Aesthetics Notes


Clive Bell   The Aesthetic Hypothesis          15-


Only visual arts

Aesthetic Emotion

Significant form

Some aesthetic judgments are true and some are false

Restricted sense of the “aesthetic”, only in relation to art

Aesthetic emotion

Common quality in all aesthetic objects – significant form  15

Feeling for a work of art

Subjective but not completely relative  16

Nature and natural beauty do not inspire aesthetic emotion  17

Descriptive painting – suggests emotion (but might not be aesthetic emotion)  17

Portraits – psychological and historical value  17

Leaves aesthetic emotion untouched

Frith’s Paddington Station – not a work of art, merely an interesting, amusing document

Fildes’ The Doctor – not a work of art, suggests emotions (emotionally manipulative?)

Romanesque churches

Poitiers  Notre Dame la Grande over-decorated, coarse, fat

Primitive art is good, free from descriptive qualities

T’ang painting and poetry – absence of representation, absence of technical swagger, sublimely impressive form  19

The profound significance of form transcends time and place

Great art does not depend on specifics of history, social context


Paul Ziff


Anything can be viewed aesthetically

Leonardo, Duchamp, dried dung

If someone thinks an object is not worth attending to aesthetically, it may have to do with their personal context and/or their preferences

Not merely value relativism - there are standards within the collaboration between viewer/audience and the work

The individual interests of the viewer/audience give value judgments

If color is of interest, Vuillard is more aesthetically worthwhile than Manet

Anything can be viewed aesthetically even if it is not beautiful 23

Henry Moore, reclining figure in Lincoln Center 24

Should not matter if it is an artifact made by a person or not – craftsmanship is not the point

Mondriaan paintings do not necessarily show skill but are still works of art 25

Aesthetic value is a cooperative affair – harmonious relation between person and object 26

Twittering machine

Paintings are like scores awaiting realization in actual performance 27

Viewer, context, environing conditions can matter


Allen Carlson


Art-based models for understanding the aesthetic value of the natural environment

Argument against manipulation of nature or isolating pieces of nature

Nature is not merely a landscape or a source of separated, pretty objects

Responds to Paul Ziff, who merely looked at nature as if it is art

OAM-Object of Art Model--object removed from surroundings 32

LSM-Landscape/Scenery Model--landscapes viewed from a distance, scenic viewpoint machines 33

HCA-Human Chauvinistic Aesthetic--appreciation of nature is not aesthetic at all 35

AOE-Aesthetics of Engagement--value intervening, immersing oneself in nature; perception from within 35

NEM-Natural Environmental Model--aesthetic appreciation of art applied directly to nature, values common sense and scientific knowledge 38


Oscar Wilde


Aestheticism – anything can be viewed as a fit object of aesthetic attention (compare to Ziff)41

Artwork expresses the sprit of the age in which it is produced

Art imitating life – both nature (impressionist landscapes)41 and persons (people in the Japanese paintings of Hokkei and Hokusai)43


John Dewey


Aestheticism can reflect a fragmentation in society’s values

Experience-based theory

“The aesthetic” refers to the consummate form of many kinds of experiences: biological, practical, ethical, intellectual, religious, political

We should not make too great a distinction between the standpoints of artists and audiences

Whole experience (wholistic or holistic)


Kakuzo Okakura


Japanese tea ceremony and tea room

Connection to Taoism and Zen Buddhism

Tea master serving – model of how to conduct one’s life

The aesthetic of tea referring to the whole experience of the tea ceremony, the room, the master, the tea itself


Jun’ichiro Tanizaki


Western technological influence alters attitudes towards sense perception and vision

Shadow in architecture

Look, sound

Absorbency of writing papers

Action of pens/brushes

A Japanese room’s beauty depends on variations of shadows 64

Contrast to Gothic cathedrals


Friedrich Nietzsche


Apollonian ideal – beautiful, ordered, form, line, discipline

Dionysian ideal – engaged, ecstatic, frenzied, individuality, energy, desire

There is no truth independent of personal perspectives

Rationality and objectivity are illusions – illusory goals

Participation – dancing instead of just watching the dance


Joshua Taylor


Decorative aesthetics of native people/indigenous people blurs the line between the Dionysian and the Apollonian

A: proportional relations of clearly defined forms

D: little concern for beginnings and endings, continuity of movement, blurring the divisions between outer and inner features (fish carved on Haida chest, has features and curved lines that may be internal or external parts of the fish, yet it remains inside the square/rectangle section precisely)

Eyes of creatures looking back at us, all of us are both subject and object, viewer and viewed

Clearly defined forms 68

Continuity of line

Northwest CoastHaida 68-9

Animate and inanimate, what can move and what cannot move – no distinction 70

Curves and elongated shapes 70

Chou bronzes - China


Magic and art

Meaning – perception – internal (mind) 71


Linda Nochlin


19th century French paintings depicting social roles of women

Feminist point of view as “an aesthetic” in itself

Women, art and power 71

Ways in which representations of women in art are founded upon and reproduce assumptions of society 71

Michel Foucault – power flows between members of a discourse, and to be acceptable, must be masked at times 72

Strength and weakness 72

Women’s passivity 73

Opposite of heroism 73

Calm 73-74

Physical force = not a lady 75

Fantasies that exist in a particular social context 75

Imagine genders reversed 75

Artists self-portraits depicting women as something artists have access to and can manipulate 76


Michael Roemer


Motion picture and television media require a looser definition of “an aesthetic”

Comes from photography – finding meaning in the detail of everyday life

The “ordinary surfaces of things”

Audience drawn to “imaginative participation”

Filmmaker choosing surfaces 78

Using the language of ordinary experience subtly and artfully 79

Good film is concrete – actual relationships, between people, and people and their circumstances 80

Details coordinated carefully to create the whole 82

Spontaneity and machinery 83


Paul Oskar Kristeller


Historical roots of the grouping of the “fine arts” (five)

Painting, sculpture, architecture, music, poetry 90

Ancient: craft and mimesis (imitation, representation)

Techne 91 art 

Kalos 92 beauty  

Musiki and Psallo 93 music

Mimesis 93 imitation

Medieval: arts liberal and mechanical

Renaissance: arts of disegno  Cimabue and Giotto 95

Shifts in patronage system

Audiences become more secular and urban

Scheme or taxonomy of life and culture and production

Kantian aesthetics 100


Abbé Batteux


Treatise shaping the system of the five fine arts 102

Single principle that they all have in common

Skill, genius, representation, beauty

Fine art is a craft or skill whose application requires genius

Mimesis is produced – imitation and representation

Fine art connected to genius and creativity

La Belle Nature is imitated 104


Jean Le Rond d’Alembert


Consolidation and influence of Batteux’s ideas on the fine arts

Pleasure and beauty are separate from necessities (contrast to Haida chests, crafts, mechanical arts)

Mental faculties: reason memory imagination

Art—beauty, pleasure, luxury

Imitation of nature 105

Poetry – imagination rather than the senses 106

Art: a system of knowledge which can be reduced to a positive and invariable set of rules independent of caprice or opinion 107



Clifford Geertz


Cultural contexts

Why art works seem important, both in making and in possessing

Why art is not just the same from one culture to another



Making culture’s values perceptible

Materializing a way of experiencing

form of life”

Specific formal elements representing: aborigines 109

Art and the aesthetic may be defined primarily by cultural social activity 110

Ritual significance of objects 113

Quattrocento painting 1400s and 1500s  114

Islamic poetry 114

Moral substance of a culture 116

Semiotic – dealing with signs and how they signify 118