Tuesday, March 24, 2009

You Too May Think The Amen Of Nature Is A Flower*

Fig. 1. Henri Matisse - Fruit, Flowers, and The Dance, 1909

'First, the colours of beautiful bodies must not be dusky or muddy, but clean and fair. Secondly, they must not be of the strongest kind. Those which seem most appropriated to beauty, are the milder of every sort; light greens; soft blues; weak whites; pink reds; and violets. Thirdly, if the colours be strong and vivid, they are always diversified, and the object is never one of strong colour; there are almost always such a number of them (as in variegated flowers) that the strength and glare of each is considerably abated.'

Edmund Burke

* 'The Amen of nature is always a flower.' (Oliver Wendell Holmes)

Addendum: Not long ago, Katie (politely, as always) took umbrage at a joke I'd made at the expense of sport and, by implication, lovers of all things sporty:

Lucio, all sports can be made to sound completely ridiculous when broken down like that. But like art, I think there’s a place for it in the world.

She is right, of course - which is why I replied:

Never fear, Katie, I can make art (and most other things cultural) sounds just as absurd!

And I can. Only there are times when no such effort is required from me, as is amply demonstrated by the following extract from Edmund Burke's self-parodying musings on beauty (imagine it being read by a member of the Monty Python team and you'll see what I mean):

The next property constantly observable in such objects is Smoothness. A quality so essential to beauty, that I do not recollect any thing beautiful that is not smooth. In trees and flowers, smooth leaves are beautiful; smooth slopes of earth in gardens; smooth streams in the landscape; smooth coats of birds and beasts in animal beauties; in fine women, smooth skins; and in several sorts of ornamental furniture, smooth and polished surfaces. A very considerable part of the effect of beauty is owing to this quality; indeed the most considerable. For take any beautiful object, and give it a broken and rugged surface, and however well formed it may be in other respects, it pleases no longer. Whereas let it want ever so many of the other constituents, if it wants not this, it becomes more pleasing than almost all the others without it. This seems to me so evident, that I am a good deal surprised, that none who have handled the subject have made any mention of the quality of smoothness in the enumeration of those that go to the forming of beauty. For indeed any ruggedness, any sudden projection, and sharp angle, is in the highest degree contrary to that idea.

In other words, the smelliest baby bum is preferable to the finest bouquet of natural crystals!

(By the way, the remaining conditions Burke insists must be met in order for something to qualify as beautiful include smallness, variation, and delicacy.)

Thanks for the prod, Katie! {:-})