Beauty and Art: 1750-2000 (Oxford History of Art)

Beauty and Art: 1750-2000 (Oxford History of Art)

Elizabeth Prettejohn

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 0192801600

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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?

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independent of personal interests. But it may still be worth preserving the possibility that we might aspire to do something of the kind. If we can all agree that a rose is beautiful, that may perhaps be trivial; it may even be a disgraceful evasion of our responsibility to attend to more important political, social, or moral matters. But if the alternative is to accept that there is nothing about which universal agreement may ever be possible, then perhaps there is something to be said for the

an artwork is fundamentally incompatible with beauty in any free or pure form. Paradoxically, the ‘beautiful’ work of art is unmakeable. This problem dominates Kant’s discussion of art and artists: [T]here is still no fine art in which something mechanical, capable of being at once comprehended and followed in obedience to rules . . . does not constitute the essential condition of the art. For the thought of something as end must be present, or else its product would not be ascribed to an art at

france: from staël to baudelaire 39 Raphael St Cecilia Altarpiece, c.1513–16 of beauties: the lowest is ‘physical’ beauty. Next come intellectual and moral beauty, which for Cousin are still kinds of ‘real’ beauty, available in this world. Among his examples are Winckelmann’s description of the Apollo Belvedere (11; see pp. 27‒31 above) and, tellingly, Plato’s account of the death of Socrates, as painted by David [40]. Socrates is not physically beautiful—but behold him as he faces death,

exhibition two years later). But it also led Fry to reconsider his aesthetic views. Within a few years he no longer thought Cézanne’s art ‘limited’ simply because it lacked important subject-matter; instead he elevated the importance of ‘pure form’, the quality he did find in the Cézannes, to prime position in his emerging aesthetic. By ‘form’, Fry did not mean merely visual attractiveness. The paintings of the Impressionists were attractive enough. Moreover, the Impressionists were adept, as Fry

the Garden of Eden and original sin, or with women’s breasts); it would limit itself to describing their shapes and colours. Fry shows how this might be done in his account of the Song bowl; he uses almost no technical vocabulary, but confines himself to ordinary words for visual description: ‘contour’, ‘curves’, ‘thickness’, ‘colour’, ‘lustre’. He manages to make a compelling narrative of this, at the same time teaching his readers a method for examining an object. In his descriptions of

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