IS PRETTINESS IN ART BAD?. I posted here about a question Laurence Grenier of the proust pour tous blog (link here) asked some 150 people, including Mary Jane and me: could we identify any characteristics of the paintings that we liked. One person said that the color blue was important in the painting; another, that a painting with an open window was appealing. I said that my favorite paintings made me see the world differently. Mary Jane said that the painting had to convey beauty.
It turns out that a lot of critics think that a painting should not be beautiful. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal (November 2-3) which was taken from ART AND THERAPY, the forthcoming book by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong, in which they write that the popularity of a “beautiful” painting like Claude Monet’s “Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies” is “deeply worrying to many people of taste and sophistication, who take this kind of taste for “prettiness” as a symptom of sentimentality and borderline stupidity.” People of taste ad sophistication think that the people who love pretty gardens are in danger of forgetting the harshness of life.
De Botton and Armstrong argue in reply that beauty can provide visual symbols of hope and “hope is something to celebrate”. I don’t think they will persuade any people of taste and sophistication.