Friday, August 24, 2012

Beauty and Expression

The question of beauty in art is one I come up against often as a teacher. Young children are stymied by modern art because A. it may not be a figurative piece and B. because it may not be objectionably beautiful. 

But must art be beautiful to be art?

I think a lot of people would answer yes to this question. 

However, a lot of people also believe, without realizing it, that they believe anything created in a traditional style is beautiful and therefore constitutes art in their mind. 

Francisco Goya
Saturn Devouring His Children

Is Saturn Devouring His Children by Goya beautiful? It's rendered beautifully with excellent technical skill and falls into the category of traditional art. Would I want this hanging on the wall in my home? No, it makes me uncomfortable to even look at it. 

Goya created this work in an act of rebellion against the Spanish throne. As the royal court painter he was not permitted to speak openly about the lunacy going on behind palace doors. Goya used the mythology of Saturn to symbolize the insanity and issues within the Spanish monarchy. 

Goya created Saturn Devouring His Children to express himself. To privately free himself from the contract required of him as a court painter. 

Art becomes art when it is true, honest, and authentic. Art is not art simply because it is pretty. When art is simply pretty and nothing else, it is powerless.

- Grace

1 comment:

  1. I understand what you are saying about art not always being pretty. I do think it must be beautiful to be good art and beauty must reflect what is true. And it is true that life is not always pretty and therefore, art that is not "pretty" can be very beautiful.

    The ability of the artist to capture the essence of a subject doesn't necessarily mean that it must be an prettier version of the subject. You want authenticity. I suppose that authenticity means different things to different artists. You have on the one hand, some modern artists who completely abstract and deconstruct their subject and on the other hand, you have classical artists who idealize and perfect their subjects. I think you could argue that an artist painting a shriveled, wart-laden old man, could still pull off beautiful piece of art despite the face that the subject is not pretty and the reason would be that it is an authentic portrayal.

    Anyway, I have no real point, because it's too late for me to be typing. I just wanted to say I liked this post!


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