CHARLES BAUDELAIRE: THE STRANGENESS OF BEAUTY

By Michelle Erny

"Beauty always has an element of strangeness. I do not mean a deliberate cold form of strangeness, for in that case it would be a monstrous thing that had jumped the rails of life. But I do mean that it always contains a certain degree of strangeness, of simple, unintended, unconscious strangeness, and that this form of strangeness is what gives it the right to be called beauty. It is its hallmark, its special characteristic. Reverse the proposition and try to imagine a commonplace beauty! And how could this necessary, incompressible, infinitely varied strangeness, dependent upon environment, climate, habits, upon race, religion and the temperament of the artist, ever be controlled, amended, corrected by utopian rules, excogitated in some little temple or other of learning somewhere on the planet, without mortal danger to art itself? This element of strangeness which constitutes and defines individuality, without which there is no beauty, plays in art (and may the precision of this comparison excuse its triviality) the role of taste or flavouring in cookery; if the individual usefulness or the degree of nutritious value they contain be excepted, viands differ from each other only by the idea they reveal to the tongue."

— Charles Baudelaire, Baudelaire: Selected Writings on Art and Artists

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