Venus in Exile: The Rejection of Beauty in Twentieth-Century Art

Front Cover
University of Chicago Press, Nov 15, 2002 - Art - 280 pages
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.

What people are saying - Write a review

VENUS IN EXILE: The Rejection of Beauty in Twentieth-Century Art

User Review  - Kirkus

This latest installment of Steiner's (The Scandal of Pleasure, 1995) distinguished work in aesthetics considers 20th-century art in light of its peculiar hostility to beauty. "Beauty," for our ... Read full review

Venus in exile: the rejection of beauty in twentieth-century art

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Steiner (humanities, Univ. of Pennsylvania) examined the role of beauty in art in The Scandal of Pleasure: Art in the Age of Fundamentalism. Here she shows how traditional forms of beauty disappeared ... Read full review


The Monster Sublime
The Burden of the Image
The Infamous Promiscuity of Things and of Women
The Quotation of Beauty
The Bride of Frankenstein At Home with the Outsider
A Judgment of Paris
Modeling Beauty

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2002)

Wendy Steiner is the Richard L. Fisher Professor of English and director of the Penn Humanities Forum at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author, most recently, of The Scandal of Pleasure: Art in an Age of Fundamentalism, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

Bibliographic information