mystical experience of Alps. Brahms' Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in a Minor (Op. 102, 2nd mvmt). Mountains as a nuisance in most of history, except Petrarch's ascent in 1340, da Vinci's in 1500s, Brueghel's of 1552. Mountains brought no pleasure until Thomas Gray's letter from the Grande Chartreuse in 1739. Caspar Wolf's Lauteraargletscher. Rousseau on island in Lake of Bienne experiences oneness with nature. "I feel, therefore I am!" Cult of sensibility. But no one seems to have realized how far abandonment to sensation might take us, or what a questionable divinity nature might prove to be. Except de Sade who saw the sadistic, violent side of nature. Stubbs' paintings of lions attacking horses.

Primitive man thought to be natural, virtuous: noble savage. Bougainville in Tahiti or Capt. Cook admiring the unsophisticated islanders. Dr. Johnson, "Do not allow yourself to be imposed upon by such gross absurdity. It is sad stuff. If a bull could speak he might as well exclaim: 'Here I am with this cow and this grass; what being can enjoy greater felicity.'" Who were Polynesia's cultural giants? Why was its staying power so limited? Is it a "civilisation"?

Nature and truth: Goethe: nature as a process toward fuller development, plant-like, organic. Paintings of Caspar David Friedrich illustrate Wordsworth's and Coleridge's inspirational approach. Coleridge looked at nature in the high mystical manner. Wordsworth's was religious in the moral Anglican way. Overlook of Tintern Abbey. Wordsworth's role in French Revolution as Girondist. Utterly crushed by man's inhumanity to man. Only total absorption in nature could heal and restore his spirit. Schubert's Quintet for Piano and Strings in A Major (D. 667, 2nd mvmt), The Trout. Wordsworth's sympathy with the voiceless and the oppressed. The new religion was anti-hierarchical. Wordsworth's Dove Cottage in Grasmere. The burning heat of romantic egotism.

Turner and Constable: Turner's Buttermere. Constable's country values shared with Wordsworth. Both share a conviction about place. Hated grandeur and pomposity. Cult of simplicity. Willows by a Stream, too simple for RA. Trout Quintet, reprise. The Leaping Horse. Walking and the worship of nature. The afternoon walk at the university? Ruskin underrates Constable but celebrates Turner. Brahms' Tragic Overture (Op. 81). Turner and the picturesque sublime: assertions of power. No one has ever known more about natural appearances. Rendering all as color. Tangible, hard and wavy line (Blake) vs. Turner's optics and the independence of color. Debussy's "Nuages" from Nocturnes. Turner, Rousseau, Goethe: the organicism of nature. Ruskin chief prophet of science of nature. Clouds. Wordsworth's Excursion, I. The horizon, offing. Debussy's "de l'aube � midi sur la mer" from La Mer.  Dialogue between the sea and sky. Turner's Rain, Steam, Speed. 1869: Monet and Renoir at the caf� La Grenouilli�re. Awareness of impressions of light, Proust. Brevity of Impressionism, 20 yrs. Monet's color symbolism, water lilies, stream of sensation into stream of consciousness.