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Venus in Exile

The Rejection of Beauty in Twentieth-Century Art

In Venus in Exile renowned cultural critic Wendy Steiner explores the twentieth century’s troubled relationship with beauty. Disdained by avant-garde artists, feminists, and activists, beauty and its major symbols of art—the female subject and ornament—became modernist taboos. To this day it is hard to champion beauty in art without sounding aesthetically or politically retrograde. Steiner argues instead that the experience of beauty is a form of communication, a subject-object interchange in which finding someone or something beautiful is at the same time recognizing beauty in oneself. This idea has led artists and writers such as Marlene Dumas, Christopher Bram, and Cindy Sherman to focus on the long-ignored figure of the model, who function in art as both a subject and an object. Steiner concludes Venus in Exile on a decidedly optimistic note, demonstrating that beauty has created a new and intensely pleasurable direction for contemporary artistic practice.

354 pages | 43 halftones | 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 | © 2001

Art: Art Criticism, Art--General Studies

Culture Studies

Gender and Sexuality

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
List of Illustrations
PROEM
Psyche’s Pleasure
1. The Monster Sublime
2. The Burden of the Image
3. The Infamous Promiscuity of Things and of Women
4. The Quotation of Beauty
5. The Bride of Frankenstein: At Home with the Outsider
6. A Judgment of Paris
Conclusion
Notes
Index

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