Tuesday, June 08, 2021


 We can distinguish two different kinds of aesthetic concepts. Some are what we might call 'natural aesthetic concepts'; examples would be beauty, sublimity, harmonious, well-designed, and so forth. Others, while not precisely artificial, include within themselves the selection of a particular human art, especially a fine art, or skill or style, despite not being directed to that art itself. I sometimes call these esque concepts.

The esque concept for which we have the most developed theories is the picturesque. The picturesque has by its nature a reference to painting, but it is not a concept that is restricted to painting; rather, it is applied to other things using painting as a reference point. The picturesque in nature, for instance, is that which would make a good subject of a painting, having a composition, coloring, or striking quality that would go well within a frame, or that would at least suggests something in a painting. We can, of course, extend this by analogy to other visual arts, like photography. Another esque concept in this family is that of the cinematic, applied to things other than just movie scenes themselves, which takes cinematography as its reference point.

But you can have esque concepts for any kind of art. One that is well-known is the epic, where this refers not to epics themselves but things that would make good material for the epic; lesser known but still important is the novelesque. But there are others for which we have no handy name; we might say that the birds have a symphony-like sound, or that a happening is vignette-esque, or the like.

Esque concepts fundamentally arise because by appreciating the production and product of the arts, especially the fine arts, we learn to see the whole world in a new way, insofar as it is suitable or unsuitable to provide material for them; we also learn to recognize ways in which the world by nature achieves what we achieve by artistic design. To invent an art is to invent a new way to see the world.