Autumn School of The University of Tartu’s Department of Art History: Art and Beauty


  • Kadi Polli



Art and Beauty, Beauty in Art, Aesthetics, Male Beauty Ideal


The traditional Autumn School of the University of Tartu’s Department
of History, “Art and Beauty” was conducted on 16 and 17 October 2014
in cooperation with the Tartu University Art Museum and Tartu Art
Museum. The objective of the event, on the one hand, was to introduce the development and modification of the concept of beauty in the history of
aesthetics and art; and on the other hand, to examine the problematic
relationship that contemporary art and theory has with beauty. Thus, the first day of Autumn School was devoted to the classical traditions of beauty and its peak at the turn of the 19th century, when the University of Tartu was reopened, its ensemble of buildings built and the art museum established. Thereafter, the topic of masculine beauty in the classical
art tradition was covered as a separate topic. In addition to the presentations, the interest of the Enlightenment in the human body and
antique sculpture was associated with the art project created specially
for the Autumn School by Jaanus Samma, a respected and well-known
young Estonian artist, who made an “incursion” into the exposition at
the University of Tartu Art Museum. On the second day of the Autumn School, at the Tartu Art Museum, an analysis of the meaning(s) of art in the 20th century and thereafter, today’s art, exhibition and media landscape was conducted with the participation of artists, curators and art critics. Whereas, the description of the current potential and position of beauty developed into an expectedly great challenge because, in the context of contemporary art, beauty and aestheticism may seem like a kind of taboo – a contrast to meaningful and intellectual art/exhibitions – and the topic is difficult to discuss.


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Author Biography

Kadi Polli

Kadi Polli is a lecturer in the Department of Art History at the University of Tartu. She studied art history at the University of Tartu, at the University of Kiel and at the Estonian Academy of Arts. She worked as a curator at the Mikkel Museum, and she curated the painting collection at the Kadriorg Art Museum; in 2002–2013 she was Director of both the Mikkel Museum and the Kadriorg Art Museum (branches of the Art Museum of Estonia). Her main research field is Baltic art and the art scene in the 18th and 19th centuries. She has curated international exhibitions of earlier European
art in Estonia, for example, The Swiss Muse. Angelica Kauffmann 1741–1807 (2004) and Dreaming about Mountains. Swiss Landscapes in Baltic Art (2008). She has published scholarly articles and co-authored  various catalogues and collections of articles, e.g. Alma Mater Tartuensis. Tartu Ülikool ja tema
arhitekt Johann Wilhelm Krause (Alma Mater Tartuensis. The University of Tartu and its Architect Johann Wilhelm Krause, 2003) and Kadriorg. Lossi
lugu (Kadriorg. The Story of a Palace, 2010). Kadi Polli is currently Chair of the Board of the Estonian Society of Art Historians and Curators and a member of the Council of Scientific Research at the Art Museum of Estonia.