Beauty may be the most difficult aspect of life and art that can be defined. It may be easy to say something is beautiful, say a flower or a picture of a sunset. But what about the feeling one gets from the work of art that was not intentionally set out to be beautiful in the traditional sense? The mind’s eye that perceives this art is subjective to the individual. When Thelonious Monk composed “Ugly Beauty” he begins with a string of repeated notes that sound out of tune and ugly, it seems wrong but as things progress we see the other side. So the mind has to judge for itself if it’s beautiful. Rubens head of Medusa may strike us as ugly, but is it not a beautifully crafted painting ?The mind’s eye must judge for itself, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Art is beautiful, art is ugly and needs to be both.
“…The beautiful object is an object that by virtue of it’s form delights the senses, especially sight and hearing. But those aspects perceivable with the senses are not the only factors that express the beauty of the object: In the case of the human body an importatnt role is also played by the qualities of the soul and the personality, which are perceived by the mind’s eye more than by the eye of the body….” These words are by Umberto Eco from his book History Of Beauty. And in the same book a quote by Plato from Symposium: “But what if man had eyes to see the true beauty–the divine beauty, I mean, pure and clear and unalloyed, not clogged with pollutions of mortality and all the colors and vanities of human life….beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality)…regarding the attainment of this end, human nature will not easily find a better helper than love”
Below: The Penitent Mary Magdalene by Titian (The Getty Museum, Los Angeles) If we are sensitive to what the artist intended we see Mary Magdalene not as a beautiful woman physically but as a woman in sincere repentance of her life and the love that she feels for her God. It is this beauty that we see and most of all feel from this magnificent painting.