writings concerning taste and aesthetics

Writing and Compare and contrast different writings concerning taste and aesthetics in different periods

One would find it necessary at the beginning of this discussion to separate aesthetics from art given the fact that aesthetics deals with opinions on perception of the world in general. Any branch of work that deals with beauty and thus taste is inevitably bound to be referred to as art as well (Alberro and Stimson, 2000). Out of this grew a disjointed connection between the two not just because of the morphological characteristics of art but also because the other function of art (depiction of themes, detailing of architecture etc.) used art to cover up art. The relation between the two is not unlike that of aesthetics to architecture in that the latter has a very specific function and how “good” its design is, is primarily related to how well it performs its function. Thus, judgments on what it looks like correspond to taste.

One of the earliest writings that discuss the place of aesthetics and art in architecture was the book, De architectural, better known as The Ten Books on Architecture. The book is essentially a treatise that was written in the context of the prevailing styles in Latin and Greek architecture-the book stands dedicated to Augustus. The book and the author, Vitruvius became famous and the book a Bible on architecture because of the assertions within the writing that a given building or structure must have the three basic qualities of firmitas, utilitas, venustas. These could be roughly translated as the innate essentials of a building being the need to be sturdy and long-lasting, practical and aesthetically correct (Vitruvius, 1960). The idea therefore was that a building and its aesthetics would have to reflect the uses of the structure it their most innate manner. Aesthetics without use are shallow. In fact Vitruvius understands architecture in terms of it being a replication of nature and being inspired from it. Vitruvius's aesthetics ideas were based on a belief in objective beauty conditioned by the laws of nature rather than by man's attitudes. He regarded a perfect temple as the product of natural laws rather than the work of an individual. The individual could discover those laws but not invent them. Nevertheless, he regarded as permissible; even as necessary the correction of objective laws of beauty in the interest of the spectator's subjective requirements: eurhythmy had to supplement the interest of the spectator's subjective requirements. Here to Vitruvius achieved a compromise and a balance. For him therefore beauty depended both upon objective measure and the subjective conditions of perception. This was the natural result of the centuries of aesthetic exploration and discussion.

In Hume's terms the issue of aesthetics finds its ultimate grounding in the context of aesthetic response. Nevertheless, it was quite another matter as to whether we are to honor each and every individual response. To do so, would be to fall back on the eye of the beholder position. Hume's idea of aesthetics is highly subjective and he contends that “though it be certain that beauty and deformity more sweet than bitter are not qualities in objects but belong to the sentiment, internal or external-it must be allowed that there are certain qualities in objects which are fitted by nature to produce such particular feelings”. Hume therefore essentially contends that beauty is ascribed to an object not from the detection of qualities but as a consequence of the arousal of certain feelings, which are subjective in them.

Geoffrey Scott states that it is “Coherence in architecture, distinct though it is from beauty, has a function of its own. Humanized mass, space, and line are the basis of beauty, but coherence is the basis of style”. In Scott's writings it has been clearly stated that the various aspects of Mass, space, and line give the substance of character in terms of aesthetic pleasures-this provides of splendor secluded and disconnected. One could however find the objectives of architecture in terms of a lot more then just the fulfillment of isolated pleasures. Architecture is is beauty not just to be found in synthesis. It controls and disciplines the beauty of painting, sculpture, and the minor arts; it austerely orders even the beauty, which is its own. It seeks, through style, to give it clarity and scope, and that coherence which the beauty of Nature lacks." He states, that one transcribes oneself into the present form. This metaphor of transcribing or inhabiting resolves the old aesthetic puzzle about how feeling can be in form by assimilating it to the more fundamental puzzle of embodiment. Scott goes to on to state that the functional fitness in architecture is not a matter of immediate perception but is an intellectual inference and therefore the adequate functioning of a structure cannot affect its aesthetic quality.

In Ruskin's language the issue of aesthetics could be understood in terms of three essential words- savageness, changefulness and naturalism, in the context of architecture. It was the usage of these three essential words that he used in the identification of the basic characteristics of the Gothic architecture. He arrived at the three conclusions backed by the research over the years on the examination of nature and architecture-the method of choice where he was concerned was that of drawing. The concept of aesthetics where Ruskin is concerned is closely linked to the concept of 'organic vision', or a manner of considering the natural world as an integrated whole, resembling a living organism. The idea therefore was that most artists and in particular the ones that work with Gothic architecture were able to come up with their best work when the work reflected a synergy inspired by nature, given the fact that this would be the use of a method through which 'life' would enter their work.

In conclusion therefore one could state that on an appraisal of the concept of aesthetics over the ages, what comes out clearly that aesthetics and taste in architecture have primarily been determined through the aegis of the standard of norms and beliefs in the given age. An belief in the forces of nature would demand a synergy of nature in architecture while a movement for free thought grants that beauty is subjective and lay in the eyes of the beholder.


Alberro, A., and Stimson, B., (2000). Conceptual art: a critical anthology. The MIT Press, p162

Vitruvius, (1960). The Ten Books on Architecture. A1 Books.

Hume, D., (1757). Retrived March 22, 2010, http://www.google.com/search?client=gmail&rls=gm&q=David%20Hume%2C%20%E2%80%9COf%20the%20Standard%20of%20Taste%E2%80%9D%201757

Geoffrey, S., (1914). The architecture of humanism: a study in the history of taste. Barnes and Nobles

John Ruskin, “The Savageness of Gothic Architecture” from The Stones of Venice, vol 2, chapter 6, 1849

Please be aware that the free essay that you were just reading was not written by us. This essay, and all of the others available to view on the website, were provided to us by students in exchange for services that we offer. This relationship helps our students to get an even better deal while also contributing to the biggest free essay resource in the UK!