Beauty and Ugliness

This City Journal piece recounts visits to two very different art exhibitions on the same day, in the process contrasting an 18th Century sensibility (appreciating beauty due to an admiration of refinement and innocence) with a contemporary one (dwelling on ugliness due to a jaded consciousness, a focus on authenticity and a rejection of the values of the past).

This is a beautifully-written, even-handed comparison of two artistic styles, personas and eras, of the kind we usually see in the New Criterion or New English Review.

Lenin abjured music, to which he was sensitive, because it made him feel well-disposed to the people around him, and he thought it would be necessary to kill so many of them. Theodor Adorno said that there could be no more poetry after Auschwitz. Our view of the world has become so politicized that we think that the unembarrassed celebration of beauty is a sign of insensibility to suffering and that exclusively to focus on the world’s deformations, its horrors, is in itself a sign of compassion.

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