On Beauty

As some of you already know, last week I tried to get my art students interested in art history by showing them two works:

Jan Davidsz de Heem, Vase of Flowers, (1660)

Heikki Marila: Kukat XIX, (2009)

Comparing these two paintings worked really well as an opening into the field of art history. The students had lots of interesting thoughts about the works, and I think seeing both versions made the history come alive in a new way. First year students worried a lot about tho copy-part of it, believing art should be genuine and original, and not some kind of imitation. For the second year this was no problem at all. They have already learnt the lesson: it’s all about being the best thief.

We also discussed which of them would be the most difficult to make, without coming to a agreed conclusion, which is good.

But maybe the most interesting discussion we had – had to do with the concept of beauty: which role does beauty play in contemporary art? From the avant-garde to the conceptual era, anti-aesthetic strategies have resisted beauty because of its perceived complicity with dominant systems and ideologies. Today the situation seems to be opening up. But what is beauty today?

It sure seems we have stuff enough for our coming sessions. I must admit, I really enjoyed our first meeting, hopefully my students did too!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. “Being the best thief.” Reminds me of what Billy Collins has said about poets in his poem “The Trouble with Poetry.” Though I do not think of myself as being unmerry in my thieving.

    The role of beauty in contemporary art(s)…literature included…is interesting to wrestle with. I’m glad you have encouraged your students to think about it.

  2. Magi Rose says:

    I found your lovely blog while hunting for this very Heem painting. My clever photog friend placed her own shot of a Red Admiral butterfly (the same one atop the large white peony? in the Heem) along side a section of this Heem making a statement about spanning time. Being an amateur naturalist and photographer myself, I HAD to find this painting and identify the artist. My research led me your blog as well as a newfound appreciation for the Dutch painters and their love of flowers and nature. Thank you to my friend and to you for expanding my world and my own love of art and beauty. Cheers.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Hi & welcome, glad to hear you like what you have seen!
      All the best!

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