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"Le beau est toujours bizarre." --Baudelaire

Tropes: beauty and the beast

Related: aesthetics - art - beholder - fashion - human - senses - taste - sublime -

Films: Beauty and The Beast (1947)

Contrast: kitsch - ugliness

If - in the 20th century - beauty was exiled from the arts, it found refuge in advertising, fashion, cinema, product design and consumer culture.

What is beauty, and if it is in the eye of the beholder, then what is it that is being said to be in the eye of the beholder?

Venus mural at Pompeii (pre-79 AD), the Brigitte Bardot of Antiquity

The Alps, photo Jan Chciuk-Celt (if the beautiful is awe-inspiring, we call it sublime)

Human need for beauty

Informed by Venus in Exile (2001) and The Mechanical Bride (1951), it occured to me that beauty (simple beauty, as in a beautiful woman or man, or a beautiful landscape) had to go somewhere when, during the 1900s, it was banned from the visual arts. The human need for beauty wants to be satisfied and beauty needed a new place to reside. It also needed new patrons, or sponsors as they are called today. Beauty found its new home in consumer culture and cinema, and its new sponsors in Hollywood and the marketing and advertising divisions of consumer good manufacturers.

To summarize:

If - in the 20th century - beauty was exiled from the arts, it found refuge in advertising, fashion, cinema, product design and consumer culture.

see also: Venus - beauty - banned - 1900s

Cheap glitter

At the same time the world truly is that primeval squalor. The beauty is, as Schopenhauer says, a "cheap glitter" that conceals the horror. But, of course, the beauty and the horror are the same thing, and we do carry with us a certain sense of that: the sense of shame. -- Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D

Beauty in nature

In search of beauty.

The writer Steven Fry has commented that if we look around us, anything ugly that we see will have been created by human hands; this exemplifies a widely held view that nature is intrinsically beautiful. That the beauty of nature has been celebrated by so large a proportion of our art is further proof of the strength of this association between nature and beauty. Many scientists also share the conviction that nature is beautiful; the French mathematician, Jules Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) said:

"The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful.
If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living. Of course I do not here speak of that beauty that strikes the senses, the beauty of quality and appearances; not that I undervalue such beauty, far from it, but it has nothing to do with science; I mean that profounder beauty which comes from the harmonious order of the parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp."

A common classical idea of beautiful art involves the word mimesis, which can be defined as the perfection and imitation of nature. It is in nature that the perfect is implied through symmetry, equal division, and other perfect mathematical forms and notions. Plato wrote about Socrates and his ideas about how the perfect forms of things exist, and in nature we see the copy of this eternally existing form. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nature_%28philosophy%29#Beauty_in_nature [Jul 2006]

See also: realism in the visual arts - beauty - mimesis

Venus in Exile : The Rejection of Beauty in Twentieth-Century Art (2001) - Wendy Steiner

Venus in Exile : The Rejection of Beauty in Twentieth-Century Art (2001) - Wendy Steiner [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

"In the twentieth century, the avant-garde declared a clean break with history, but their hostility to the female subject and the beauty she symbolized had..." (more)

From Publishers Weekly
Ever since the Renaissance, the female body has been a primary symbol of artistic beauty in the West. But with the advent of avant-garde and modernist art, beauty suddenly became suspect. In Venus in Exile, renowned cultural critic Wendy Steiner explores how this happened, tracing the twentieth century's troubled relationship with beauty. Steiner shows how the avant-garde set out to replace the supposed impurity of woman and ornament with pure form - a new standard of art. Arguing that both modern artists and feminists rejected the female subject as an aesthetic symbol, Steiner suggests that we understand the experience of beauty as a form of communication, in which finding someone or something beautiful leads viewers to recognize beauty in themselves as well. She ends by discussing recent works that have begun to restore beauty to art, including the paintings of Marlene Dumas, the novels of Penelope Fitzgerald, and the choreography of Mark Morris. --via Amazon.uk

see also: aesthetics - art - beauty - Venus - modernism

The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art (2003) - Arthur C. Danto

The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art (2003) - Arthur C. Danto [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Danto simply and entertainingly traces the evolution of the concept of beauty over the past century and explores how it was removed from the definition of art. Beauty has come to be regarded as a serious aesthetic crime, whereas a hundred years ago it was almost unanimously considered the supreme purpose of art. Beauty is not, and should not be, the be-all and end-all of art, but it has an important place, and is not something to be avoided.

Danto draws eruditely upon the thoughts of artists and critics such as Rimbaud, Fry, Matisse, the Dadaists, Duchamp, and Greenberg, as well as on that of philosophers like Hume, Kant, and Hegel. Danto agrees with the dethroning of beauty as the essence of art, and maintains with telling examples that most art is not, in fact, beautiful. He argues, however, for the partial rehabilitation of beauty and the removal of any critical taboo against beauty. Beauty is one among the many modes through which thoughts are presented to human sensibility in art: disgust, horror, sublimity, and sexuality being among other such modes. --via the publisher

see also: Arthur C. Danto - abuse - art - beauty - concept - sensibility - aesthetics

Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime (1999) - Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe

Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime (1999) - Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

First sentence:
"While working on this book I was often told that beauty and the sublime (despite their prior histories) are for us eighteenth-century concepts defined by..." (more)

SIPs: contemporary sublime, nonrepresentational painting, pure ratio, banal sublime, surface without depth (more)

Book Description
Refuting established views, this book questions today's ideas of beauty, including those applied to contemporary art, and proposes a secular theory of beauty as being glamorous rather than good, frivolous rather than serious.

see also: sublime - beauty - serious - 1700s

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