DISSERTATION : SUMMARY
Julia’s first class degree in Fine Art Painting at Cheltenham included a 10,000 word dissertation on beauty, colour and decoration in British contemporary painting.
Historical & critical research confirmed that colour has for centuries been considered inferior to form, that decorative has long been pejorative and recently beauty has also become a devalued term, used as interchangeable with decoration.
Julia passionately maintains her, unfashionable, belief in the human need for beauty.
She says she aspires to create what Arthur Schopenhauer (1788- 1860) called an aesthetic experience which “is what happens when we see something beautiful … time standing still, that of the universal being perceived in the particular, and that of the spectator being taken out of himself and forgetting his own existence altogether in the rapt contemplation of what lies before us ... art ... provides us with a release, if only momentary from the prison we ordinarily inhabit.”
Magee B (1983) The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, Clarendon Press, Oxford p164.
Her dissertation is titled ‘Are Howard Hodgkin’s paintings beautiful or just decorative?’ and looks at the history of beauty, colour and decoration. It compares the use of colour by British artists: Howard Hodgkin, Patrick Heron & Gillian Ayres and two of the younger generation of British painters, Gary Hume and Jason Martin.
In 1925 Le Corbusier wrote that “previously decorative objects were rare and costly. Today they are commonplace and cheap. Previously plain objects were commonplace and cheap; today they are rare and expensive…. Trash is always abundantly decorated”
Fer B, Batchelor D & Wood P (1993) Realism, Rationalism & Surrealism: Art Between the Wars, Yale University Press p155.
Arguably, decoration is becoming valued again, in for example twenty first century ceramics, where intricate craft skills are appreciated in an increasingly screen-led digital world.
If you’d like an extract from Julia’s dissertation please email her
Distrust of colour is not British or modern as Hodgkin and Heron often implied but dates back to the Renaissance. Neo-Classical artists “concentrated on form and line because colour was superficial and felt through the senses and to be deplored”
Honnor H (1968) Neo- Classicism, Penguin, p113.
Julia says further research could consider if there is a causal relationship between the low opinion in which colour has often been held and the predominance of colour blindness amongst men and their previous dominance as art critics.