Art Term

Aesthetics

Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy that is concerned with the nature of beauty and taste

Edward Allington, ‘Ideal Standard Forms’ 1980
Edward Allington
Ideal Standard Forms 1980
Tate
© Edward Allington

The term is derived from the Greek word ‘aesthesis’ meaning perception. It was first used by the German philosopher Alexander Baumgarten in 1735 when, having asked the question ‘what is beauty’, he used the word ‘aesthetics’ to describe his process of understanding what makes something beautiful or ugly and how we make these judgements.

Later, the philosopher Immanuel Kant sought to clarify what aesthetics meant by writing Critique of Judgement, in which he tried to work out how to analyse beauty, as well as taste and the Sublime.

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