– when we talk about beauty?
Here is a question for you: Is it at all possible to talk about beauty as a defined or delimited concept? Let me show you some examples of art usually described as beautiful. Do these works have a common quality of any sorts – a quality which could be named beauty?
The Virgin and Child with Angels, Jean Fouquet . Oil on panel, 94.5 x 85.5cm, c. 1452, Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten.
In The Waning of the Middle Ages the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga described this painting as a most appalling example of a dangerous blend of amorous and religious feelings. “There is a flavour of blasphemous boldness about the whole,” he wrote.
Blossoming Almond Tree,Vincent van Gogh, Saint-Rémy: February, 1890
Blossoming Almond Tree is one of Vincent van Gogh’s best known paintings and is noteworthy in that both Van Gogh and his closest family held the work in high regard. This painting is one of a small handful that Van Gogh produced with a particular person in mind–in this case, his brother and sister-in-law’s newborn baby. Van Gogh was deeply moved when Theo and Johanna chose to name the child Vincent and he always harboured a great deal of affection for the child. Van Gogh painted Blossoming Almond Tree to honour his namesake and it remains a tour-de-force, both the product of Vincent’s fondness for his nephew as well as the Japanese art which he so greatly admired.
Today’s life and War, Gohar Dashti, 2008, Iran
Gohar Dashti is a contemporary favorite of mine, this is what she says about her series Today’s Life and War:
The series Today’s Life and War emerged from my experiences during the eight year Iran-Iraq War. This conflict has had a strong symbolic influence on the emotional life of my generation. Although we may be safe within the walls of our homes, the war continues to reach us through newspapers, television and the Internet.
This body of work represents war and its legacy, the ways in which it permeates all aspects of contemporary society. I capture moments that reference the ongoing duality of life and war without precluding hope. In a fictionalized battlefield, I show a couple in a series of everyday activities: eating breakfast, watching television, and celebrating their wedding. Though they do not visibly express emotion, the man and woman embody the power of perseverance, determination, and survival.