Below is an excerpt from a documentary titled "Why Beauty Matters," by Roger Scruton, a British writer and philosopher. In this documentary he delves into the meaning and the purpose of art, what it meant in the past, what it means today, and how these changes have affected humanity and our culture. I hope to watch more of the documentary once midterms have ceased, but for now I shall be content with this quote, which is jam-packed with insight into the historic and modern view of art.
Detail of St. Cecilia by Stefano Maderno
"The great artists of the past were aware that human life is full of chaos and suffering. But they had a remedy for this and the name of that remedy was beauty - the beautiful work of art brings consolation in sorrow and affirmation in joy. It shows human life to be worthwhile. Many modern artists have grown weary of this sacred task. ... No longer does art have a sacred status. No longer does it raise us to a higher, moral, or spiritual plain. It is just one human gesture among others, no more meaningful than a laugh or a shout. Art once made a cult of beauty. Now we have a cult of ugliness instead. Since the world is disturbing, art should be disturbing, too. Those who look for beauty in art are just out of touch with modern realities. Sometimes the intention is to shock us, but what is shocking first time round is boring and vacuous when repeated. This makes art into an elaborate joke, though one by now that has ceased to be funny. Yet the critics go on endorsing it, afraid to say the emperor has no clothes." -- Roger Scruton, British writer and philosopher.