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Emily
9th April 2011, 16:41
With photographer Wahb Mabkhout's photographic exhibition (http://www.judgmentofparis.com/board/showthread.php?t=2112) featuring plus-size models opening in a Los Angeles gallery today, I thought I'd parallel this wonderful development with news of another art exhibit currently on display that also showcases timeless beauty.

This one is being staged in London, at the stately Victoria and Albert Museum. It is called The Cult of Beauty.

http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/periods_styles/cult-of-beauty/exhibition/index.html

The exhibition covers the work of the "Aesthetic Movement," a kind of successor to Romanticism which encompassed Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian Classical artists. Like the Romantics, the members of the Aesthetic Movement were reacting against the cold industrialism that was spreading in the 19th century. But unlike the Romantics, the Aesthetic Movement achieved tangible, real-world results in its reaction against societal uglification:

One review (http://www.culture24.org.uk/art/art352785) gives a helpful description of the theme of the show. Here are a few excerpts:

“Art as important for its own sake, beauty to be valued for itself alone - the ideas proposed by the Aesthetic Movement are current again today,” says Sir Mark Jones, Director of the V&A.

It is refreshing to visit an exhibition that celebrates the need for art and the pleasure of beauty.

[It showcases a] type of female beauty that was to dominate British art until the turn of the century and the advent of Modernism.

It wasn’t just about painting. The Aesthetic Movement also spread into design, furniture and homeware as artists and designers collaborated.

The period also saw the start of public interest in the decoration of houses and the notion of The House Beautiful was born.

Perhaps there is something in the aestheticism of the late Victorians that we should try and hang on to and revive.
The latter point is especially pertinent, because if anything, with the rise of Modernism and Post-Modernism, our world is far uglier today than it was in the 19th century. In those years, at least the buildings exemplified beautiful Neo-Gothicism. Today we have soulless, minimalist, glass-and-concrete boxes, as well as coldly utilitarian, minimalist, androgynous standards of female appearance.

As for feminine beauty, the highlight of the show is Rossetti's Bocca Baciata (1859), a portrait of the painter's lusciously full-figured girlfriend, Fanny Cornforth. The painting lovingly depicts the sensual weight and fleshiness in her facial features.

http://www.vam.ac.uk/images/image/70788-large.jpg

I especially appreciate the fact that the exhibition covers not only painting, but every aspect of the design arts -- everything that comprises one's physical environment. As the show description states:

Rossetti and his friends were also the first to attempt to realise their imaginative world in the creation of 'artistic' furniture and the decoration of rooms. In this period, artists' houses and their extravagant lifestyles became the object of public fascination and sparked a revolution in the architecture and interior decoration of houses that led to a widespread recognition of the need for beauty in everyday life.

The rise of Aestheticism in painting was paralleled in the decorative arts by a new and increasingly widespread interest in the decoration of houses. Many of the key avant-garde architects and designers interested themselves not only in working for wealthy clients but also in the reform of design for the middle-class home. The notion of 'The House Beautiful' became a touchstone of cultured life.
Apparently, one BBC Radio review was so captivated by the beauty of this aesthetic that he stated that he "would love to live in the exhibition." No wonder, since the opulent Victorian style is so preferable to modern ugliness.

Indeed, the timing of this exhibition couldn't be better, with the burgeoning movement of "maximalism (http://www.judgmentofparis.com/board/showthread.php?t=2023)," as well as related trends such as lolita and "New Victorian" fashions.

Not only do we live in an even uglier world today than the Victorians did, but we are surrounded by a culture that tries to suppress beauty -- feminine beauty, and beauty in general. I hope that, like Wahb Mabkhout's About Face show, this exhibition will help people realize how much has been lost in the war against beauty, and will spur renewed public interest in the Western beauty tradition, along with a desire to see that tradition restored.

Pamela
26th May 2011, 17:39
Speaking of the design arts, I thought I'd share an article that I came across the other day.

http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110515/LIFE/105150311/-1/NEWSMAP

It indicates that curvaceous forms are more appealing than hard, angular frames. Here are the pertinent points:

OSU study says curves are cozier

May 15, 2011
By Kim Palmer

Want guests to feel more at home in your home? Add a big round chair or a circular rug or ottoman.

People react more positively to, and prefer to socialize in, spaces filled with curvy forms and shapes, according to a new study from Oregon State University.

"Curvilinear forms create warmth," said Sibel Dazkir, a doctoral student in design and human environment, who conducted the study. "They're associated with organic forms found in nature."

In the study, more than 100 undergraduates viewed four computer-drafted room interiors and rated how each made them feel, Dazkir said. Two of the rooms contained rounded furniture, while the other two had rectangular furniture arranged the same way...

Participants said the curvy rooms made them feel happier, more hopeful, comfortable and relaxed than the sharp-angled rooms.
It's hardly surprising to learn of the human preference for curvy shapes, which "create warmth" and are "associated with organic forms found in nature." And the most obvious example of a curvaceous, "organic form found in nature," is, of course, the form of the plus-size goddess, the well-fed female figure. No wonder that it was the ideal of feminine beauty throughout human history, prior to the modern age.

It only makes sense, then that just as the 20th century ushered in the aesthetic of ugliness, so did it champion hard, flat, unpleasant shapes - in architecture, in home decor, and yes, in the androgynized female frame.

All the more reason to do away with the off-putting, "sharp-angled" modern standard of appearance for women, and a return to the "cozier" aesthetic of plus-size beauty, which makes people feel "happier, more hopeful, comfortable, and relaxed."