Beauty and Art: 1750-2000 (Oxford History of Art)
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What do we mean when we call a work of art "beautiful"? How have artists responded to changing notions of the beautiful? Which works of art have been called beautiful, and why? Fundamental and intriguing questions to artists and art lovers, but ones that are all too often ignored in discussions of art today.
Elizabeth Prettejohn argues that we simply cannot afford to ignore these questions. Charting over two hundred years of western art, she illuminates the vital relationship between our changing notions of beauty and specific works of art, from the works of Kauffman to Whistler, Ingres to Rosetti, Cezanne to Pollack. Beautifully illustrated with 100 photographs--60 in full color--Beauty and Art concludes with a challenging question for the future: Why should we care about beauty in the twenty-first century?
Jean-Baptiste Belley , by Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson (1767–1824), is a tour de force of beautiful painting, but this is surely enhanced by the knowledge of Belley’s political importance as the delegate to the French National Assembly who successfully argued for the abolition of slavery and for black citizenship.41 The juxtaposition of Belley’s black features with the white sculptured bust of another colonial reformer, Abbé Raynal, makes a political point in visual terms, vividly demonstrating
encompasses both personiﬁcations. Above her rises a colossal white lily, symbol of light for Runge and also the traditional symbol of innocence and of the Virgin Mary, connotations that cannot be excluded from the vast range of suggestiveness in this composition. The female ﬁgure is centrally positioned like an unclothed version of one of the most famous Virgins in the history of art, the Sistine Madonna , which is also echoed in the circles of immaterial angels’ heads in the top border. The
misunderstood and delivered up to fools who exploit you. But there are still hearts ready to welcome you devoutly. . . .25 The passage hints at something akin to Kant’s aesthetic ideas, which might be opened up in the viewer’s mind through the contemplation of the work’s beauty. Some years later, in 1850, Delacroix gives more precision to the notion: ‘I have said to myself over and over again that painting, i.e. the material process which we call painting, is no more than the pretext, the bridge
Thus it is not surprising that in the next few years a number of other painters made representations of Venus; for western audiences there is no more effective signal that a painting is to do with beauty alone. Leighton was the ﬁrst to exhibit a large-scale nude ﬁgure in public, at the Royal Academy in 1867: Venus Disrobing for the Bath . Leighton’s admiration for Ingres is evident in the smooth, supple contours of this ﬁgure, cooler and more remote than Rossetti’s. In a different way,
the viewer’s imagination takes on the character of human skin. The sense of sensuous or even erotic pleasure is strong here. The face, too, is closely observed [see detail of 3 above]: The struggle between the pain and the suppression of the feelings is rendered with great knowledge as concentrated in one point below the forehead; for whilst the pain elevates the eyebrows, resistance to it presses the ﬂeshy parts eighteenth-century germany: winckelmann and kant 25 above the eyes downward and