Thoughts on "Beauty Transfigured"

Adrienne Chaplin

Adrienne Chaplin

Our second reading, titled Beauty Transfigured, comes from arts theorist Adrienne Chaplin. 

Beauty is back! Apparently it was shunned for many years in the art world but has made a come back recently and is now being embraced. Due to this “shunning” of sorts happening outside of my lifetime, I really have no experience of a world in which beauty is something we don’t strive for. 

In our discussions and in the reading beauty, goodness and truth were three words often used interchangeably. As Corwynn Beals pointed out to our class, these three things are all transcendentals. Furthermore, this interchangeability is often referred to as “triple convertibility.” I found this really interesting because in my own experience with trying to define beauty, truth and goodness regularly spring up. Richard Harries describes beauty as being “about honesty, about seeing what is actually there and being true to one’s own response to it,” (11). His description of beauty clearly ties beauty together with truth. 

This picture I took is an example of nature being associated with the word beauty.

Throughout centuries people across the world have been trying to define beauty, but never seem to come to a conclusion. We often associate the work we nature, bodies, and man-made creations – all physical things. Of course when we approach art we are mostly taking in what we physically see in front of us, and aren’t always aware of the context that it was created in. However, approaching beauty as only physical is a problem. 

Chaplin writes, “the beauty-glory of the resurrected Christ is not rooted in physical appearance but in His self-sacrificial love, which passes through the ugliness of the cross” (42). Once the world can stop approaching beauty as something merely physical, then it may become more clear. 

Later in the essay, Chaplin writes, “true beauty, if you like, is more than skin deep. Taken in its proper context it is a multi-layered affair, which is able to acknowledge and embrace friction, violence, brokenness, pain, suffering and all that a fallen world entails,” (47). I really appreciate her description of beauty as something that is multi-layered. Everyone seems to bring a different perspective on what beauty is and I think that it adds to the richness of it. This ties in well with an article written on CIVA’s blog by Ian Isaac. He writes, “When we talk about beauty, we enter into a shared dimension of life. While our definitions of beauty differ, we still acknowledge that it exists, has substance, and remains an enduring attribute of life apart from ourselves.” (You can read the rest of the article here.)

Though defining beauty will never be summed up in a simple tweet, I don’t think it is something that we should shy away from. We will never fully understand beauty but we can still partake in journeying to seek beauty. If we all work to widen our eyes for beauty we can start to recognize patterns in how God reveals beauty to us. 


Art and the Beauty of God, by Richard Harries

Beauty as Experience, by Ian Isaac. December 19, 2013.

It Was Good Making Art to the Glory of God: revised and Expanded Version, Edited by Ned Bustard