The Philosophy of Beauty

Beauty is often defined as an aesthetic feature of things which makes these objects enjoyable to perceive. These objects may be humans, landscapes, sunsets and works of art. Beauty, along with beauty and art, is the primary subject matter of aesthetics, one of the most important branches of art history. Just as beauty varies according to culture and time, so do the aesthetic qualities of different objects. In paintings, for example, we see the effects of light, brush strokes and color on the canvas; we see the physical properties of a painting (size, shape, color, etc.) and their relationships to each other and to the background.


Artologists and aestheticians argue over whether beauty is subjective or objective. Subjective beauty is influenced by culture, while objective beauty is the result of individual perceptions or expectations of beauty produced by the social environment. We can observe that beauty in art depends on the culture in which an object is seen: beauty is subjective in the sense that what is beautiful to one person might be disgusting or ugly to another, while beauty is objective in the sense that what is beautiful to us all could also be ugly or useless.

Sagmeister points out that beauty has become an object of interest for many different types of artists because there seems to be no single definition for beauty. We can observe that the definition of beauty differs depending on culture, race, class, nationality and, most importantly, on the artist himself or herself. The work of writers such as Wagner, Cavalletti, Miro and Manet have been interpreted by others as representative of beauty in general, while critics have often considered works by Monet and Degas to be representative of specific types of beauty.