Robin Urton: dimensional paintings on glass


Art and The Aesthetics of Form


What Has "Beauty" Got to Do With It?



"Beauty",as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. What is beautiful to an artist of ancient Greece is very different from the beauty perceived by an indiginous African. Picasso's sense of beauty was influenced by the African aesthetic, but many people from his own culture are divided as to whether they find his work "beautiful". What role does beauty play in your appreciation of art?


How Does Fame Of An Artist Affect Appreciation?


Polish Rider by Rembrandt??

Once aware that the creator of a work of art is one of the famed masters, our appreciation of that artwork is likely to shift. So it is true when a work that is assumed to be of a master is found out to be by the hands of his apprentices or a fraudulent copy. How does the interpretation of who creates a work of art factor into its inherent value?

The Aesthetic Experience


An "aesthetic experience" is one of charged awareness. It is looking beyond the obvious and experiencing a thing or event on an emotional level. It can be activated by an experience with the natural world, the contemplation of forms (including but not limited to art),or a journey into the world of the imagination. It can be stimulated by something as simple as enjoying a good meal or as complex as a life-changing event.



Art and Reality: The Aesthetics of Form


Art may imitate the "real world" (the world revealed to our senses), or represent an inventive interpretation of what we see.

Abstract - forms which depict the essence of an object through simplification or distortion.


Representational- resembles forms in a manner similar to how the senses perceive them (naturalistic).
Trompe-L'oeil - an artwork which is so focused on realism that it can "fool the eye". Non-Representational - bears little resemblance to forms within the natural world, instead presenting only the visual elements of line, shape, color, form, and texture, etc. (non-objective).


The above images show the evolution of style of the Dutch artist, Piet Mondrian. He begins with representational art and moves toward abstraction, and then to complete abstraction of form til he has simplified his art to the restrictive use of lines, geometric shapes and bold colors.

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) was an abstract expressionist painter known for his "drip and pour paintings". His works are a perfect example of non-representational art in that they do not seek to represent any particular natural forms that we would be able to recognize. He felt that his paintings were an enactment of nature instead of a picture (or representation) of it. He sought to capture the rhythm of nature flowing through him by getting into a trance-like state while painting.



Form and Content


Constantin Brancusi, The Kiss, 1912

Auguste Rodin, The Kiss, 1886


Consider the sculptures above. What is the subject of each? How do their forms differ? How does this difference influence the content of the works?

Form - the sum total of how the elements of art contribute to how an artwork looks. It includes the media (materials used), the style, and the elements of its composition. Content - the message or meaning communicated by a work of art. It is the subject of what the artist is portraying as well as the story and feelings portrayed.

To get a clearer idea of how form influences content, it is helpful to analyze the visual elements of form (describing types of lines, shapes, etc), and then to realize how those forms create meaning. Here are some particularly expressive examples:

Kathe Kollwitz(German), Death and the Woman

Gustav Klimt (Austrian), Death and Life


Vincent Van Gogh (Dutch), Starry Night


All of the above are examples of different types of expressionism, a style of art which focuses on emotion as its main content.


Artistic Style - characteristics which we can identify as constant, recurring or coherent between different artworks. Artistic style can be identified with a whole artistic culture (Classical Roman, the Song Dynasty in China), with a specific place and time (the early Renaissance in Florence), with a specific group of artists (the Impressionists of Paris), or even with the chronological changes of style of a specific artist (Picasso's Blue period, Rose period, and Cubist period).



Art and Symbols

Jan Van Eych, Arnolfini Wedding

Albrecht Durer, The Knight, Death, and the Devil


Iconography - the story depicted in a work of art, as well as the symbolism and conventions attached to those images by a particular religion or culture.


Robin Urton, The Seer

Iconography is not related only to artists of the past. Many contemporary artists utilize iconic images in their works also. The example above is from the works of the webmaster, whose works are featured in the root pages of this site.