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Lesson Plans

RE: Beauty (long text)

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Ben Schasfoort (Ben.Schasfoort)
Thu, 10 Dec 1998 12:56:24 +0000

Hello 1000 readers (at least subscribers),

I wrote a text for first year students art teacher training. One paragraph
about BEAUTY, I would like to discuss with you. Some conclusions are that
beauty in itself does not exist and that we should be careful with lines
as: "why do we think snowflakes are beautiful?" The "we" here is the
problem. For refugees in the Kosovo mountains snowflakes are not beautiful
at all.

You should realize that the English text is probably not correct, while
translated by myself.

The aesthetical experience

The word aesthetic is widely used speaking about images, objects and art.
We usually think we know more or less what the user means. Sometimes
however it disturbes us, while it seems to have another meaning than we
The Greek Philosopher Socrates used the word as one of the first.
What happens exactly, he asked himself, with a sensory perception, when for
instance people see something?
Socrates of course, used for "sensory perception" the Greek word
"aisthesis". This meaning of aesthetic is sometimes used even now. An
"aesthetical experience" is in that case no more than a sensory perception.

Much later (about 1750) Alexander Baumgarten asked the same question to
find out what was the relationship between to see and to think that
something is beautiful. That is the reason that many people still connect
"aesthetic" to "principles of beauty" or at least to "the beauty of art".
They say they have an aesthetical experience if they with a visual
perception (in our case a visual, when listening to music an auditive)
discover something that could be characterized as "that comes across, I
like it, that is nice, I feel good with it".

Whatever it is: to become an aesthetical experience, one has to perceive.
It mostly costs effort or at least you have to open your mind for it to
enjoy art, to be catched, grabbed by it.

Around 1900 ‘beauty' was an important issue of art apreciation, judging bij
the title "Education of aesthetics and art for the working class"
(Schoonheids- en kunstonderwijs voor het volk, J.D. Ross)
Sometimes someone finds an image even too beautiful (if that is possible).
When someone says: "I find that very aesthetical yet!" (you hear the
suspicion?) he means that too much attention is given to sensory delight
and too less to contents. Too beautifull then. That is not very flattery
for the artwork. You have to understand from his exclamation that he means
that someone who knows less about art, the work in question will appreciate
easely but that something is missing (contents, a message, an expression)
to be worth a lot.

Currently "beauty" is no more the only we expect from an image. It is still
about aesthetic experiences however. But to have an aesthetic experience
is more neutral than "to find something beautiful" . If you have an
aesthetic experience, it means that an image has meaning for you, that you
are touched by it, that it is not a matter of indifference to you.
Aesthetic experience can be pretty, but can also have the effect that you
become sad or angry. A lot of prizewinning photographs are exemples of it.
Aesthetic experiences about the same image or object can also be complete
different for different people.

- Aesthetic experience is -nowadays- an experience about objects and images
in general.
- Aesthetic experiences are -nowadays- nourished by referring qualities as
wel as expressive and formal qualities of the aesthetic object.

Searching for the aestitical meaning of something we see, we are therefore
quite near to what Socrates had in vision.
Talking about art and aesthetics is talking about whatever experiences we
have, looking at art .

To go consciously through aesthetic experiences one can learn and teach.
How that works you will see at the end of this chapter....... (says the
text in my reader)

Ben Schasfoort