“If the world was a kinder place, perhaps we would be less impressed by, and in need of, pretty works of art. One of the strangest features of experiencing art is its power, occasionally, to move us to tears; not when presented with a harrowing or terrifying image, but with a work of particular grace and loveliness that can be, for a moment, heartbreaking. What is happening to us at these special times of intense responsiveness to beauty?”
—Alain de Botton, Art as Therapy.
I must say I’m excited about the prospect of visiting museums and galleries again. I made a number of bookings for this weekend and next, and just the thought of being in front of beautiful works of it made me smile. It’s the most alive I’ve felt all week.
I want to be moved to tears by beauty. But beauty is such a relative concept. Sure, a work of art that’s aesthetically pleasant is beautiful. Personally, beauty in art goes beyond that. For example, I adore Lucian Freud’s raw, complex, fleshy self-portraits. You may disagree, but I think his courage to paint part of our lives that’s can be unforgiving is what has moved me many times over. And that’s beautiful.
Similarly, I feel the same about much more simpler works like this by the amazing Bob and Roberta Smith RA. Especially the centrepiece, ‘There is still art, there is still hope’ (2020), part of the late RA Summer Exhibition. The words made me reflect and ultimately, moved me. They made me realise how factual and relevant they are. This year especially. Art works made this year way more bearable. They made me feel hopeful. That creativity is not lost. May our ability to let ourselves be moved not be lost. And that, alone, is the most beautiful thing.
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