Beauty

Garden Court

Decadence was brought about by the easy way of producing works and laziness in doing it, by the surfeit of fine art and the love of the bizarre. —Voltaire, The Princess of Babylon (1748)
  Voltaire’s linkage of decadence to an overabundance of fine art earns consideration, perhaps now more than ever. Art stuffs pile up around us; and we live, increasingly, with an overemphasis on—even reverence for—aesthetics that is less a sign of refinement than a malaise. It is an unhealthy condition, all the more precarious for exalting aesthetics, a strutting Enlightenment product, up, up into the embrace of theology. Continue Reading
Euan Uglow's Stern Beauty

The only Christian work is good work, well done. –Dorothy Sayers   Ask: “Who is the greatest figure painter of the late twentieth century?” The answer on this side of the Atlantic is likely to be Lucian Freud. Across the water, the choice is hardly so clear cut. Euan Uglow (1932-2000) is one of Britain’s most distinguished—to many, the most distinguished—painter of his time. Ten years younger than Freud, he died too soon. Uglow was an austere, luminous practitioner of direct observation. Continue Reading
Madder Eggs

No, no, the eggs are not mad. I only mean the color. Madder red is the older term for alizarin crimson, known to the pharaohs and the residents of Pompeii. A crucial coloring agent for textiles during the Industrial Revolution, it was also the first plant-derived pigment to be produced synthetically in the nineteenth century. As splendid as it was ubiquitous, it became the most popular color for Easter eggs in European folk traditions. Madder was cherished throughout the Czech regions, in Hungary, even into northwest England where eggs were dyed by being wrapped directly in the plant leaves. Continue Reading
The Hazard of Beauty

Talk of beauty is in the air these days. It has been absent as a reigning value in contemporary art long enough to be provoking interest once again. It is a bit of a jumble though. Everyone wants in on the beauty of the philosophers while reserving for themselves the ascendency of their own taste and perceptions. The knot knocks even the best of us off course with little guide beyond the packaged insights of art appreciation. No less formidable a cultural critic than Roger Scruton is unsafe from the tools of the appreciator’s trade. Continue Reading