Beauty – An Introduction

Beauty is commonly defined as a subjective feeling of satisfaction that arises from the contemplation of things that are beautiful. Such objects may include sunsets, landscapes, humans and artistic works of art. Beauty, along with other aesthetic concepts, is also the basis of aesthetics, among the most important branches of art history.


In twentieth century art criticism, the term beauty is used as a cultural marker of the values of beauty, particularly the beauty depicted in art. Art historians have traced the evolution of beauty from ancient times to the nineteenth and the twentieth century, when photography gave visual expression to the works of artists. With the coming of photography, the need for an objective standpoint to judge beauty grew, making the definition of beauty a subjective one. The twentieth century art critic, Albert Camatte, focused on the need to measure beauty in terms of its ability to satisfy the aesthetic desire of a people.

Modern art history however, gives little importance to the beauty criteria set by cultures and historical periods. Art historians believe that art and beauty are independent and that beauty can be found in any artistic production. However, the twentieth century art critics have started placing more significance on the need to measure beauty objectively. They argue that beauty is a value judgment based on the conscious and unconscious choices of an individual, which can vary from culture to culture and time to time. Aesthetics are thus not derived from a fixed set of standards, but are instead personal responses to and understanding of beauty. In the last few decades, the debate on beauty has grown heated between the traditionalist revivalists and the new resistance to modernization.