What is beauty? What is art?

What is beauty? 

I think of art when I think of beauty. So, what makes art beautiful?

This Pilatian question is hard to answer. Museums and colleges are full of people who try to define it. But do they really answer it? They likely are just adoding to a lively debate.

Artist try to express it with their vision. Their work spans from the grandeur of the Sistine Chapel, the simplistic doodlings of John Lennon, or the macabre works of a British artist who framed a cow sawn in two lengthwise.

Doubtful there will ever be a consensus of what is beauty in art.

I did read a definition today that I really liked. It comes the closest to defining beauty in art. It came from a historian but not known for art history. 

“…Beauty is any quality by which an object or a form pleases a beholder. Primarily and originally the object does not please the beholder because it is beautiful, but rather he calls it beautiful because it pleases him.”

“Art is the creation of beauty; it is the expression of thought or feeling in a form that seems beautify or sublime, and therefore arouses in us some reverberation of that primordial delight which woman gives to man, or man to woman.”

Here’s the part I really liked:

“…it may please us through color, which brightens the spirit or intensifies life; or finally the form may please us through veracity–because its lucid and transparent imitation of nature or reality catches some mortal loveliness of plant or animal, or some transient meaning of circumstance, and holds it still for our lingering enjoyment or leisurely understanding.”

Will Durant wrote this in “Our Oriental Heritage.”

Then it seems true, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

Seems true. The part where Durant talks about color and form–or lack of color and texture–is why I love this painting of a sunflower. It’s while I love black-and-white photography.

I did the painting on July 4 of this year. I’d never painted before. I saw the pattern in a crafts store. The colors captivated me, particularly the brilliance. Guess it has something to do with my color-blindness. I know it’s not a great work of art worthy of Michelangelo, van Gogh or Picasso. Nevertheless, I find it beautiful. 

Just as color captivates me, so does the lack of color and the relationship of black, white and intervening shades of gray. Black-and-white photography forces the viewer to examine the texture. It causes me to look more closely at a photograph. It makes me see even more by seeing less.

I don’t hope to have helped define beauty and art. Maybe I simply added to the confusion. It’s what struck me while reading Durant today.
What your take on beauty?


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