Abstract

There can be little doubt, from the enduring contemporary popularity of art galleries and museums, that such visual arts as painting and sculpture are sources of perceptual and emotional satisfaction and pleasure to a large viewing public. Still, given the contemporary unfamiliarity of much of the subject matter of past art and the absence of any clearly comprehensible subject matter in much modern (abstract and other) art, it may be less clear what younger or older viewers might come to learn from their viewing of much or any educational value. This paper first offers an overview of the complex history of development of visual art from past to present in light of the shifting standards of artistic and aesthetic evaluation that have variously guided such development. However, it is argued that, while any educated appreciation of visual art cannot be had without some understanding of such history, it also requires a clear grasp of conceptual relations between the artistic and the aesthetic and of the significant interplay of diverse criteria of evaluation in any and all serious artworks past or present. Given this, visual arts may provide a unique route to educational understanding of the broadest liberal character.

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