I promised to get back on the subject of beauty. And I will keep the promise, but not today. This is just a demi-post to get us through the weekend. Herewith, a contrarian thought to consider from France’s wildly popular pop singer Serge Gainsbourg: “Ugliness is superior to beauty because it last longer.”

 

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Dutch School. Temptation of St. Anthony (c. 1500), detail. Prado, Madrid.

 

We cannot talk about beauty unless we have an appreciation—if that is the word—for ugliness. And what, precisely, is it? Is the ugly no more than an absence of beauty? Or is it substantive and dynamic in its own right? If you know, please tell me. I have not yet read Stephen Bayley’s Ugly: The Aesthetics of Everything but am looking forward to a good romp through neglected territory.

 

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Quentin Matsys. The Ugly Dutchess (c. 1513). National Gallery, London.

Articles by Maureen Mullarkey

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