<< Back to Blog

Western Artwork: A Case for Beauty

  Rebecca      June 14, 2022

Beauty was the aim of art for the last 2000 years and it was subject to philosophy since it started back in ancient greece. But since the 20th century, things have changed. Art no longer tries to be beautiful nor show beauty. For around a hundred years now, art has abandoned beauty and the consequences are far more severe then it seems - it goes to the core of reality.

In 1917 Marcel Duchamp signed a urinal "R.Mutt" and proclaimed that it was art. The art world should have been offended, but they loved it. Since then, the art world has adopted the conclusions that can be drawn about art if you accept Duchamps piece as such. Everything can be art and everyone who has an idea can be an artist- no skill required.

In place of beauty came shock value and originality, no matter the moral cost. As we lost beauty our entertainment, our language and manners became more vulgar too.

Through the Artist’s Eyes

Another part of art is creativity, which is a call to see the world as the artist sees it. This is why we love the paintings of our children, because their view is un-corrupted and pure. Modern art shows the most horrifying and loveless sides of humanity, then claims it is our reality. It is fair to say that if you would judge the world by modern art it would be a place that deserves condemnation and never love.

Back when art was concerned with beauty, it showed the world as it is through the eyes of how it ought to be. There is no space in art today for something bigger then the material world. It sees humans as animals and it portrays them as such.


This attitude has also reached over to architecture. Philosopher’s have argued that through the pursuit of beauty, we are shaping the world as a home. Modern architecture follows a only utilitarian approach. Most architects follow Louis Sullivan who said, “form follows function."

The reality is what Dr. Roger Scruton said, “put usefulness first and you will lose it put beauty first and what you do will be useful forever," he further explained, “the traditional architecture with it’s decorative details and ornaments liberates us from the tyranny of usefulness and satisfies our need for harmony, in a strange way they make us feel at home. They remind us that we have more then animal needs. We have spiritual and moral needs too and if those needs go unsatisfied so do we."

The Value of Art

We can see why it’s important to live in a beautiful house which makes it a home; but why not just abandon art?

We can perceive beauty in nature and see the true beauty of people in their eyes. It shows something more then the flesh. A lot of the time, though, we don’t take the time to see it and absorb it. Painters like Rembrandt can help. They used their skill and their creativity to show the beauty in everyday life and people.

Plato argued that beauty is a sign of another higher order. He wrote, “beholding beauty with eyes of the mind you will be able to nourish true virtue and become the friend of God.“

Beautiful art of the past has shown the most painful part of life: death and redemption. It showed that even in the face of death, humans can still show nobility, compassion and dignity. This kind of art can help to console a broken heart. It speaks to a the spiritual part of us. We need beauty because we are spiritual in nature.

What Beauty is and What it is Not

Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher of the enlightenment, explained something important for our society today about beauty. He said to perceive true beauty you have to have a disinterested attitude. He meant that that it’s not about you; not what you can get out of it. Like looking at a friends baby and delighting in their existence. Why is that important to consider? True beauty is about perceiving the wonderful parts of reality to connect us to the fact that we are not flesh alone.

The self-centered attitude of art can be found in ads and on social media. It is all about displaying oneself in a way that triggers desire in others to get attention. And that can also be seen through the clothes people wear, typically in ads and on social media. It is about lust; not letting your true beauty shine on a surface of modesty. And how ever could you really show that when you are presenting yourself in an ad or through social media.

Not only people who post on social media are affected, it is also an attitude that can influence the people watching to try to strive for a superficial image. Plato argued that the most beauty can be found in the platonic admiration of humans: in seeing their soul. Looking at pictures of Rembrandt can help us reshape our thinking.

What Beauty Can Do for Our Society

It is not wrong to use social media to share and to connect when you do it in a modest way and with the true meaning of beauty in mind; then it will not be all about the selfies.

I truly believe that if we would accept the true meaning of beauty and reject the image based self-centeredness of our time, we could get rid of a lot of mental illnesses that are connected to this: anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, and the idea that everyone can be a woman or a men just if they say so.

The true meaning of beauty is lost in us today, but it’s important to understand it and reclaim it to understand basic truths about reality and to have appreciation of the meaningfulness of life and each other.

<< Back to Blog