On Beauty: A History of a Western Idea Paperback – 30 Sep 2010
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'Over more than 400 pages Eco displays his polymathic qualities, ranging over diverse subjects to produce a comprehensive definition of beauty. Utilising examples of literature, sculpture, painting, photography and film among other areas, Eco asks what beauty is and why it matters so much. The volume is lavishly produced... with exquisite images' Fatchna Kelly and Julian Fleming, Sunday Business Post. (Sunday Business Post)
Dazzlingly erudite, sumptuously illustrated and entirely unique, Beauty is a remarkable new work from one of the world's most renowned writers and thinkers. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is an academic work focusing on the question "What is Beauty?". It spans thousands of years from the ancient egyptians to modern day Icons such as the Beetles and David Beckham. It is not only visual beauty but the description of beauty through literature. I really cannot do justice to the brilliance of this work but the prose is superb, insight incredible and knowledge unmatched. If you are at all interested in arts of any kind then i suggest you should buy this book.
The structure is consistent within and between chapters and comprises three distinct but interwoven elements:a succint text by the author, colour pictures lavishly illustrating the points made by the author in the text and excerpts from the sources used by the author belonging to both eponymous and anonymous authors. These excerpts were invariably, meticulously and eclectically selected and fascinating in their own right due to their engaging writing style varying from the naive during the Dark Ages to the progressively sophisticated from the Renaissance onwards and in that they provide the character of the aesthetics and the ideal of beauty of the particular era they refer to, as well as the cultural and social context in which the works of art were created.
The book covers the entire spectrum of artistic creation from the classical Greek antiquity to the end of the twentieth century and beyond.
In the ensuing I shall present a sample of the writing of the author relating to classical Greece and a sample of chapters comprising the book.
Regarding classical Greece we are not merely presented with the familiar serene harmony, understood as order and measure, expressed in a Beauty that Nietzsche called Apollonian but also with the less familiar and disquieting, Dionysiac Beauty, which was not expressed in apparent forms, but over and above appearances. This was the joyous and dangerous Beauty, antithetical to reason and often depicted as possession and madness:it is the nocturnal side of the mild Attic sky, populated by initiation mysteries and obscure sacrificial rites, like the Eleusinian rites.Read more ›
As a semiotics professor, this comes through in his analysis; he is always a pleasing read and this book is no exception.
It is not a history of art; nor is it a history of aesthetics. He has combined the two in semiologist's mind and written a fascinating book charting through art and architecture, the changing aspects of beauty through the ages and those aspects which have remained unchanged. Collecting material and organising it effectively as he has done must have been a daunting but thoroughly enjoyable endeavour. Join him in his enjoyment and read this lavishly illustrated, wonderful book.
"This is a history of Beauty and not a history of art (or of literature or music). ... So why is this history of Beauty [always spelt throughout this book with a capital B] documented almost solely through works of art?" Well, Eco argues this is because artists, poets, and novelists were the only people to leave examples for which valid (though tendentious) claims can be made about Beauty. This is plainly open to argument and is contradicted by his use of written sources by such `artists' as Immanuel Kant and Eric Hobsbawm, people whose names are listed under the index of authors and not the index of artists that appear at the end of the book. (Incidentally, to give some indication of the range of authors, the index runs from Addison to Zola; the index of artists from Abbott to Zoffany.)
Still, Eco is on firmer ground by delimiting his contemplation to the concept of Beauty as it appears solely in western culture (the book is subtitled "History of a Western Idea"), for primitivism leaves no texts. As for Chinese or other literate cultures, "it is always difficult to establish up to what point certain concepts can be identified with our own". A relativistic cop-out?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a great book if you are interested in knowing background for looking at art. Also the color plates in the book ar of a very high quality and so very beautiful Ecco writes... Read morePublished 3 months ago by pauline scott
an absolutely stunning book, a work of art in itself, I believe the hardback version is the bestPublished 17 months ago by Amazon Customer
A beautifully produced book, that combines short text with rich photographic material, and snippets from many of the works referenced. Read morePublished on 18 Aug. 2013 by Nick Stavrakis