Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Beauty is Truth

When I was a little girl, I always used to love dressing up in pretty dresses with lots of fabric and flowing skirts. I used to see pictures of times past, when women wore flowing dresses, and wish we could wear them today! My sisters used to joke that I was born in the wrong century. Even today, my tastes tend to lean toward the traditional, toward the classic. I used to wonder why I was so drawn to beautiful things...perhaps I was being too superficial? But I think there's more to it. I can't adequately express the difference I feel when listening to a beautiful piece of music written in the 1600s, and listening to a popular modern tune. Nor can I express the difference I feel when looking at a piece of modern art, and feasting on a classical masterpiece. It just seems there is something more there, in those pieces of visual, musical, and literary art created in times seems deeper, more complex, more beautiful, and, I think most importantly, more true to life, more real. And so I think my attraction to beauty, is really at its deepest level an attraction to truth. It's also partly to blame for my conversion, lol. I once read this article, I Was Converted by Mozart, and could completely relate!

A while back, I discovered an artist that moved me in such a profound way, I couldn't stop looking at his works of art! The painting in my title is from him, the painting above is from him as well. His name is William Bouguereau, and he's my favorite artist. I'd never heard of him in any art classes (not that I took many), and yet I find his work so moving, and so REAL. The largest online gallery of his work is here, and I also came to love this site itself for its philosophy and stance on modern art, etc. If you want great prints of beautiful art, check it out!

It seems today we're surrounded by superficiality, and it drives me crazy. I crave truth...deep, complex truth. So much of what is created in our modern world seems to be trying to escape reality, and to turn a blind eye to truth. It's shallow and superficial, it cheaply aims to shock, disgust, or sometimes to please, but with an only temporary saccharine sweetness, since it fails to truly move and inspire. But real and lasting beauty can only be found in reality, in truth. These are the pieces of art, of literature, of music that transcend time and touch everyone, regardless of time or place, art that is true, and grounded in reality. To quote Keats, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know."


Thomas J. said...

I totally concur. . .

Oh steph, if I could only TELL you how frequently I get discouraged when I start to talk about the passion i feel for these things with other people, and they look at me like I said a dirty word. I get so excited over music, art, literature, etc. . .whether contemporary of classic. . .and so many people just don;t seem to "get" it.

One of my favorite Lyricists, Neil Peart, wrote this several years ago, It is called "Mission"

Hold your fire-
Keep it burning bright
Hold the flame 'til the dream ignites-
A spirit with a vision is a dream with a mission

I hear their passionate music
Read the words that touch my heart
I gaze at their feverish pictures
The secrets that set them apart

When I feel the powerful visions
Their fire has made alive
I wish I had that instinct-
I wish I had that drive

Spirits fly on dangerous missions
Imaginations on fire
Focused high on soaring ambitions
Consumed in a single desire

In the grip of a nameless possession-
A slave to the drive of obsession-
A spirit with a vision
Is a dream with a mission...

I watch their images flicker
Bringing light to a lifeless screen
I walk through their beautiful buildings
And I wish I had their dreams

But dreams don't need to have motion
To keep their spark alive
Obsession has to have action-
Pride turns on the drive

It's cold comfort
To the ones without it
To know how they struggled-
How they suffered about it

If their lives were exotic and strange
They would likely have gladly exchanged them
For something a little more plain
Maybe something a little more sane

We each pay a fabulous price
For our visions of paradise
But a spirit with a vision
Is a dream with a mission...

You keep that vision. . you keep that idea that "beauty is truth". That is why we labor, either with our writing, or our art, or our music. This is why I will labor in the dead of night to get the music or the lyrics "just right". . not for accolades, or money or fame. . but for BEAUTY.


Lawrence Ferlenghetti--"Constantly risking absurdity and death"

Dylan Thomas--"In my Craft or Sullen Art"

Hugs to ya!

Stephanie said...

Thanks Thomas!! Lovely poem, and I'll check out your recommendations =)

Pup said...

Have u noticed the girl in the picture (the way he draws them) kinda looks like u?
U should do Ren Faire with me next year :)

Stephanie said...

Ha! You know it's're not the first person that has told me that about a Bouguereau painting, lol! Maybe that's why I like them so much...that seems kinda vain, lol!

I wish I could go to a Ren Faire, I've always wanted to go to one, just so I could have an excuse to dress up! :-D

Prairie Princess said...

Thanks for the tip about this artist. BTW, check your link to the on-line gallery of his work.

Stephanie said...

Thanks prairie...I don't know why it wasn't working, but it's fixed now :-)

Jennifer F. said...

LOVE this post, especially your last paragraph.

Do you find that when you talk to others about this, about half the time they respond with blank stares? I've tried to articulate this as a part of my conversion and feel like the concept of seeking deep truth and beauty is just not something that many people are interested in.

...Or maybe I'm just not explaining it well. :)

Stephanie said...

Yes, Jennifer, I definitely get blank stares!

After our wedding (we got married in France) I came back to Texas, and drove the 2 hours from Dallas to Tyler where we lived at the time, and all I saw around me were broken down old shacks and utilitarian ugly buildings, and it seriously depressed me!! I couldn't explain to people what it was...but I think after being surrounded by such a culturally and architecturally (is that a word? lol) rich part of the world, to come back to a place so empty of architectural (and artistic and musical) beauty was just really sad, it just felt so lacking. I need these things to feed my soul!!

That's one of the reasons I'm so greatful for the cathedral in Austin...I'm able to get my weekly dose of beauty (art, music, architecture) at mass. :-)