Overwhelming and frightening beauty
The artists tried to create an image of a sublime landscape experience through the use of theatrical effects – a landscape which was both overwhelming and frightening in its beauty. Here the modesty of humanity is brought into play against the high mountains, deep valleys, roaring rivers, desolate plains and stormy coasts with dramatic shipwrecks. In spite of the threatening scenography human beings always seem to be above any real danger.
Nature as a symbolic motif
The magnificent landscape visions were based on realistic detail sketches. But the finished works were painted, coloured and composed in the studio, and in their entirety seldom had much similarity with the nature they were based on. The greatness that the works could manifest turned nature into a symbolic motif and to a considerable extent helped substantiate the illusion of a particular national style.
"I screwed up my eyes, saw nothing other than my feet, and in that way came out on the balcony, which was built out under the waterfall. All at once I opened my eyes wide - how paralyzed I became at this mighty play that overwhelmed all my senses! Thus one wakes up - not in Heaven or in Hell, either, but in both at the same time. Beauty and terror are mixed here; the beautiful is so terrible and the terrible so beautiful that the soul at once flies into it and is repulsed."
Poet Jens Baggesen, The Labyrinth, 1792-93
"For the artists of Romanticism, as it was later for Nordic fin-de-siècle painters, landscape was a mirror of human emotions."
Art historian, Torsten Gunnarsson, 2006
"The sublime landscape was painted in a studio, and with slight exaggeration it could be characterized as a ”curiosity of form”, shaped by the imagination."
Art historian, Annika Waenerberg, 2006