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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Larry Auster and Reclaiming Beauty

Lawrence Auster at work on View From the Right

Although Larry Auster didn't directly write about beauty, his work is infused with the desire to bring beauty back into our world.

One of the most memorable posts he did on art (and beauty) was his reaction to a bust of George Washington. The image of the bust he has posted is huge and takes up the whole screen, so that we, like him, can have as close a look at it as possible.

Here is his post, published at VFR on February 20th, 2004 (nine years ago today!), titled Washington's Birthday:
Happy Birthday, G. Washington! This Sunday we celebrate the 272nd birthday of the man who is justly known—though so few have an adequate understanding why—as the Father of our Country.

That the Father of the United States of America was one of the greatest men who ever lived, who impressed on this country his character, his prudence and far-seeing political wisdom, his extraordinary personal force modulated by his mildness and self-control, his dedication to classical ideals of honor and patriotism combined with his future-oriented grasp of an expanding America, his profoundly felt sense of America’s reliance on the protection and guidance of Divine Providence (and not just Providence, but Jesus Christ, as can be seen in his 1789 proclamation of a national day of thanksgiving), and his deeply experienced vision of the national Union, is something that we are still receiving the benefits of to this day, in myriad and incalculable ways, even in the midst of our current decadence, and even if we ourselves don’t know it and don’t care.

We are so accustomed to the Gilbert Stuart portraits, painted in Washington’s sixties when he was already showing premature signs of age (though his firmness of character was not diminished), that it can be a shock to see a more vital Washington. Here is a marvelously life-like image of the then 53-year-old Washington rarely seen by Americans, one of the heads sculpted by Jean Antoine Houdon from the life mask he cast when he visited Mount Vernon in 1785, now at the Museum of the Louvre in Paris. Houdon told a friend he was in awe of “the majesty and grandeur of Washington’s form and features.” One has the same awe at Houdon’s genius; it is to be doubted that any photograph could make us feel that we are as close to the living man as he really was:

Here is another head made by Houdon from the same life-mask, enabling us to look directly into Washington’s face as though he were standing before us:

In the moving final verse of Byron’s “Ode to Napolean Bonaparte,” the poet turns away in disgust from that vain French tyrant and looks westward to find a man who embodies true political virtue:

Where may the wearied eye repose
When gazing on the Great;
Where neither guilty glory glows,
Nor despicable state?
Yes, one—the first—the last—the best,
The Cincinnatus of the West,
Whom envy dared not hate,
Bequeath’d the name of Washington,
To make men blush there was but one!
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat