"Beauty?" by Avery P.

What makes something beautiful in our society? Magazines are covered with images of women with long legs, "beach" bodies, and perfect hair. The truth is that most of us strive to be these long-legged, toned-bodied, coifed, women. This is because the media has trained us to believe that happiness comes along with looking like these people. In the image, the word "goddess" is placed over the woman's eyes, which represents how we have become blind to reality because we are obsessed with the idea of physical perfection. The different bright colors are a reference to the excessive number of things we strive to perfect about our selves (e.g. nails, hair, and lips). As seen throughout this blog, physical beauty has remained a dominating concern for centuries.

"School of Athens" by Raphael (1510-11)

The School of Athens was painted by Raphael in 1501 during the Renaissance period. Meaning "rebirth", (academic.brooklyn.cuny) the word, "Renaissance" refers to the entire social rebirth of Europe during the sixteenth century. The Renaissance was a time of philosophical, artistic, social, and educational reformation. The School of Athens references the idea of a "Renaissance man", someone who excels in various areas of study and embodies Renaissance values: philosophy, humanism, service and involvement with the state, a balance of religion and secularism, and education (academic.brooklyn.cuny). Humanism was a Renaissance concept which emphasized leading an active life rather than solely depending on religious devotion for the hopes of an after-life. Also, humanism supports individual involvement in order to improve participation and on whole, unify the state (Hale).

Plato, Aristotle, and many other well-known Greek philosophers are present in the fresco, touching on the importance of philosophy and classicism (arthistoryguide). Some people are positioned as if they appear to be thinking, highlighting the constant longing for discovery and thought. The importance of education is obvious, due to the mass references towards possessing and attaining knowledge. With books in hand, people are sitting on the steps of the majestically-lit setting. The books represent the yearning for self-improvement. The lighting of the painting, with the light source being from the small remnants of a sky at the top of the painting that you vaguely see through a window, suggests a religious reference. Religion was not excluded from this period, but rather Renaissance people strived to integrate religion and secularism in a more realistic fashion (arthistoryguide). It is notable that only men are present in the painting. Women were excluded from this educational reformation, because at this time, they were still considered unimportant and unintelligent.

During the Renaissance, having an education and exposure to philosophical ideals was important, and it was impressive to be knowledgeable. The School of Athens shows how valued education really was. If you were educated, you had power. Specifically for men, it was beautiful to be knowledgeable, and your physical appearance was unimportant. Marriage, for example, pretty much depended on your income and business success; you would attract potential partners by your social and professional status. And you could become successful socially and business-wise by receiving an education. Attractiveness was determined by the knowledge you possessed.

Hale, J. R.The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance. 1994. Print.
"'The School of Athens' by Raphael - Characters, Figues, and Significant People."Art History & Periods, Artist Biographies, Art Galleries, & Art Schools. Web. <"http://www.arthistoryguide.com/The_School_of_Athens.aspx">.

"Queen Marie Antoinette" by Adolf Ulrich Wertmüller (1785)

Queen Marie Antoinette, painted by Adolf Ulrich Wertmüller in the 1780s, is a portrait of the queen and her children. Marie Antoinette reigned over France with her husband, Louis, during the eighteenth century. Marie Antoinette lacked support from the French people (PBS). She suffered from harsh accusations, and the French often criticized her because they believed she was spending too much time away from the palace with her children in Versailles, and in doing so, neglecting her duties as Queen (PBS). Ultimately, she was beheaded during the French revolution because she was so identified as a rich, unfitting monarch who cared little for her people (PBS).

This portrait exemplifies stereotypical royal lifestyle. The queen and her children are each dressed in layers of expensive, fashionable clothing. Both children are holding onto their mother’s hands; her daughter is carrying flowers, while her son holds his hat. It is obvious that they are wealthy people because of their outfits, attitude, and poise. They have contented facial expressions, not showing much emotion, but rather emitting a sense of confidence. By their positioning, it seems like they are supposed to be walking through their garden. Striding with attitude, the family is obviously aware of the great power and influence they hold above everyone else. The daughter is looking towards the son for direction, which is a small demonstration of gender roles and the authority men held over women.

Wertmüller’s Queen Marie Antoinette perfectly depicts the idea of beauty in eighteenth-century French society (PBS). Beauty was measured by material means; wealth, clothing, looks, and social class. Much like today in the United States, when women constantly try to morph their appearances into that of a model, women strived to look like Marie Antoinette. She was the height of fashion, and everything about her was perfect: her hair, her clothes, her things (Fraser). She was dressed by her servants every morning, and treated with the utmost of care and attention to detail (Fraser). Wealthy women copied her every look and mannerism. Being educated was unimportant. But instead, a woman’s image, family history, and social class dictated how successful she would become (PBS). Beauty and importance depended solely on one’s physical features, elegance, and social status.

Fraser, Antonia. Marie Antoinette: the Journey. New York: N.A. Talese/Doubleday, 2001. Print.
"Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution . Timeline . A Revolution: 1789-1790 | PBS." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Web. <"http://www.pbs.org/marieantoinette/timeline/revolution.html">.

"Daughters of Edward Darley Boit" by John Singer Sargent (1882)

As described by Kimberly M. Radek, women of the nineteenth century were stereotypically “passive”, “timid”, “pure”, and “content” (Radek). Men had lawful rights over their wives, and women were expected to be solely dependent on their husbands (Radek). During the 1800s, it was fashionable for women to have tiny waists, so in order to do so, they would wear corsets. Eventually, it was discovered that corsets deformed a women’s waste line and lungs, making it harder to breathe (Radek). Uncomfortable sacrifices like this were made to become "beautiful". Daughters of Edward Darley Boit was painted by John Singer Sargent during this era of feminine plainness and physical beauty. The subject, Edward Darley Boit, was an impressionist artist, himself, and Sargent and Boit were good friends. Evan Charteris described Sargent to possess "such authority, such anxious sincerity...so much humor and finesse" (Charteris). Women were treated the same and expected to act with a certain feminine poise in accordance to the commands of this kind of male 'authority' (Charteris) in their lives (Radek).

In the painting, Boit’s four daughters are all neatly dressed in similar plainly colored dresses. This idea of wearing matching, similar clothing demonstrates the lack of individuality. Because the clothing is so plain and bland, it also references the idea of the female being 'pure' and not having or fulfilling any sexual desires (Radek). The daughters are all motionless, and with the exception of one, blankly staring towards the audience. It is obvious that the daughters are discontent by their dissatisfied facial expressions. Emotionless and bored, the daughters seem tired of their routine activities. Even the youngest daughter, whom is playing on the ground with a doll, doesn’t show any traces of a smile. Also demonstrated by the youngest daughter, girls were expected to only do very specific, acceptable things (Radek). Playing with dolls was acceptable because it was considered feminine (Radek) and normal, and did not cause them to exercise their thinking. For a woman in the nineteenth century, physical beauty and attractiveness definitely stood superior to the substance of their character. The daughters were taught to act and dress similarly, not revealing any sense of personality or individuality (Radek). They concealed their emotions and opinions within them to avoid controversial thoughts and exploration of their individual self (Radek). The gray and dark color scheme adds to the plain and emotionless mood of the painting.

An ideal woman acted in accordance to the values set in place by society; to be respectful, to please one’s family/husband, to listen and not challenge anything, and to do what they were told (Radek). Boit's daughter's were unable to say anything about their discontent because it would interrupt their duty to become an ideal, “beautiful” woman. A beautiful woman was one who embodied these nineteenth-century values and behaved obediently, like the daughters, at the same time as maintaining an attractive body and favorable disposition. Since these women were not encouraged to let their personalities shine through, there was not much more to judge them by then their looks. Success came to women based on attractiveness, and accordingly, good-looking, obedient women were the ones who became successful and married into wealthy families. One's attractiveness was only determined by physical beauty and cooperation.

Charteris, Evan. John Sargent. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger, 2010. Print.
Lee, Vernon. "John Singer Sargent's Daughters of Edward Darley Boit." John Singer Sargent Virtual Gallery. Web. < "http://www.jssgallery.org/Paintings/Daughters_of_Edward_Darley_Boit.htm">.
Radek., Kimberly M. "Women in the Nineteenth Century." IVCC » Home Page Transition Page. 2001. Web. <"http://www2.ivcc.edu/gen2002/Women_in_the_Nineteenth_Century.htm">.

"ABCD" by Raoul Hausmann

Raoul Hausmann was one of the leading men of the Berlin Dada art period (MetMuseum). The movement began in Europe in 1916 and eventually spread to the United States (Esaak). It was a direct reaction toward the horrors of World War I. Dada artists were enraged that their countries allowed the war to happen. The Dada artists believed that the war was a direct result of capitalism and materialism, and they wanted to encourage others to realize the faults in conformity. The artists mocked capitalist society with their illogical and irrational pieces, questioning reality as a whole. This period inspired controversy, discovery, and conflict between dissatisfied people and their governments. Dadaism attracted attention because of the unpredictable, unusual work of its artists (Esaak). Through its strangeness, Dada art was specifically made to evoke an emotional response from its audience, as it protested the war and rejected the governmental practices.

In ABCD, Hausmann created a self-portrait (Esaak).When first looking at the piece, you immediately notice the its intensity. Hausmann’s mouth is open and clenched on the letters, “ABCD”, as if he is screaming and experiencing some sort of discomfort. Also found in the image is information about one of Hausmann’s upcoming poetry readings. This serves as a reference to the literary side of the Dada art movement. The movement was represented through visual and literary forms of art. Ticket stubs are cut up and scattered in various places. Hands, money, a fire extinguisher, and different words are hidden throughout the image. The value of these items could be interpreted in many different ways, but overall, Hausmann seems to be using these symbols to encourage the audience to challenge accepted beliefs and create individual opinions, and use art as means to do so.

 Specifically in Hausmann’s time, this kind of art became a gateway for people to express their disappointment in the establishment (Esaak). His portfolio of work made way for a whole new form of expressionism (Esaak). This rebelliousness encouraged people to think more about what was happening and speak up against the authority, rather than sit by as their governments made unfavorable decisions (Esaak). As opposed to the common idea of beauty, beauty in this sense was found in the thoughts of those strong enough to challenge the opinions of everyone else. Creativity, innovative thinking, and intelligence were valued and honored. Someone who was wise, and had the courage to stand up for what they believed in, was considered beautiful in the strength that they possessed. Hausmann, in essence, possessed a sense of beauty and attractiveness because of the strength of his artwork. His messages defied authority. This defiance characterizes artists like him as mysterious and intriguing. People are drawn to the mysteriousness of the art and the artists, and the intelligence that each possess.

"Collection Database | Works of Art | The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York." The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Metmuseum.org. Web. <"http://www.metmuseum.org/works_of_art/collection_database/photographs/abcd_raoul_hausmann/objectview.aspx?collID=19">.
Esaak, Shelley. "Dada - Art History Basics on the Dada Movement - 1916-1923." Art History Resources for Students, Enthusiasts, Artists and Educators - Artist Biographies - Art Timelines - Images and Picture Galleries. Web. <"http://arthistory.about.com/cs/arthistory10one/a/dada.htm">.

"Elizabeth Taylor" by Andy Warhol (1963)

Revolutionary thought began to surface in the United States during the 1960s, when the country was reeling from the controversy surrounding the Vietnam war and focusing its energy more on technology and modernization. This revolutionary thought made way for national development and discovery, including the first US voyage to the moon in 1969 (LSC-Kingswood Library). Art was progressive, and pop art became popular for its modern theme and simplicity. Pop art was not as detailed as the arts like realism that had preceded it, but rather was meant to be simple to aid the audience in creating their own interpretations of the pieces. Elizabeth Taylor was created by Andy Warhol in 1963. Warhol is known for his pop art renditions of popular/celebrity objects and people like Elizabeth Taylor (Greenberg).

Elizabeth Taylor was a world-renowned actress, often admired for her glamour and beauty (Notable Biographies). She was especially well-known for her good looks, specifically her violet eye color. Warhol emphasized the areas around her eye with a bold teal color, and her lips with a bright red to focus the audience toward her facial features. Her skin is flawless; her face revealing a sly smile, Taylor looks mysterious. Her features are so perfect to the point that they are unrealistic. Taylor's cartoon-like appearance explores new areas of thought and calls reality into question. Do we strive to look so perfect to the point that we seem cartoon-like? Warhol’s rendition of Taylor puts the idea of beauty into question; is our idea of beauty unattainable?

Why focus on Elizabeth Taylor with so many others to choose from? The very fact that Warhol decided to create a portrait of Taylor proves her world-renowned celebrity. Warhol was aware that the rest of the country was captivated by Taylor’s appeal. To focus on someone like Elizabeth Taylor would attract the attention of her entire fan-base. And accordingly, Warhol would have the opportunity for all her fans to serve as an audience of his piece and the message it was portraying; that beauty was reduced to sex appeal. Warhol was commenting on how superficial and commercial our notions of beauty were becoming with his use of cartoon colors and flat, two dimensional figures. Elizabeth Taylor had the best of both worlds--talent and beauty; but her appearance played a major role in the attainment of her celebrity. So what does that say about our nation at its present? We worship, stalk, admire, and strive to look like celebrities. Does that mean that, because of the constant necessity to look and be a certain way, we often only admire people for their beauty, and we neglect true talent and substance?

"American Cultural History - 1960 - 1969." LSC-Kingwood Library. Web. <"http://kclibrary.lonestar.edu/decade60.html"
"Elizabeth Taylor Biography - Life, Family, Children, Parents, Name, Story, Wife, Mother, Young."Encyclopedia of World Biography. Web. <http://www.notablebiographies.com/St-Tr/Taylor-Elizabeth.html>.
Greenberg, Jan, and Sandra Jordan. Andy Warhol: Prince of Pop. New York: Delacorte, 2004. Print.