For Balthus’s Birthday

Painting by Balthus: The Week with Four Thursdays (1949)

NO BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS. BEGIN: BALTHUS IS A PAINTER OF WHOM NOTHING IS KNOWN. NOW LET US LOOK AT THE PICTURES. REGARDS. B.

– Telegram sent by Balthus to the Tate Gallery as it prepared for its 1968 retrospective of his works

Painting by Balthus: The Week with Four Thursdays (1949)

For Beethoven’s Birthday

“[Beethoven] treated God as an equal.”

String Quartet in C-sharp minor, Op. 131: Movements 3 & 4 (1826)
Music by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Bernstein
Beethoven: The Amnesty International Concert etc.

Painting by Frederic Edwin ChurchTwilight (1856)

Quote: Bettina von Arnim, friend of Beethoven, in Beethoven: Letters, Journals and Conversations

In Praise of Shadows

People look well in the dark.

Lou Reed

It’s the daylight you gotta watch out for. Face it, a thing of beauty is a joy till sunrise.

“Arnold” in Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy (1981)

Music: After Hours
Written by Lou Reed
The Velvet Underground (1969)

Related: True and True

The Beautiful and the Sublime

Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California

Finer feeling, which we now wish to consider, is chiefly of two kinds: the feeling of the sublime and that of the beautiful. The stirring of each is pleasant, but in different ways. The sight of a mountain whose snow-covered peak rises above the clouds, the description of a raging storm, or Milton’s portrayal of the infernal kingdom, arouse enjoyment but with horror; on the other hand, the sight of flower-strewn meadows, valleys with winding brooks and covered with grazing flocks, the description of Elysium, or Homer’s portrayal of the girdle of Venus, also occasion a pleasant sensation but one that is joyous and smiling. In order that the former impression could occur to us in due strength, we must have a feeling of the sublime, and, in order to enjoy the latter well, a feeling of the beautiful. Tall oaks and lonely shadows in a sacred grove are sublime; flower beds, low hedges, and trees trimmed in figures are beautiful. Night is sublime, day is beautiful. Temperaments that possess a feeling for the sublime are drawn gradually, by the quiet stillness of a summer evening as the shimmering light of the stars breaks through the brown shadows of night and the lonely moon rises into view, into high feelings of friendship, of disdain for the world, of eternity. The shining day stimulates busy fervor and a feeling of gaiety. The sublime moves, the beautiful charms. The mien of a man who is undergoing the full feeling of the sublime is earnest, sometimes rigid and astonished. On the other hand, the lively sensation of the beautiful proclaims itself through shining cheerfulness in the eyes, through smiling features, and often through audible mirth. The sublime is in turn of different kinds. Its feeling is sometimes accompanied with a certain dread, or melancholy; in some cases merely with quiet wonder; and in still others with a beauty completely pervading a sublime plan. The first I shall call the terrifying sublime, the second the noble, and the third the splendid.

Immanuel Kant
Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime (1764)

Painting by Alfred Bierstadt: Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California (1868)