chapter  48
14 Pages



Suppose that, due to an episode of virulent iconoclasm, every painting, print and drawing were destroyed. Will we have lost something whose aesthetic value nothing can replace? The answer is not as straightforward as may first appear. We value paintings for several reasons: they describe scenes, delight the senses, express emotions, communicate ideas and allude either to other art works or to common experience. But we may value a work of poetry, film, dance or music for all the same reasons. Indeed, a film may describe a scene better than any painting, an aria express emotions more powerfully, a dance delight the senses more exquisitely, or a poem convey ideas more clearly. This suggests that if painting is to have a value, or values, of its own, then it must do at least some of these things in a distinctive manner, and as we shall see, this distinctiveness is difficult to characterize. It will help if we keep two questions in mind. The first concerns how to characterize painting’s distinctive character. An answer to this question is necessary if we also want to know what particular value or values accrue to paintings and not to other art works. Answers to both questions together amount to an aesthetics of painting.