JJ Charlesworth finds beauty, along with a sunny view of the future, to be something of the past

“Beauty is one of those ideas that over the past 100 years or so has been slowly downgraded when it comes to considering the value of art. It’s not so long ago that people would have named it as one of the qualities that defined art. Many still do. But what they mean by beauty has become a shadow of its former self. Centuries ago, the philosopher Immanuel Kant could discuss it as an aspect of the moral sense of what it was to be human – part of how human beings aspired to higher ideals and dignity. Later, the romantic poet John Keats (in Ode on a Grecian Urn 1820) would declare that ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty.’

Today, these lofty sentiments seem alien and unreal. Did people really think like that? After all the horrors of the last century, and the continued horrors of this one, who could still believe in the value and goodness of the beautiful? ‘To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric,’ was the pessimistic conclusion of Theodor Adorno, one of the great [ahem-SH] aesthetic theorists of the mid-20th century.”

But…

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