The once-and-future aesthetic

[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ The Judgment of Paris ] [ FAQ ]

Posted by HSG on January 19, 2005 at 06:08:19:

In Reply to: Re: Advertising in the alternative reality posted by Graham on January 18, 2005 at 05:16:35:

It is undoubtedly worth remembering that a "dream world" such as your describe actually did exist, practically within living memory.

A century ago--and in every era prior to that, in an unbroken chain stretching back to the dawn of Western civilization--timeless beauty was apparent in the everyday reality of the general populace.

And, as many have noted, plus-size beauty was not merely a defining characteristic of the "high art" of the day, but dominated mass culture as well.

Here are two more vintage ads produced circa 1900, which illustrate the "look" of the commercial environment of the day:

The models in these advertisements resemble the most attractive of today's plus-size models. They exhibit full, rounded facial features, and are invariably depicted wearing diaphanous feminine clothing.

Then as now, advertisers employed feminine beauty to draw public attention to whatever products they wished to sell. But womanly allure in 1900 did not mean the kind of crass, vulgar imagery that we see today, but rather, something far more gentle, imaginative, and romantic.

And looking at these ads, it is easy to see why the marketers of 1900 felt no need to resort to a tawdry approach. The decadent softness of the models' facial features makes these promotions far more arresting than even the raciest of modern ads.

Both in terms of the beauty of the models, and in terms of the sensual yet tasteful ambience of the imagery, the advertising of the day aspired to the level of genuine art. (The second ad, above, was in fact created by the French painter Delphin Enjolras, a "serious" artist by any measure.)

The culture that we have inherited today is far coarser and more prosaic than the world depicted in these advertisements. And it may well be that the dwindling size of the popular image of women led to this vulgarization. The models steadily had less, so they had to show more.

But unmistakable signs of a return to poetry, to sensuality, and to Imagination, are springing up all around us. In a few more years, the seeds that are being planted today will take root, and a world of Beauty will come into bloom.

"The world must be Romanticized." (Novalis)

Follow Ups:

Post a Followup

Name    : 
E-Mail  : 
Subject : 
Comments: Optional Link URL : Link Title : Optional Image URL:

If you press "Preview Message," you are taken to a preview screen where your
message is shown to you before allowing you to post it.
Your message is not finalized until you click "Post Message".

[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ The Judgment of Paris ] [ FAQ ] Message Forums
Copyright © 2001 HighWired Internet Innovations Inc. All rights reserved.