A reader, responding to a recent post, asked if my recurring problem with ‘seeing’ is physical. I do wear glasses these days but no. The seeing I’m describing is seeing with judgment. This is aesthetic judgment that engages beauty. 

Unfortunately, when most people hear the word “beauty,” they think of Playboy models. While this example is beauty adjacent, to hold that beautiful women (or men) define beauty falls wide of the mark–by a large margin. It is like saying that blood circulation is life. While true, to maintain that blood circulation defines the whole of life is ludicrous.

What I mean by beauty are things like Michaelangelo’s Pieta, David’s Death of Marat, and Brueghel’s Hunters in the Snow.

In art, aesthetic judgment proceeds all other types of judgment; it’s what makes an artist an artist. You can train your eye, for example, to be a true measure of shape and form but this still falls short of defining beauty. Without aesthetic judgment, you will produce the correct and lifeless drawings of which we are all familiar.

Aesthetic judgment also drives the decisions necessary to finish a painting. When is a painting good enough? When is a painting finished? (It’s finished when I say it’s finished!) 

Aesthetic judgment is what is referenced when people speak of their muse or the muses. The muses are real, as is beauty. Realism is not the imitation of nature but the imitation of beauty.

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