Beauty and Nausea in Venice

"On or about December 1910, human character changed," wrote British novelist Virginia Woolf in 1924.  "I am not saying that one went out, as one might into a garden, and there saw that a rose had flowered, or that a hen had laid an egg. The change was not sudden and definite like that. But a change there was, nevertheless." Woolf's famous quote refers specifically to an exhibition of naturalist paintings.  More broadly, 1910 marked the approximate date of a huge shift in the world of art: out went the traditional goal of creating beauty, replaced by the modernist goal of promoting ideals and imparting a political message, especially one that would épater la bourgeoisie (shock the burghers).  Toward this end, rudeness and ugliness are inherent in the progressive goal of irritating, disturbing, and teaching. Italy, home of the Renaissance, widely considered the apogee of artistic achievement, offers a...(Read Full Article)

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